Way Forward For Extractive Industries in Asia

The Extractive Industry (EI) is a very important economic sector for a lot of developing countries. The revenue generated from this industry could be used to promote development and poverty reduction, but is exacerbated by the industry’s negative impacts, including human rights and environmental violations, directly affecting natural resources and the communities that rely on them.

Asia is very important region for the Oxfam EI global program and there are a number of countries which produce oil, gas and other minerals and is a critically important development issue from the stand point of human rights and women’s equality.

“Oxfam has worked and promoted its EI program for many years in Asia including Cambodia, Vietnam and Lao. Now we are considering expanding our work to Indonesia, Timor leste and potentially Afghanistan,” said Keith Slack, Global Program Director, Oxfam America.

The Asia Regional Extractive Industries Learning and Strategy Workshop was organized for 30 participants from 10 countries in Asia including those from Oxfam affiliates (OUS, OAUS, OHK, OIN, Asia regional platform team), Oxfam partners and allies including NRGI, PWYP, NTFP-EX Asia, GIZ. The workshop took place in in Siem Reap, Cambodia from 13-16 March 2018.

According to Mr Slack, the workshop participants shared lessons from partners to see how strategies in Asia can link to global EI work, to think of strategies to help move work in the region forward and to achieve important impacts to support of communities impacted by EI.

The workshop also offered opportunities for Oxfam and its partners to develop networks and to showcase their research and successful cases. The learning sessions offered inputs and recommendations for Oxfam’s internal strategy discussion to define strategic scopes; approaches, and recommendations for the development of a new Asia Regional EI strategic plan that will be aligned with the OI/EI Global Program Strategic Plan and the OI Asia Regional Strategy Framework.

“One of the most important issues in this region is the question of civil society spaces and the fact that in a number of countries, civil society space is quite closed,” Mr Slack said.

“For the EI program, it is very important to engage in countries that are important for EI but also have closed (civil society) spaces.”

“We need to operate in those spaces and try to help partners and ensure the impact of EI can be addressed in (a way that has) potential for development and can be realized in closed spaces like Cambodia and Vietnam.

“It is also important to find ways to support the work of our partners and try to advance issues like transparency, respect for community consent and respect the rights of women that are impacted by EI.”

Schirrmacher Wolfgang, Associate Advisor from Lao-German TC Project support for Mining Sector said the workshop was an interesting chance to see the different approaches between donors and NGOS working with communities, policy and decision makers, despite the wider vision of EI being the same.

However he noted as a partner of the government, his approach was top down, while NGOs such as Oxfam had a much more grassroots, bottom-up strategy.

“I think there are many opportunities where we can work closer together because we are the donor and we have signed the cooperation agreement with the government,” he said.

“This network of course, could be a great entry point for NGOs to have direct contact with our counterparts and with mining authorities.”

Isabelle Morin, CSR Asia director based in Singapore, said this is a unique opportunity to learn more and understand the issues in EI in the region particularly when it comes to gender inequality and indigenous people’s rights.

more we understand about the issues the better we can help the companies integrate these aspects into their CSR program,” Ms Morin said.

“It is extremely valuable, on top of understanding the issues we also can learn more about people and the organizations that are working on these aspects.”

Oxfam has developed a great understanding of the issues posed by EI and a very clear view on how the private sector can help improve the livelihood of the community in mining areas. Oxfam has also developed a number of tools and educational material that are useful for the companies.

“Working together with Oxfam, CSR Asia helps bring these information and these ideas back to the cooperate levels and back to the companies and translate that into practical recommendations for extractive industry companies to ensure they focus on the right things as part of their CSR agenda,” Ms Morin said.