WUSC’s Executive Director comments on working with the mining sector

Dear friends of WUSC:

There have been a number of stories in the press on CIDA’s decision to fund three projects implemented by Plan Canada, World Vision, and WUSC – initiatives that are also funded by Canadian mining firms.  In the case of WUSC, Rio Tinto Alcan is supporting a project of ours in Bibiani Anhwiaso Bekwai (BAB) district of Ghana.

CIDA has been criticized for supporting these projects, in part because of the perception that this subsidizes profitable mining firms.  NGOs working with mining firms have been criticized for potentially compromising their autonomy and independence to speak out on mining practices when they have a negative impact on local communities.

We recognize that this is a potentially divisive issue. Nonetheless, we believe that these criticisms of CIDA and of our work with mining firms are unfounded and incorrect.  We do believe that it is important to engage on the complex and challenging realities that communities, civil society, and governments face in the countries in which we work – including issues related to the mining sector. In doing so, our goal is to strengthen the capacity of our southern partners to maximize the benefits that they receive from mining operations.

In regards to our partnership with Rio Tinto Alcan, each organization undertook an extensive vetting process before deciding to partner with the other.  This resulted in a pilot initiative to strengthen the quality of education in one primary school – an initiative wholly funded by Rio Tinto Alcan’s subsidiary Ghana Bauxite Company.  Based on this experience, WUSC sought further Rio Tinto Alcan and CIDA funding to work with the Bibiani Anhwiaso Bekwai district government to:  (1) develop more participatory development plans, (2) strengthen the district’s capacity to deliver better quality education, water and sanitation, and youth services, and (3) create a platform for communities and the local government to more effectively collaborate with all mining firms operating within their district.

CIDA’s support to this project is not underwriting the corporate social responsibility of Rio Tinto Alcan, which no longer operates in Ghana. Instead, this is an initiative to improve local government capacity and development outcomes for people across Bibiani Anhwiaso Bekwai district.

Our work in this area has been informed by discussions held at the Devonshire Initiative which promotes dialogue, learning and collaboration between the mining sector, civil society and government.  We also recognize the important work of organizations such as Publish What You Pay that encourages transparency in the mining sector.

We are committed to openness and transparency about all of our programs – including WUSC’s work with the mining sector.  We have spoken about this work at our past International Forum and Annual General Assembly, and will do so again in the future. We have posted information on our website, which we will update as the Bibiani Anhwiaso Bekwai project progresses. We also welcome other opportunities for constructive dialogue on this issue.

Chris Eaton
Executive Director

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