Press Release / June 27, 2013

Civil society to Afghan government and donors: live up to your promises on mining sector

An alliance of 36 Afghan and international civil society organisations have urged the Afghan government and its donors to deliver on their commitment to effective oversight in the country’s extractives sector. The call, made in letters sent to the Afghan Minister of Mines, Wahidullah Shahrani, and key international partners, comes ahead of a crucial meeting taking place in Kabul on the 3rd July.

The July meeting will help decide how agreements made at a major international conference on Afghanistan, held in Tokyo in 2012, will be implemented – including a promise to create a governance framework for extractives industries. The civil society groups called on the participants to include a clear commitment for this framework to address the full range of potential challenges in the sector – including environmental and social issues, community engagement and consent, security and the need for transparency and accountability measures.

“The Afghan government and its international partners need to send a clear signal that they are committed to strong oversight of Afghanistan’s natural resources,” said Jalil Benish, the current chair of the Civil Society Natural Resource Monitoring Network, and a signatory of the letter. “An effective and comprehensive framework is essential to ensure Afghanistan’s rich mineral wealth actually benefits the Afghan people, rather than providing more fuel for conflict and corruption.”

At the 2012 Tokyo conference, Afghanistan and its international partners agreed to develop a framework “that governs Afghanistan’s natural wealth through an accountable, efficient and transparent mechanism which builds upon and surpasses international best practices.” But there have been widespread reports in recent months that this commitment would be interpreted as meaning nothing more than the publication of mining revenues.

The Afghan Ministry of Mines has said it supports an effective governance framework, and has produced an unpublished initial outline of what this should look like. A strong, public written commitment at the July meeting is needed to ensure that this promising start is followed through across the Afghan government, and to secure the commitment of donors, as well as their practical support.

“The experience of other countries in conflict has repeatedly shown that there is a major risk that natural resources can harm, not help, development,” said Stephen Carter, Afghanistan Campaign Leader at Global Witness. “The Afghan government has made some positive steps, but it is still unclear whether they will deliver on a truly effective extractives framework. If they do, Afghanistan has a chance to be a model for other countries. We urge both the Afghan government and its international partners to fulfil their responsibility and act for the long-term benefit of the country.”  

“We have already seen cases where mining projects in Afghanistan have directly led to conflict,” said Yama Torabi, Executive Director of Integrity Watch Afghanistan. “That damages local communities, but it also damages the companies who see their investments disrupted and their reputations undermined. For everyone’s sake, we have to get strong mechanisms in place that ensure mining activity has public support, and prevents these problems before they happen.    

/Ends

Contact:

UK:

Stephen Carter, Afghanistan Campaign Leader, Global Witness, on [email protected] / +447809342796

Afghanistan:

Yama Torabi, Integrity Watch Afghanistan, on [email protected] / +93 799271624

Jalil Benish, Afghanistan Watch, on [email protected] / +93799215577

Ikram Afzali, Integrity Watch, on [email protected] / +93788266645 / +93700266645

Notes to editors:

  1. The July 3 Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) has been convened in order to assess progress under the commitments of the 2012 Tokyo conference.
  2. Copies of the letters are available here and here (also at the bottom of this page). The 36 NGO signatories of the letter, which went to the Afghan government and major donors, are as follows: 
Afgana
Afghan Development Association
Afghanistan Civil Society Forum
Afghanistan Watch
All Afghan Women Union
ARCSO
AYWCBO
British and Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group (BAAG)
Christian Aid
Civil Society Natural Resource Monitoring Network
ENNA
Equal Access
Foundation for Culture and Civil Society
Foundation of Solidarity for Justice
Global Witness
Green Wave
Hajigak Council
Heinrich Böll Stiftung
HRRAC
Human Rights and Eradication of Violence Organization
Integrity Watch Afghanistan
Khorasan
Logar Civil Society Association
MADERA
MONDO
Norwegian Afghanistan Committee
OXFAM
People in Peril
Relief International
Revenue Watch
Shuhada Organization
Socio-Economic Development & Environmental Protection Organization
SWABAC
Tearfund
The Liaison Office

Front page photo: Jerome Starkey