Comments from Oxfam Australia to ICMM on: 'Land Acquisitions and Resettlement: Lessons Learned', and 'Understanding Company-Community Relations Toolkit'.

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19th January 2016

Oxfam congratulates ICMM on the two new publications – Land Acquisitions and Resettlement: Lessons Learned, and the Understanding Company-Community Relations Toolkit. We have taken the time to review both publications and would offer the following comments:

Land Acquisitions and Resettlement: Lessons Learned

This document provides a useful and practical contribution to the challenging issue of resettlement and livelihood restoration. Oxfam would suggest a number of areas where the modules could be strengthened based on our experience with resettled communities and discussions with companies.

This includes:

  1. Greater emphasis on involving communities earlier in the resettlement planning and as part of the specialist resettlement team (throughout all key steps in impact assessments [module 2] as well as resettlement planning).
  2. Communities should be recognised as both rights-holders and as key stakeholders – resulting in reference to participatory decision-making by communities, including women, not just engagement and consultation.
  3. Greater and dedicated reference to engaging women throughout the planning, uplift, and livelihood restoration phases, and for the life of the project. Given that resettlement has the greatest impact on women and girls, a stronger gender focus is needed, including specific reference to women participating in decision-making regarding all aspects of resettlement. For example, page 23 (challenges with stakeholder engagement) should include reference to the challenge of ensuring the company actively seeks out and involves women in discussions, planning and decision making.
  4. Ensuring that resettlement plans and the timeframe are disclosed to project affected communities early in the process.
  5. The importance of independent monitoring should be strengthened. The document makes reference to monitoring and evaluation, but does not consistently emphasise that it must be independent and evaluated against agreed indicators of success, not just against actions taken.
  6. While the ‘lessons’ suggest a ‘life-of-project’ approach to stakeholder engagement, it does not address the intergenerational impacts of resettlement. To address this, resettlement planning and livelihood restoration must give specific consideration to the needs and aspirations of youth, and engage them in the process.
  7. The document references engagement with community representatives. It would be strengthened with reference to the need to ensure engagement which is based on democratic processes and that this is ‘refreshed’ over time, thereby maximising the likelihood of better representation.
  8. The document correctly notes that “engagement is not just about talking – it is about listening”. From our experience it is not enough to just listen to community concerns/ideas; companies must demonstrate that they will act. Without action, the engagement is not meaningful and can quickly result in a breakdown of trust. In addition, companies must do what they agree to do (promises made prior to resettlement must be honoured).
  9. Caution with regard to “Put in place confidentiality protocols, but ensure sharing of information where necessary” (p.21) and “maintain confidentiality about the project footprint early in the project…” (p.16). In our experience confidentiality agreements can be problematic and result in a breakdown of trust, suspicion, misinformation and even tension and conflict. We would recommend a high level of transparency and disclosure of all resettlement matters, recognising that this can also lead to ‘in-migration’ and some speculative behaviour. However the benefits of disclosure outweigh the risks, in our view.
  10. Caution with regards to “companies should work with governments to put a clear national legislative framework in place…” (p.12). While many resource rich countries have weak governance, which must be improved, there are also examples of where companies have influenced the regulatory framework and legislative process to ensure more favourable outcomes for the company, and not necessarily in the best interest of all citizens.
  11. Caution with regard to compensation. While necessary, alone it is not enough. It will need to include compensation for other lost economic opportunities, such as access to a river to collect sand for sale.

For further information, the communiqué from the 2015 Oxfam Sustainable Mining Symposium: Getting Resettlement Right is available at www.oxfam.org.au/resettlement


Understanding Company-Community Relations Toolkit

This is a useful and practical resource that adds value to past ICMM publications on stakeholder engagement. Oxfam would suggest strengthening certain areas of the toolkit, namely:

  1. Including guidance on ensuring women are included in the stakeholder engagement process, in recognition that men and women will have different experiences of the impacts of a mining project, and will often have different perspectives on company-community relations. Oxfam’s experience is that if this is not explicitly prioritised, women are not adequately included in participation and decision-making processes.
  2. Include tips or suggestions throughout the tool kit in how communities can be included across all of the steps (and not just in data collection and presentation). In particular, increased community participation in defining the objectives of the assessment and in undertaking the analysis would assist in improving the quality of the research, as well as contribute to the process being approached as a relationship-building one (as noted on p.6).
  3. Include stronger recommendations and suggestions for ongoing monitoring of the outcome indicators to ensure accountability for agreed actions.

We would welcome the opportunity to provide input to ICMM publications during the draft phase and prior to publication (as we have done in the past on, for example, the Indigenous Peoples and Mining Good Practice Guide), to ensure a diversity of lessons and experiences are included.

Serena Lillywhite and Chris Madden – Oxfam Australia Mining Advocacy Team

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