Catholic aid agency calls for protection of transparency campaigners

By agency reporter
February 26, 2009

Catholic aid agency CAFOD is calling for action to halt the suppression of groups and individuals working for change in the extractives industry in developing countries.

At the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Doha last week, the charity spoke out against intimidation, threats and detention of civil society campaigners.

Addressing the conference, CAFOD’s private sector policy analyst Anne Lindsay said: “A disturbing development over the last three years has been the repressive action by a small number of EITI participating countries against their own civil society representatives. Intimidation, threats and even detention have all been documented.

She added: “One of the most valuable elements of the EITI is its tripartite structure. It brings together governments, companies and civil society. If one of these actors is missing, the initiative will fail. This must be addressed - without civil society there is no EITI.”

CAFOD works with around 500 local partners in over 50 developing countries worldwide. These countries include many with significant oil, gas and mineral resources such as Angola, Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, and Timor-Leste.

Measures to ensure that ordinary people benefit from their country’s mineral wealth have to be at the heart of any work to combat poverty and promote sustainable development, CAFOD argues.

Citizens in these countries are often not able to access information about revenues from oil, gas and mining or track how their money is being spent, says the agency. To work towards better transparency on these issues and against the corruption that can be part of the reason for obfuscation, CAFOD became one of the founder members of the Publish what You Pay (PWYP) Coalition in 2002 and has been involved in EITI’s development.

Anne Lindsay added: “CAFOD believes that all human beings have the right to dignity and respect, and that the world’s resources are a gift to be shared equally by all men and women, whatever their race, nationality or religion.”

In 2006 EITI civil society representatives Christian Mounzeo and Brice Makosso were detained and put on trial in Congo-Brazzaville. Marc Ona, from Publish What You Pay Gabon, a member of the national EITI multi-stakeholder group, was not at the 2009 PWYP conference because his government prevented him from leaving the country to fly to Doha.

At the beginning of this year he was detained in Gabon for a number of days along with other NGO campaigners.

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