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Transparency and Dialogue in the Extractive Industry in Latin America

On 10 and 11 December 2015, an event on Transparency and Dialogue in Extractive Industries in Latin America: a Contribution to Sustainable Development in the Region was held as a starting-point to jointly develop regional principles of transparency in the extractive industries and reflect on challenges faced by different sectors. This event put on record the commitment of the Latin AmericanDialogue Group: Mining, Democracy and Sustainable Development (GDL) and their collaborators to begin developing a protocol on transparency for countries of the region.

GDL is a regional integration initiative with an over three-year track record, fostering democratic, equitable dialogue among stakeholders from government, companies and civil society to promote sustainable development, greater transparency and best practices in public and private governance in the context of extractive industries. GDL members are dialogue platforms in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama and Peru.

During the event on Transparency and Dialogue in Extractive Industries in Latin America, 200 representatives from the business, governmental and civil society sectors expressed diverse perspectives and opinions about transparency and creating a regional protocol for it. Participants agreed that transparency:

  • is fundamentally a principle to relate constructively with others, specifically by applying it in three sectors: state, companies and civil society.
  • is vital to improve quality of life for all and contribute to sustainable development.
  • not only refers to fiscal issues but also includes other dimensions such as investing resources, the impact generated and social and environmental aspects.
  • must be a means to get to the bottom of issues. Care must be taken that transparency does not lead to false conclusions or mistaken perceptions.
  • requires timely information and communication, while ensuring that forms and mechanisms are adhered so all can understand well, which is vital for transparency.

It is fundamental to construct relations of trust for dialogue and transparency, therefore this must be viewed as a joint responsibility, always bearing in mind that to ensure equity in dialogue, power asymmetries must first be addressed. This means empowering those who, because of their social and economic standing, have historically been disadvantaged vis-à-vis the state, market, business and the patriarchy permeating all sectors and settings. In other words, activities must maintain an intercultural and gender perspective.

The event was GDL’s first step towards creating an agenda for transparency in the extractive industries, especially mining, considering that there is an appropriate context for promoting adoption of a working protocol on transparency in the region. This should help bring together other areas of interest as well. So, transparency becomes a keystone in addressing issues of importance such as access to information, citizen participation, sustainable development, the mining legislation, royalties, public investment based on these resources, the social and environmental impact of mining activities, among other issues. It also requires greater transparency and accountability to avoid problems such as environmental pollution, corruption and destructive conflicts.

For 2016 and 2017, the eight dialogue platforms comprising GDL will address transparency at the national level and from a regional perspective. This shall take place within the framework of dialogue and through dialogue-based methodological tools because GDL feels that in the context of mining, truly sustainable local development is possible only within the dynamics of democratic dialogue.

After the event in December 2015, GDL’s Executive Committee has agreed on a road map to move toward a protocol for transparency. This protocol will integrate environmental, social, financial and institutional information about extractive activity and certain extraction projects in the region and make it available to the public. This will be developed on the basis of existing public legal information and will be able to incorporate additional information yielded voluntarily through dialogue by the public and private sector and by civil society.

For 2016 it is planned to work with assessments of transparency nationally and regionally, agree on the topics and indicators to include in the protocol, start a virtual platform for transparency and publish a first regional report on this topic. The December event on transparency and mining showcased the progress already made by GDL and was also a landmark in joining forces among eight countries in Latin America to achieve greater transparency in mining activity in the region.