JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Civil society organisations must play a greater role in forming the discussion around the natural resources sector in Africa, said Graça Machel Trust founder Graça Machel.
Speaking at the African Natural Resources Center of the African Development Bank's Conference of African Civil Society Organisations on Natural Resources, in Johannesburg, on Tuesday, she asserted that civil society organisations were crucial role-players, as they were the “true representatives of the people”.
Machel said that, often, civil society organisations were only invited to policy conferences as observers, without being allowed to voice their opinions and were left shouting from the window.
This had resulted in these organisations feeling alienated, leading to deep-seated mistrust towards policymakers.
Machel noted that, in many instances, civil society organisations did not have the right information as they received their information second-hand and not directly from the source.
"This is why it is crucial that there be forums where all role-players can sit and discuss issues honestly and openly. These forums will enable civil society organisations to ask questions and take the aspirations and doubts of communities to governments, mining companies and financial institutions."
She stated that it was also important for civil society organisations to emphasise that the natural resources of a country were the shared right of all its citizens and not just governments and mining companies. Therefore, ownership was a matter that civil society organisations must pay greater attention to.
Machel said that, wherever natural resource projects were being developed, these were being undertaken on land that people had been living on for generations and when people have to move or lose part of their land, they essentially lose a part of their heritage and tradition.
"These communities must be compensated and treated with dignity. Local communities must benefit beyond job creation, they should be given a shareholding in these operations," she stated.