Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) is urging the media, civil society organisations, elected representatives and traditional authorities to engage local communities on issues of extractive industries and how they impact on their lives.
Southern Africa is currently experiencing a proliferation of mega mining and exploration projects. The commercial extraction of resources has seen a lot of poor and marginalised citizens being displaced or forced by circumstances to relocate from their settlements, and this has a lot of social and economic implications. It has also seen people lose farm land, suffer adverse complications due to pollution and environmental degradation.
While the mining operations are widely viewed as profitable, PSAf holds the view that the communities most affected by the actions of extractive industries benefit the least from the proceeds of the same.
To address this, PSAf calls on journalists, civil society organisations and duty-bearers to engage with local communities, to ensure that their voices are also heard in the debate on the extractive industries.
“The poor and the marginalised people suffer a range of consequences from internal displacement, inadequate or no compensation, pollution and the health side-effects of the same, child labour, abuse of labour, environmental degradation affecting farming and farm lands and many others,” says PSAf Executive Director Ms. Lilian Chigona.
Ms. Chigona said that this increase in extractive activity widens the gap between the rich who benefit from the proceeds, and the poor who are sidelined from key decision making processes.
“It is saddening that people who feel the brunt of all the negative side effects do not have platforms to speak, they suffer in silence and because of that their issues are not addressed. They need platforms to voice out their concerns and challenges, to interrogate existing policies which are governing extractive mining to ensure that their issues receive policy and operational attention. The current status quo is widening the gap between the poor and the rich, where the rich get richer at the expense of the poor.”
In Ms. Chigona’s view the best way to empower communities to play an active role in development is to give them platforms through which to express themselves and engage with the authorities, thus contributing to good governance and fostering accountability of duty bearers.
“Access to platforms for dialogue is empowering to the communities because more often than not, people do not receive support because their challenges are not known. When such is the case, even where practices or policies are causing negative effects on people, a corrective action is not taken. Where there are no platforms for information, there is generally a disjoint between the citizenry and policy makers, and subsequently no development.”
As a communication for development organisation, PSAf works with mainstream and community media to amplify voices of the most affected, especially in far-flung areas.
From 2011, PSAf has been implementing the “Monitoring Extractive Industries project” in Mozambique, which has resulted in voices of the poor people amplified through community media and mainstream media, catching the attention of policy makers and other decisions-makers and leading to visible positive change on the ground. The PSAf intervention was motivated by the following:
♦To strengthen citizens participation in fostering accountability and transparency on extractive industries policies through evidence-based research approaches.
♦To enhance journalists investigative skills
♦ Increase journalists access to national and international policy makers and experts
♦ To give a voice to the poor on issues of public policy and decision-making processes and the limited accountability of public authorities, in order to improve people’s lives in line with the country’s policies and international conventions for fighting absolute poverty and fostering governance.
♦ To support increased access of journalists to the people most affected by development policies.
The organisation is now working on replicating the same approach in other Southern Africa countries.
“We have however learned that creating platforms for the poor and marginalised to be heard is not enough. There is need for this dialogue to be evidence based and well-informed. This is why we implore all media houses to practice good journalism that will give people adequate information to engage with their leaders effectively.”
PSAf views the media as an integral part for achieving transparency, public awareness, informed debate and accountability and that an independent and community media are strategic sources of information for citizens – including the poor and marginalized populations. Independent and community media are strategic sources of information for citizens – including the poor and marginalized populations in order to empower them with necessary information to demand accountability.
Participation of the poor in developmental dialogue will go a long way in advancing sustainable development, and hopes that civil society organisations, media and policy makers will do more to engage such people in the developmental dialogue.
Notes for editors
The Panos Institute Southern Africa PSAf is a regional communication for development organisation that seeks to amplify voices of the poor and marginalised, by supporting their participation in debate on national issues.
PSAf uses innovative communication methodologies to engage the media and other key stakeholders to ensure that the development agenda is shaped and driven by the most affected members of Southern Africa’s communities.
With a national office in Maputo, Mozambique, PSAf works in ensuring that media and communication organisations use their various channels to empower communities to drive development in Mozambique.
The organisation works around four thematic areas namely: Media Development and ICTs, Governance and Development, Environment and Natural Resources, and Health and Development.
PSAf is part of a Global Network of independent and autonomous Panos Institutes based in London, Paris, Canada, South Asia, Eastern Africa, West Africa, and the Caribbean.
For more information on the Monitoring Extractive Industries project, please contact PSAf Communications and Knowledge Management Officer Mr. Vusumuzi Sifile on email email@example.com.