Tokyo conference a defining opportunity to embed accountability in
Afghanistan’s oil and mining sectors
For immediate release.
The Government of Afghanistan and the international community must commit to publishing full details about oil, gas and mining deals and consult with local communities, said civil society activists today. The call comes on the eve of a crucial conference being held in Tokyo to discuss aid pledges in post-transition Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan Cooperation Conference brings together the Afghan government, international donors and civil society for a one-day event which will set the framework for future assistance to the Afghan state. High on the agenda is the country’s economic future and the sustainability of public finances.
Recent government announcements of between US$1-3 trillion in mineral deposits have fuelled speculation that the sector could provide much needed income for development. But today’s call comes amidst growing concerns from civil society that, unless properly managed, the rush to kick-start the industry could fuel corruption, deepen conflict and put the environment and communities at risk.
“The Tokyo conference is a watershed moment for the future of Afghanistan’s extractive industries,” said Yama Torabi of Integrity Watch Afghanistan. “The Afghan government and the international community have an unprecedented opportunity to send a clear signal that they will not let Afghanistan go the same way as other resource-rich states mired in poverty and instability.”
In the past year the Bonn Conference and Afghan-US strategic partnership have produced international consensus on the need for transparency, accountability and international best practice standards to be applied to Afghanistan’s extractive sectors. But so far, plans to implement these commitments are unclear.
“These commitments are a laudable beginning, but successful minerals development in Afghanistan requires a longer-term strategy which holds both sides - Afghan Government and international community - mutually accountable beyond 2014,” said Katarina Kuai of the Revenue Watch Institute. “Tokyo should deliver this and identify how both the Afghan public and investors can monitor progress.”
Civil society also called for commitments coming out of Tokyo to promote transparency around crucial social and environmental costs, so that the public knows the true value of deals struck. Full information disclosure, including publishing contracts and project documents, and international standards for local consultations are needed to promote project sustainability and build peace in impacted communities.
“It’s not good enough for the international community to kick-start the industry in an attempt to salvage a good news investment story from transition, then cut and run,” said Eleanor Nichol of Global Witness. “They must put the right checks and balances in place now or risk undermining investments in blood and treasure of the past ten years.”
1) Global Witness investigates and campaigns to prevent natural resource-related conflict and corruption and associated environmental and human rights abuses.
Integrity Watch Afghanistan is an Afghan civil society organization promoting accountability, transparency and integrity in public service delivery, extractive industries and the reconstruction sector.
The Revenue Watch Institute is a non-profit policy institute and grantmaking organization that promotes the effective, transparent and accountable management of oil, gas and mineral resources for the public good.
2) Commitments to transparency, accountability and best practice for Afghanistan’s extractives sector can be found in the November 2011 outcome document of the International Afghanistan Conference in Bonn (http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/cae/servlet/contentblob/603684/publicationFile/162776/Conference_Conclusions_-_International_Afghanistan_Conference_Bonn_2011_engl.pdf) and the April 2012 US-Afghanistan Strategic Agreement (http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/texttrans/2012/05/201205024930.html#axzz1zYsrTssI)
3) The call for action on the extractives at Tokyo is also backed by 13 US Congressional representatives in a June letter to Secretary Clinton. The letter can be found here: http://www.globalwitness.org/library/letter-us-secretary-state-hillary-clinton-calling-concrete-benchmarks-upcoming-tokyo