Monrovia – Amidst repeated disagreements and confusions at various concessions across Liberia, Green Advocates International, an environmental rights group has begun training local communities affected by large scale concessions on how to appropriately file complaints against multi-million dollars companies operating in their areas.
Local communities have protested the presence of large scale mining and agricultural companies like Golden Veroleum Liberia, Sime Darby and ArcelorMittal Liberia in Nimba County in their communities without their consents.
Green Advocates International is working with two local groups to execute the project, which is being funded by Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs.
The Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD), a consortium of community based organizations working to resolve issues confronting rural communities, urban slums, squatter communities and independent labor unions in Liberia and the Natural Resource Women Platform, a group set-up in 2010 by a group of marginalized women from forest communities and urban slum communities are working with Green Advocates International to implement the project.
The project is labeled as the “using voluntary principles and international grievance mechanism to protect; respect and remedy rights of affected communities impacted by the operation of extractive companies in Liberia.”
As part of the project, Green Advocates International and her partners have concluded four regional trainings, which attracted over 96 community leaders and human rights defenders across the country.
During the trainings held at separate locations, participants were provided educative materials on ‘Voluntary Principles’ and ‘International Grievance Mechanisms’ developed by Green Advocates and her partners.
Illustrative cartoon version of the ‘Voluntary Principles’ and ‘International Grievance Mechanisms’ were also developed and distributed among participants at the four regional workshops, Maminah Carr, Head of Natural Resource Women Platform disclosed.
According to her, they also development and distributed simplified version of other instruments including the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO); World Bank Inspection Panel; African Development Bank (AfDB), International Finance Corporation / Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency- Compliance Advisor Ombudsman; International Labor Organization( ILO); European Bank for Development and Reconstruction (EBRD); United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; ECOWAS Community Court of Justice Human Rights Defenders; African Court on Peoples’ and Human Rights; Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights to rights defenders at the trainings.
John Brownell of Green Advocates International requested participants at the regional trainings to take advantage of the grievance mechanize process and avoid violence.
He told participants that companies are under obligations to provide information about their operations to local communities, where they operates, but encouraged community members to always request for information from these companies, whenever they want it.
For his part, Green Advocates International Lead Campaigner, Atty. Alfred Brownell disclosed that the project was necessitated by the fact that Liberians are yet to be alleviated from poverty, despite receiving a US$ 18 billion in foreign direct investment from the granting of concessions in mining, logging, forestry, agriculture and the oil and gas sector in the last ten years.
In a dispatch, Atty. Brownell said that the hopes of many Liberians have been dashed, because the granting of large scale concessions for oil palm and rubber development, mining, forestry and oil and gas sector have failed to provide jobs, alleviates poverty and builds infrastructure as promised.
According to him, the country has instead witnessed massive land grab, forceful relocation and involuntary resettlement, and the destruction of their sources of livelihood.
Atty. Brownell indicated that the alleged destruction of cultural heritage that has been preserved for years and other violations by concessionaires is price of an invisible development that indigenous and forest dependent communities continue to pay today.
The Green Advocates Lead Campaigner further asserted that these rights violations and the lack of assessable alternative recourse mechanisms have set the patch for violent protests and uncontrollable conflict at concessions across the country.
Some of these protests, Brownell said has resulted into the loss of lives and the destruction of properties.