Strong governments and strong communities are integral to sustainable development.
Yet in many developing countries, community members are not being consulted on the issues that impact them most locally and globally. Formal processes for governments to engage communities do not always exist. If they do, the communication channels through which consultations are performed may exclude the most marginalized.
Social exclusion in the community consultation process is oftentimes mirrored by social exclusion at the government level. For example, as of 2017, only a handful of countries have reached gender parity in their governments. As a result, government priorities are not always responsive to the greatest needs nor to the areas with the greatest potential for impact.
The divide between government and communities is heightened in regions impacted by extractive activities. Economic growth in these areas is rapid, with a few key companies becoming major players in the local, national, and regional economies. Their subsequent business decisions can lead to continued growth or sudden collapse. With the right support, governments and communities can improve their collaboration to better manage the potential and mitigate the pitfalls of extractive work.
Improved collaboration between diverse actors requires a whole-of-community approach.
To help foster more informed discussion and debate, the entire system must be engaged at the local level. Governments must learn how to make room for and listen to the voices of youth, women, and other marginalized groups. Not only does this require an overhaul of current approaches and processes, but also a tearing down of deeply rooted prejudices about youth and women.
On the other hand, community members must be supported to shared their voices in public consultations and take on more decision-making roles. Awareness-raising and training at the community level are key. Training local governments can also help create more enabling environments. For example, human resources coaching can help foster greater diversity and inclusion in hiring and retention practices, develop more gender-responsive work environments, and advance women’s leadership.
WUSC is laying the foundation for improved collaboration between government and communities.
In 2016/2017, we launched a new initiative with CECI in West Africa which aims to maximize the socio-economic benefits of extractive resource investments in the region for communities, particularly women and youth. In this first year, we focused on gathering valuable insight into the unique contexts of the three countries where the initiative operates: Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Guinea. This information guided the development of overarching youth and gender inclusion strategies.
Through our work in West Africa, we will also be testing the new Beyond Zero Harm framework, a participatory social monitoring methodology developed through the Devonshire Initiative. This framework was created in Canada by a group of NGOs, post-secondary institutions, and mining companies. Their goal was to enable different stakeholders in communities affected by extractive activities to develop a common understanding of the general conditions of community wellbeing. Using this framework, we will be developing and testing a set of indicators designed to measure changes in the wellbeing in the region.
This past year, we also continued our efforts with CESO in Mongolia to strengthen the capacity of governments and communities to effectively manage the extractive sector. We continued to focus our efforts at the federal level, following national elections in June 2016. This enabled us to further develop partnerships, establish relationships, and demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach. These efforts will lay the foundation for future work at the provincial level in Mongolia, where governments are more closely linked to communities.