Dam Chanthy (left) with Seive Thaougn, the chief of the ethnic Jerai village Padol. Padol is in the process of applying for a Communal Land Title. The area the village is claiming includes parts of the Se San river. Photo by Patrick Brown/Oxfam America.
Dam Chanthy says things have changed a lot in her native Ratanakiri province. Rubber trees, standing in silent, unnaturally symmetrical rows across valleys and over the hills, cover what used to be ancient forests of exotic hardwoods. “The forest was very dense,” Chanthy, as everyone here calls her, says. “There was only the forest, the trees. The only exception was a few rice paddies, but if you wanted to clear the land and plant rice, you would clear the underbrush, and leave the big trees.”
Dam Chanthy (right) with staff at the Highlander Association headquarters in Banlung, Ratanakiri. Photo by Patrick Brown/Oxfam America.
In the 1960s and ‘70s Ratanakiri was a remote, wild province. In her forest home, Chanthy says “we would see wild boar, deer, and sometimes tigers would come at night and try to eat our chickens. We would never dare walk in the forest alone, and we would only go to gather firewood near our home.”
As we’ve posted here and written in our magazine (p. 7), Ghana civil society organizations have gained substantial ground in collaborating with their government to promote transparency in oil revenue. They can now see what taxes, royalties, and other payments the government collects, and monitor where that money is spent.
Here at Oxfam we have worked hard to support the work in Ghana to build a culture of transparency and good governance. We’ve complemented this work in Ghana with our advocacy in the US for the payment transparency provisions in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (p. 8). These provisions are under threat in a law suit by the American Petroleum Institute (the lobbying arm of the US oil industry), which is seeking to block that entire section of Dodd-Frank, legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Obama.
What are the oil companies y trying to hide? This is the question posed by Boakye Dankwa Boadi in a video we released last week. The efforts of Mr. Boadi and others in Ghana to promote transparency and responsible governance are under threat. He sees legislation like Dodd-Frank as a measure that will help them check the money coming in to the government with payments reported by the companies themselves. He says this will help Ghana “cross the path of poverty” to becoming a more developed nation.
James Bogoloh (right), an elected member of the District Assembly in Jomoro in western Ghana, talking with Solomon Kusi Ampofo, who works with Oxfam's partner organization Friends of the Nation. Photo by Anna Fawcus/Oxfam America.
Out in Jomoro district in western Ghana, James Bogoloh is looking at what passes for a road through dense forest between two villages near his home in Takinta. He pronounces it “deplorable.” “If it rains it is just not passable,” he says, as a motorcycle carrying two men, one holding a machete carefully off to the side, bounces and sputters past. Bogoloh shows us a concrete structure meant to bridge a low, wet area, and says that the contractor is about to start grading the road surface.
Bogoloh is an elected representative and a volunteer community monitor who is working with Oxfam’s partner Friends of the Nation to teach local people how to ensure that government money from oil and mining revenues is used to improve their lives. His efforts in Jomoro are complemented by a national coalition advocating for better laws to promote transparency of resource revenues, so citizens can see where their national wealth goes.
The objective of the campaign is to encourage strong rules that will respect the law and honor the intent of Dodd-Frank: make payments by oil, gas, and mining companies to governments public so that people in poor communities producing precious natural resources can get a sense of where all the money goes.
When Aniceto López looks out on the mine pit at the Marlin Mine, he sees what used to be there: forests and animals, an area he says was “full of life.” Now he says it is disgraceful what has happened to the area, as massive trucks take a steady supply of ore up and out of the pit gouged out of the side of the mountain.
López is the coordinator for FREDEMI, the Frented de Defensa Miguelense or San Miguel Defense Front. Members of FREDEMI, and of other groups in the area that are critical of the mine, are urging the government to suspend operations there. This is putting many of them at risk: People have been shot, beaten, arrested on dubious charges, and endured intimidation via death threats and near misses from gun fire. It’s a tense situation in all the areas around San Miguel Ixtahuacán in Western Guatemala.
This just in: Oxfam’s animated short “Follow the Money” was selected as one of 16 finalists for YouTube’s DoGooder Nonprofit Video Award. The video is competing in the “Best Innovation in Video” category against three other nominees.
Overall, the contest brought in 750 video submissions from 450 nonprofits, so it’s a pretty cool showing for a video about the important, but decidedly un-glamorous, issue of oil, gas, and mining revenue transparency.
Here’s the video, in case you haven’t seen it yet:
And now that you have seen it, click here to VOTE. (Winners will be announced on April 10, so the deadline is Wednesday at midnight.)
“People in communities producing oil, gas, and minerals have a right to know where the money is going, and how it is being used for their benefit, so they can make their own decisions about their future,” Chris concludes. If the success of this video has helped spread the word about this fundamental right, then it’s already a victory.
In recent weeks indigenous people in Peru have been protesting against new laws that will allow the government to grant foreign companies access to oil, gas, and mineral resources on their community lands. Indigenous people have the right to be consulted about these sorts of decisions under international law, but the government says the resources belong to the entire country. This past weekend there were violent confrontations between the protesters and the police resulting in 50 deaths. Both sides are accusing the other of human rights violations.
Last winter, my husband and I took our annual trip to see our parents out West. I’m from Southern California and John’s parents moved out to Arizona a few years ago. So, we can usually see both sets within a couple weeks. And, luckily for us, the trips usually bring warmth and beauty into our lives during Boston’s dreary winters; we spend our time road tripping to places like the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and Big Sur.
A photo from my trip to the Grand Canyon. This beloved national park may have natural resources, but does that mean they should be exploited? Andrea Perera / Oxfam America.
I was thinking about that trip yesterday morning when reading the news that the new Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has cancelled oil and gas leases on 77 parcels of federal land in southeastern Utah. This move reverses the Bush administration’s decision to allow drilling on about 130,000 acres near Nine Mile Canyon, Arches National Park, and Dinosaur National Monument. When I look back at the photos from my trip to the Grand Canyon, I can’t imagine what it would be like to drop an industrial oil operation in the midst of that type of unmarred landscape. Read the rest of this entry »
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