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

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How can we turn the tables and shift the power back to the communities?
  • What tools are being used to shift the power back to communities?  Examples: free, prior and informed consent, OECD Guidelines, lawsuits, training, dialogue, boycotts, etc.
  • How can these tools, techniques, and tactics be improved and strengthened?  
  • How might power imbalances (asymmetric conflict dynamics) create opportunities to transform conflict through nonviolent strategies or tactics?
  • How can we ensure that resource extraction benefits the community?
  • This discussion thread is the space for the practical examples to be shared – stories, resources, tools, etc.
  • What role do governments play?  What role should governments play?
  • Communities can get hurt in the action of resistance.  How can these communities be protected?  What is the longer term impact?  What is the cost?  What are the risks to human rights defenders and communities?  How do communities heal?

Share your stories, thoughts and ideas by adding your comments below.

Role of the sacred in communities facing extraction

I have spent some time visiting the White Earth Band of Anishinabe in Northern Minnesota, USA. Their communities have been struggling with the timber industry for decades. Spiritual sites - especially burial sites - have at times precluded extraction efforts. In other cases spirit houses were destroyed without consideration.

I wonder if featured practitioners have any experiences to share regarding the role of sacred sites and spiritual practices in resistance to extractive efforts, or in the empowerment of indigenous communities?

strengths perspective of sacred sites

In response to Mike's inquiry of the role of sacred sites in resistance to extractive efforts, I would like to mention my research this semester on the Oheyawahi Pilot Knob site: a sacred burial ground site of the Mdewakanton Sioux.  This historical site was where the Treaty of 1851 was signed, where millions of Dakota land was possessed by the United States government.  In 2002, a proposal was made by a developer company to build townhomes on this land.  The Pilot Knob Preservation Society was established around this issue, and joined allies with several other organizations.  The area of Oheyawahi has since then been preserved, and is now a public open space by the City of Mendota Heights.  The area is now undergoing a 10-year process to restore its natural vegetation of the 1840's.

The importance of culture and spirituality has been a present theme throughout my research of this conflict.  For example, Chief Lookinghorse is a figure in the MN Native community who has dedicated his life to religious freedom, protection of sacred sites, and cultural survival.  He describes sacred sites as "power points" for the Dakota people. 

In continuation of Mike's question, how can these sacred sites empower indigenous communities- even in the face of conflict?  How can conflicts on these sacred sites be viewed from a strengths perspective in protecting the land? What are some examples of how indigenous culture and spirituality relate to conflicts on sacred land?

Meg Veitenheimer, Justice and Peace Studies student at the University of St. Thomas

extraction and the sacred

The spiritual and cultural significance of an area in the Tsilhqot'in Territory (within the province of BC) where there is  a proposal for an open pit gold-copper mine figured predominantly in the environmental review process which ulitmately resulted in the federal government refusing to permit the project, though the province had approved it.

Of course this is not always the outcome of disputes in Canada.

A few important caveats...

When considering the protection of an identified sacred site bureaucrats, not communities may be given the power to define where the sacred area is. In a US example, Barrick Gold can mine the base of a sacred mountain in Shoshonee Territory because only the top part of the mountain is officially recognised as sacred.

What if the totality of a landscape is fundamental for the cultural and physical survival of a community? I've certainly heard members of affected indigenous communities state that all of  their land is sacred to them. Do we risk compartmentalizing and inappropriately labelling areas as sacred by only considering places of particular spiritual / ritual power as "sacred"?

In the above-mentioned case in BC Taseko Mines, the proponent tried to turn this argument around and say if everything is sacred how can this one small area of your territory that they want to mine be any more significant than the rest. (Twisted logic, and I don't think it was particulary convincing to the review panel, but an approach that will likely be used elsewhere.)

With regard to mineral exploration, much of Canada does not have effective requirements fro consent or even consultation and so there is little opportunity to pre-emptively identifiy potential conflicts or requirements for exploraiton companies to respect areas of particular sensitivity.

The fight to savey Taylor Mountain in the south-west US is a good example of the conflict between an identified sacred place and resource extraction.

Ramsey Hart
MiningWatch Canada



Territory, spirituality, mining and consent

I want to add another angle to this discussion of spirituality, land, extraction and consent. I'm currently working with Embera Chami and afrodescendent communities in Colombia, where ancestral mining goes way back, some say to the 1500s some say earlier. For the people I am working with, the type of small-scale, slow, non-technified (no cyanide or mercury) extraction they undertake defines their cultural identity and is connected to the sacred. The plight we are seeing now is how to preserve this type of mining as an officially recognized legitimate activity, in the face of large-scale extractive interests that are leading to mining reforms that may see this activity declared illegal, and may pave the way for large-scale mining. We are working with these peoples to strengthen their own management regimes, based on their own rules and regulations, informed by their own research on environmental, social, cultural, spiritual and human rights impacts. They will also be identifying areas where they can mine, and areas where they cannot.

