Parallel Session 8

Mining for Peace and Development?!

Overview

While mineral resources are one of the major sources of violent conflicts worldwide this session proposed to take a look at (mineral) resources from a peace lens. The discussion considered human rights as well as peace building instruments to ensure peaceful development. Experiences were shared from Bougainville and the Philippines with participants complementing the cases from a wide variety of countries as well as from other related kinds of businesses such as fair trade, development, trade policies, promoting UN guidelines on business and human rights, trade for peace, the textile industry and the oil industry. Two colleagues from GIZ gave complementing comments from the perspective of state level of development.

Case Study Panguna/Bougainville

Bougainville Island is an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea (PNG). During the 1970s and 1980s, the Panguna mine in Bougainville was one of the biggest copper mines in the world, very profitable for both the state of PNG and the operating company Bougainville Copper (a subsidiary of Rio Tinto). At the same time, it turned out to be at the root of many problems for the local population as it caused new social cleavages between and within communities leading to social disintegration between haves and have-nots, environmental pollution and cultural uprooting. By 1989, the cleavages developed into a full-fledged war between government forces and the “Bougainville Revolutionary Army” that lasted for ten years and cost the lives of about ten per cent of the population.

When in 2001 the Bougainville peace agreement put an end to the violence the issue of the Panguna mine was considered to be too divisive to be talked about and the mine remained closed. In the peace agreement, the government of PNG and the Bougainville side agreed to hold a referendum on the future political status of the island – either total independence or autonomy within PNG. The target date for this referendum is 15 June 2019. The current Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) plans to reopen the Panguna mine after the referendum.

However, while for the government the mine is considered a source of income for an independent Bougainville many locals do not want the mine to be reopened. The local population is concerned about the environmental degradation and the impact on their culture and society. For them, the issue of the mine is not a simple legal and economic matter, but it presupposes a process of asking and giving forgiveness and the mending and creating of relationships in order to overcome the past and be able to reconsider mining as an economic activity.

In Bougainville, hopes are high that on the one hand legal mechanisms like the constitution and the new mining law, where landowners have the final say over exploitation of mineral resources, provide a framework for peaceful exploitation of the resources. On the other hand it is clear that without considering relationship and peace building strategies the basis for a peaceful development will not be very strong.

Case Study Mindanao/Philippines

The Mindanao region of the Philippines also has been the site of longstanding violent conflictbetween the government and several Muslim armed opposition groups, including the Moro National Liberation Front/MNLF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front/MILF, as well as some splinter groups. The roots of the conflict can be traced back to colonial times, during which Muslim inhabitants from the southern parts of the Philippines were economically and politically marginalized, deprived of their land, which was given to Christian settlers and discriminated against. The CAB (Common Agreement on the Bangsamoro) in 2014, agreed upon between the Federal Government of the Philippines and the MILF, paved the way for peaceful measures to deal with continued marginalization. This agreement was meant to be the basis of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Once it will have passed congress, it should serve the Moro people of the Mindanao region (Bangsamoro) as an instrument to protect their identity and obtain self-governance as well as allow a certain level of local control over resources and substantial revenue share for the region. The law’s most important features are ensuring the representation of Bangsamoro people in the cabinet and council of leaders, a pluralist justice system including regular courts for non- Muslims as well as traditional justice courts for the Moro population, and economic development mainly through changes regarding the sharing of revenues and natural resources. There is also a proposal to have a specific mining bill.

Key Takeaways

  • As the case of the Panguna mine showed, the cultural and spiritual dimension needs to be integrated into the talks about the future of mining in the region. Imposing deadlines is counterproductive as the Bougainville society is very consensus oriented and decision making takes time. Asking for forgiveness and healing are important elements in conflict resolution, also in relation to international mining companies. BUT: human rights are too important to be left to a voluntary process as they provide the basis for accountability.
  • From the Mindanao case: Inclusivity of laws and legalization of indigenous land rights are relevant for legitimacy. Indigenous people who do not ascribe to the Bangsamoro identity are provided for in the Bangsamoro Basic Law. However, some complain that they have not been given the same rights, e.g. with regard to Free Prior and Informed Consent, as indigenous people in other parts of the Philippines. The draft law says that such concerns will be addressed.
  • From the perspective of a state donor agency: generating a strong political will at partner level for peace and development and a just and fair win-win situation for all stakeholders is key. It is a challenge to reverse the image of mining as a threat for peace and development. Small successes and positive impact can be shown through e.g. consulting with governments on how to develop better contracts with the mining industry, and how to get companies to respond to their legal duties and respect for human and economic, social and cultural rights like for example land rights, artisanal mining rights, right for education, right to food etc.

Conclusion

  • The Colonial heritage often plays an important role in conflicts around mining and land rights and should not be neglected, especially by foreign organizations.
  • Legal systems are often at odds with local mechanisms for peacebuilding and achieving accountability.
  • Many issues cannot be solved within a specific timeframe. It takes time to come to a consensus (Bougainville principle: stop-talk-listen-decide).
  • Any legal framework must guarantee inclusiveness in order to be a successful tool for peacebuilding. Ensuring equal representation is a key for achieving a balanced and just share of profit but also a prerequisite of settling conflicts.
  • Gender sensitive human rights based approach to mining projects in combination with conflict sensitivity and peace building instruments like mediation and/or dialogue and negotiation is vital in order to sustain peace and achieving just and sustainable development.

Hosts




Inputs

Facilitation: Sylvia Servaes (FriEnt/Misereor), Caroline Kruckow (FriEnt/Brot für die Welt)