Each week on Engage, we aim to share with you a selection of links to articles and stories about the Australian aid program and international development that we find interesting or noteworthy. Here’s a snapshot of online stories this week:
By Rebecca Bryant, Assistant Director General, Sustainable Economic Development Branch, AusAID
Ensuring that the benefits from mining actually make their way to local communities is a challenge the world over. Ensuring that women and men are able to access these benefits equitably, irrespective of their roles in the household, community, workforce and leadership, is an even greater challenge.
Ms Ume Wainetti is currently the Program Coordinator of the Family Sexual Violence Committee in Papua New Guinea. She was also the women’s representative at the Ok Tedi compensation negotiations in 2007.
Ume Wainetti speaking at a 2011 event in PNG marking the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Photo: AusAID
The Ok Tedi gold and copper mine in Papua New Guinea’s Western Province remains a key source of revenue for the PNG Government. It is large, impacting more than 50,000 people in 120 villages downstream of the mine. The environmental impacts of the flow of tailings and waste rock into the river system are felt keenly by the local women who tend the market gardens. However, these women were not represented at all in compensation negotiations with communities impacted by the mines’ operations, until Ms Wainetti’s appointment to the negotiating team.
By Rebecca Bryant, ADG Sustainable Economic Development, AusAID
In resource-rich developing countries, mining projects create relatively few direct jobs beyond the construction stage, but they can be very effective in stimulating the local economy and helping establish business enterprises and growth in the broader economy.
Building sustainable enterprises is a key theme for the Mining for Development Conference being held in Sydney, 20-21 May. We know it’s important, but do we know how to achieve it? And whose responsibility is it?
Australia is strongly promoting the role of local communities within the mining sector. The benefits are many: participation can improve community and employee relations and bring substantial benefits in terms of reputation and good corporate citizenship. Local economic participation and development can boost local economies as well as reduce dependence on the mine for local economic wellbeing over time. Both industry and government have a role in ensuring this.
Training program for newly engaged mining inspectors. Photo: International Mining for Development Centre
By Paul Collier, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Oxford University
Australia has become the world champion at turning rocks into prosperity. It has built the technical expertise to discover and mine resources. This has been complemented by the economic policies and political checks and balances needed to avoid the resource curse. More commonly the natural wealth of resource-rich countries has corroded governance: checks and balances have been undermined by the scramble for control.
Africa, the world’s poorest region, now has the opportunity to follow Australia’s pathway. Mining expertise, much of it Australian, has been instrumental in a raft of recent African resource discoveries. There need be no conflict between corporate self-interest and corporate responsibility. At a time when softening world prices have plunged mining companies into the psychology of retrenchment, recognizing their important role as handmaidens of African development can be uplifting. Mining can generate revenues for governments, build infrastructure that has spill-over benefits for other activities, and help local communities. The forthcoming conference in Sydney on Mining for Development, an initiative of AusAID, focuses on these opportunities.
But the last time Africa had a resource boom, some thirty years ago, it led not to prosperity but to plunder. If Australia is indeed to unleash African prosperity, rather than inadvertently ushering in a repeat of history, this time must be different. Fortunately for Africa, much has indeed changed. There is more awareness of the need for scrutiny, greatly aided by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. Precariously launched in 2002, it now has 37 countries as signatories and its annual conference, to be held in Sydney this month back-to-back with Mining for Development, is a major event.
By Dr Amy Gray, Centre for International Child Health, University of Melbourne
In the Lao People’s Democratic Republic a group of child health experts met recently to discuss the next steps for improving hospital care for sick children in their country. The work discussed at this meeting dates back to 2009. Then key paediatricians, in collaboration with the Centre for International Child Health at the University of Melbourne and the World Health Organization, began translating the WHO Pocketbook of Hospital Care for Children – creating the first comprehensive Lao language guidelines for paediatric hospital care.
Previously many doctors graduated medical school without owning a medical text. If hospitals owned any books they were often in Thai, French or English and often inaccessible under lock and key. Now it is a common sight to see hospital staff on paediatric wards flicking through the Pocketbook to check recommended treatments. Medical students sit between classes reading and discussing its contents. And this change has happened in just a few years.
Staff at Bokeo Provinical Hospital after receiving their Pocketbooks. Photo: Dr Chansouk Chatana