Turning the Tables: Transforming conflicts related to resource extraction

Conversation Details

Dates of conversation: 
Wednesday, April 27, 2011 to Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Conversation type: 
Type of tactical goal: 

Summary available

In this dialogue, participants discussed the ways in which communities dealing with resource extraction can anticipate and prevent conflicts with commercial and governmental actors while empowering themselves in an increasingly globalized environment.  The goals of the dialogue were to evaluate tactics with which we turn the tables and shift the power back to the communities, and ensure that resource extraction benefits the community.

New Tactics hosted this dialogue with the help and engagement of students from the University of St. Thomas Conflict Resolution course.

What ingredients in resource extraction situations create a recipe for conflict?

Three recurring elements contribute to the recipe for conflict in resource extraction situations: (1) the absence of community consent, (2) the division of communities as a result of said situations, (3) the disparity between laws governing resource extraction and reality. Companies often enter indigenous communities without prior consultation, triggering conflict. Furthermore, companies benefit from dividing the community by promising benefits to certain subsections, and undermining community empowerment efforts. Finally, though many countries—such as the Philippines—have laws to prevent abuse, these regulations frequently remain unenforced leaving communities with the stated right to their resources but no means of securing them.

How can we turn the tables and shift the power back to the communities?

In shifting power back to the community, it is important to emphasize accountability. This specifically addresses issues of consent and shifts power back into the community. Sometimes this occurs through contacting specific levels of government, other times communities themselves must create the mechanisms for accountability.

Key to the process of turning the tables is community regulation and organization. Communities must have a developed and organized plan that establishes priorities and affords a range of tactics such as dialogues, negotiations, international allies, media, court action, and more. Food & Water Watch shared their use of various tactics fighting Nestlé Waters. Other participants noted the success in formally designating “sacred sites” to protect certain resources. Finally, educating both company shareholders and consumers can be an effect way of putting outside pressure on companies and governments to change their approach to resource extraction.

What new opportunities and new challenges do these human rights defenders face?

The participants cited a variety of ongoing challenges:

  • The contradictions between companies’, governments’, and communities’ priorities (i.e. financial motivators for the first two often outweigh and contradict those values of a community).
  • Low prices often draw consumers to products from companies that fail to respect the rights of the communities in which they extract the necessary resources.
  • An ongoing absence of enforcement of laws and community rights allows companies to violate or skirt regulations.

In response to these challenges, they came up with the following opportunities and next steps:

  • One of the key opportunities is the use of social media to educate consumers and shareholders. Blogs, texts, and consumer campaigns allow communities to reach a broader audience than ever before and subsequently challenge the balance of power between local actors and the giant extraction industry.
  • Guidelines such as the Kimberly Process can be expanded and applied to other resources to ensure standards for extraction
  • Collaboration between efforts both regionally and internationally through documentation and sharing of tactics


New Tactics Resources

Online Resources/Documents

Conversation Leaders

Mike Klein's picture
Mike Klein
University of St. Thomas
Jaybee Garganera's picture
Jaybee Garganera
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)
Ramsey Hart's picture
Ramsey Hart
MiningWatch Canada
Leonor Hurtado's picture
Leonor Hurtado
Food First
Brilliant Earth's picture
Brilliant Earth
Brilliant Earth
Stu Levit's picture
Stu Levit
Viviane Weitzner's picture
Viviane weitzner
sthapa's picture
Shova Thapa Karki
lschirch's picture
Lisa Schirch
JDeGraw's picture
Julia DeGraw
Food & Water Watch