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.”
Right now the American Petroleum Institute is waging a legal battle in Washington to block key sections of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act– passed by Congress and signed by President Obama– that requires oil companies to divulge what they pay governments.
Some of the same companies supporting the suit, like Chevron, are also say they support the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, which is meeting in Sydney this week to promote more disclosure of oil, gas, and mineral resource revenues.
Chevron’s page on the EITI web site says “Chevron believes that the disclosure of revenues received by governments and payments made by extractive industries to governments could lead to improved governance in resource-rich countries. The transparent and accurate accounting of these funds contributes to stable, long-term investment climates, economic growth and the well-being of communities… Our commitment to promoting revenue transparency in (sic) reflected in our participation in the multistakeholder Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Chevron, which continues to support the efforts of the Oslo-based EITI Secretariat, was elected to serve as a full member of the EITI board in 2009.”
OK so we are asking: Does Chevron support resource revenue transparency or not, and if so why has the company not publicly disavowed its support of the API law suit?
Right now we are calling on Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell to drop their support of the API suit. You can help: Check out our new video, share it through your social networks, and take the action to call on Big Oil companies to be honest, support resource revenue transparency, and drop the law suit in Washington.
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.
If you’re an Oxfam supporter, you’re probably a fan of good movies about challenging subjects. If so, it’s time to get yourself to a theater to see “Crude” a new documentary about oil production in the Amazon. A hit at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, the film follows two lawyers — an American and Ecuadorian — and their 16-year-old suit against Chevron, which alleges environmental damages in the northeast Amazon region of Ecuador.
Cancer survivor Maria Garofalo reflected in the stream behind her home in the Ecuadorean Amazon. From the film Crude, directed and produced by Joe Berlinger. Photo Credit: Juan Diego Pérez.
Oxfam America is a member of Oxfam, an international confederation of 17 organizations networked together in 94 countries, as part of a global movement for change, to build a future free from the injustice of poverty.
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