Again, on the 10th of September in the capital city of Mozambique, in Maputo the civil society met to discuss natural resources and how to ensure transparency and the benefits of megaprojects in the communities where the projects are implemented.
Two community based organizations spoke of their experiences with the foreign companies in mining. AENO (Association of extensionists), based in Nampula, spoke about the project KENMARE (Irish), and AAJAC (Association of Community Legal Assistance), based in Tete, spoke about three megaprojects namely JINDAL (Indian ), Vale (Brasilian) and Rio tinto (Australian).
According to the two organizations, local population get hardly any benefit from the investments. The fundamental reasons for dissatisfaction among local people include unconditional resettlement of populations (moving them and all their assets from their traditional living areas to a new location in order to give space to the investments), and lack of open dialogue between communities, the government and the companies.
The discussion among the seminar participants was very heated as has been the broader debate for several years now on natural resources and foreign investment.
Many concerns were raised by the civil society: lack of transparency in contracts concerning megaprojects, local people are not engaged in a dialogue about the implementation of megaprojects, the government and enterprises do not fulfill their promises, arrogance of the government and the companies in relation to the basic needs of the communities.
The general opinion of the participants is that, so far these megaprojects have not benefitted affected populations. On the contrary, the projects have brought many unresolved problems. There was, however, one participant who challenged the dominant view and referred to the large sums of money invested by the foreign companies, but his argument was quickly ruled out by the other participants as being misinformed.
As the seminar was also supposed to identify solutions to the current situation, the civil society participants came up with a series of proposals to put halt to the cases of abuse practiced by foreign companies and the government: educate ordinary people about their rights, especially in a situation of resettlement, press the mining companies to train and employ primarily local people from the affected communities, and to use community mobilization and disobedience as a means to protest against unjust decisions.
The discussion continues on megaprojects, but one thing is certain: many of the current problems are generated because the government officials do not fullfill the regulations and laws that they themselves have defined.
This situation has longterm consequences on the relationship between the population and the companies. Many problems mentioned by civil society would be mitigated if the companies and the government would look at communities as citizens with full rights and not just as mere objects of foreign investment and government plans.
The writer works as Kepa's Development Policy Officer in Mozambique.