Rights and Rice Foundation (RRF) Liberia, has officially launched its natural resource project under the theme “Strengthening Concession Affected Communities to monitor extractive industries and achieve equitable benefit.”
The project which is sponsored by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), based in Freetown, is expected to be implemented within 15 communities in Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, and Gbarpolu Counties.
The project seeks to support these affected
communities receive an equitable benefit sharing from natural resources revenues training and advocacy.
Providing an overview of the project which has a one-year implementation duration on Wednesday, September 29, Right and Rice Foundation Project Coordinator Moses B. Kollie said about 70 percent of Liberians lived precariously between development, conservation, and the law and the need to strengthen the capacity of community members in these areas is essential.
He said the government Propoor Agenda encourages foreign direct investment as a way of supporting economic development.
However, according to him, such investments have the best to undermine local community customary rights to land, natural resources, and local ways of life if not managed well.
“History has shown that past investments have excluded host communities from participating in the process of awarding these investments which end out disposing them from their ancestral lands and depriving them of their benefits,” Mr. Kollie said.
He further noted that these investments are characterized by social and environmental issues ranging from deforestation, land degradation, labor abuses, and that violent conflict which can be summed up as human rights violations, that further increases impoverishment and growing inequity within the local community.
Kollie said documenting evidence of violations shows that there are laws that frown against such actions, but there are no traces of penalties by the government against these companies.
Such trend exacerbated by government and concessions lack the effective will in recognizing and implementing a range of people’s and local communities right laws standard that promote equitable and sustainable management of land, environment and natural resources management.
“Ironically, you strengthen natural resources management, Liberia has develop policies and enacted many international laws and conventions that geared towards sustainable management of land, environment and natural resources development,” Kollie noted.
However, he said the project will support the total direct beneficiaries of 750 affected community members, various community structure that lived on the fringes of mining, logging and agriculture confessions in Western Liberia as well as local authorities and CSOs/CBOs to understand and monitor companies sustainable obligation in line with laws and international standards on land, mining, agriculture and forestry development.
Additionally, he stated that this will build their capacities in various national and international instruments that protect community rights to land and natural resources as well as sustainable natural management.
As part of the project Kollie said RRF is expected to set up training community based monitoring teams to monitor companies compliance to key instruments in cognizance of environmental and social safe guards.
Additionally, he noted that they will support communities through training and logistics to track income from natural resources extraction by collaborating with partners such as Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (LEITI) and support community members representation at county setting.
He believes these approaches will give affected communities alternative for redress and have a multiplier effect on Liberia’s natural resources investment profile.
“Through the monitoring and reporting, of compliance, companies will be alerted about their deficiencies and if they take corrective measures where the are gaps, it will improve host community relationship, reduce conflict and also investment opportunity”.