A three-day workshop is being held in Accra to sensitise partners in the extractive sector to a collaborative project by OXFAM America and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on a common mining code that has been drafted for the West African sub-region.
The workshop is expected to come up with specific activities that will help the 15-member countries of ECOWAS to achieve a harmonised system of regulations and laws for the sector in the sub-region.
The drafted code is expected to help member countries to adhere to uniform standards, created in collaboration with, as well as the participation of, governments, citizens and civil society organisations and increase the protection of human rights and the environment, while promoting investment.
The objective of a harmonised mining code for the sub-region is in line with the integration objectives of ECOWAS. It will also have as a primary objective the facilitation of civil society in contributing to the process of a common mining policy that takes into consideration the needs of the poor, sustenance of the environment and the protection of human rights, while at the same time making governments and mining companies accountable through good governance practices.
Opening the workshop, Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng of the Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) noted that most mineral-endowed countries in the region were competing for investments.
He said the keen competition had resulted in the weakening of laws and standards because some countries had had to make concessions to attract the investments.
Mr Owusu-Koranteng said the result was environmental degradation, abuse of the rights of communities and conflicts, a situation that he termed “a race to the bottom”.
To end the unhealthy competition for investments, he said, there was the need for a harmonised system of rules and regulations that could help raise environmental standards and protect the interest of people living in mining communities.
He said with a harmonised system of laws, there would also be the opportunity to include best international practices in the sector in the sub-region.
Mrs Hannah Owusu-Koranteng, a facilitator, in her presentation, showed that mining in the country, despite its contributions, had also had some social costs that outweighed the contributions made by the sector.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2008, PG 50