Rights and Rice Foundation launches natural resources project to strengthen communities affected by concessions

Rights and Rice Foundation (RRF) Liberia, officially launched its natural resources project under the theme “Strengthening Concession Affected Communities to Monitor Extractive Industries and Achieve Equitable Benefits Around Three Concessions in Western Liberia, namely, Bea Mountain Mining Corporation, Mano Oil Palm Industries and Indo African Plantation Inc.

The project, which is sponsored by the Freetown-based Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), is expected to be implemented in 15 communities in Bomi, Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu counties.

The project aims to help these affected communities receive an equitable sharing of the benefits of natural resource revenues through training and advocacy.

Giving an overview of the project which has a one-year implementation span on Wednesday, September 29, Rights and Rice Foundation project coordinator Moses B. Kollie said about 70 percent of Liberians live in the precariousness between development, conservation and the law, and as such, the need to strengthen the capacity of community members to understand business obligations and community responsibilities is essential.

He said the government’s pro-poor program encourages foreign direct investment as a way to support economic development. However, such investments have a way of undermining the customary rights of local communities to land, natural resources and people’s livelihoods if they are not well managed.

“History has shown that past investments have excluded host communities from participating in the process of allocating those investments which end up alienating them from their ancestral lands and depriving them of their benefits,” Kollie said.

He further noted that these investments are characterized by social and environmental issues ranging from deforestation, land degradation, labor abuse and violent conflict, which further increase impoverishment and growing inequalities in the country. within the local community.

Kollie said there are laws that frown on such a violation of community rights, but there is no record of government sanctions imposed on those companies that engage in them.

Such trends are exacerbated by the government and concessions lack the effective will to recognize and implement a series of human and local community rights standards that promote equitable and sustainable management of land, land and land use. environment and natural resource management.

He said: “Ironically, to strengthen the management of natural resources, Liberia has developed policies and adopted many international laws and conventions.

However, he said the project will support the total direct beneficiaries of 750 affected community members, various community structures who lived on the fringes of mining, forestry and agricultural concessions in western Liberia as well as local authorities and organizations. of civil society / community organizations to understand and monitor the sustainable obligations of companies in accordance with laws and international standards on land, mining, agriculture and forestry development.

In addition, he said it will strengthen their capacities in various national and international instruments that protect the rights of communities to land and natural resources as well as sustainable natural management.

As part of the Kollie project, the RRF is expected to set up community monitoring teams to monitor companies’ compliance with key instruments taking into account environmental and social safeguards. In addition, he noted that the project will support communities through training and logistics to track revenues from natural resource extraction by collaborating with partners such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative of Canada. Liberia (LEITI) and support the representation of community members in the counties. He believes that these approaches will give affected communities the following benefits to strengthen the capacity of community members to defend their rights, help communities to obtain a fair share of income, reduce conflicts between communities and concessions, put different laws in practice and give communities the alternative to obtain redress when their rights have been violated.

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