But I also wanted to chime in on large scale mining, and levers for tipping the power balance. First though, the impact that even flyover exploration can have on spiritual sites.  

In March 2008 the sacred mountains of the Embera Chami were the subject of exploration flyovers that did not have the consent of the traditional authorities. The People had no idea what this helicopter was doing that appeared out of the sky day-after-day for one month, with a huge ball (georeferencing) attached to it. Because of the bitter history and armed conflict in Colombia, the Embera Chami were convinced this helicopter would be used as a weapon, and many elders, children hid for cover each time the helicopter appeared. Only after publicly denouncing the flyover were the traditional authorities told that the helicopter had been hired by a mining company for exploration, and that the government had given its approval. This goes against not only Colombian constitutionally recognized rights to consultation and consent and international jurisprudence, but the impact of the flyover over the sacred mountains created a tremendous energy disbalance that the traditional healers fear had a great effect. The people in this area would never see large-scale mining on their lands because it is not in line with their development priorities or their life plan. It also would mean their small land base would be completely consumed, with all the impacts this would have on the livelihoods and identity of the people. 

And this is where I concur with what Ramsey and others that one of the most important ways to turn the tables regarding the power balance, is for communities to have a strong plan in place for their aspirations for the future. A plan constructed with the views of all in the community -- elders, youth, women, men -- that establishes priorities and essentially 'the baseline' against which to view any potential proposal for their lands. If it does not fit with the community life plan, then the project proposal will not fly, and the leaders need to stand together to defend the community aspirations jointly defined in their plan. Easier said than done with powerful actors trying to convince communities of the benefits, which can very quickly divide communities. 

Another tool is clarifying and articulating consent protocols at the community and Nation level, and strengthening decision-making. Who can legitimately make decisions on behalf of the community, and how? What are the steps? And what should the community tell outsiders that come to their lands about the process that should be followed in any interactions with them, or any access to their lands?   

These are some tools that we have worked on with communities in Colombia, Guyana and Suriname, following insights and inspiration from other communities in Canada that have also struggled with the same powerful actors that affect peoples in the south. And of course community-to-community exchanges, site visits, learning. Getting informed.

But we are talking about very powerful actors, and these tools, while a start, are not enough, especially in areas where governance is weak, there are no regulations or enforcement, and companies are left to their own devices. There needs to be a variety of tactics that each community will decide on, from devising their own processes that strengthen unity, to potential dialogues, negotiations, to seeking international allies, using the media, engaging in domestic court action, international court actions, to blockading roads, taking airfields and other acts that might leverage power at key points.

Community tools and strengthening are important, but so are strengthening host and home government regulation and capacities. But I think there's a whole side dialogue happening on those subjects?! 

Mining Policy

The Taku River Tlingit have a well developed mining policy that includes a process for consultation of exploraiton activities:

No guarantee that companies will follow this but it's an important initiative and some companies will engage respectfully when shown how and given clear expectations.



To turn tables regarding power balance

Dear all,

I agree with Viviane that " one of the most important ways to turn the tables regarding the power balance, is for communities to have a strong plan in place for their aspirations for the future". I would like to mention one example of such a plan. A non-profit Native Planet implements the Mentawai Project. This organization with help of other concerned organizations, reputable guides, additional traditional clans and Mentawai university students in Indonesia developed a global strategy to aid Mentawai self -empowerement while helping them to protect their families, culture and resources from exploitation. This strategy addresses the needs of the Mentawai culture to:

  • Choose and implement sustainable economic alternatives that preserve culture and environment

  • Make the world aware of the beauty of the Mentawai culture

  • Secure international support from NGOs, governments and the general public.

Educated Mentawai are offered the professional training they need to work and earn a living wage as knowledgeable guides and humanitarian project managers. The program also helps Mentawai to better understand, respect and appreciate their own culture, which has been under attack for many years and is in immediate danger of disappearance. The aim of all these efforts is to create new jobs and to help ecoturism to replace logging revenues.

If these efforts are sucfesful indiginous people can generate needed income and save their culture as well.


Mentawai Project

As a student of justice & peace as well as anthropology, I am very much interested in learning more about the Mentawai Project as means for cultural preservation and empowerment. Beyond simply informing and engaging with the outside world, the project works to establish respect and support of the culture within the community. With that said, do you have any other examples or projects that relate to the work implemented by Native Planet? 

Devin Sheppard

Student of Justice & Peace at the University of St. Thomas

communities injured in conflicts and one response

In northern Peru, in 2005, a group of several hundred community members (campesinos) traveled overland for several days to an anticipated meeting with governmental and mining officials to discuss their objections to a proposed copper mine on their lands. Upon arriving they were attacked with tear gas and bullets. Twenty-nine community members were captured, held for three days and tortured. One man was shot to death. The Peruvian legal non-governmental organization Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDDHH) (National Coordinator of Human Rights) brought suit in Peru and in the UK (where the mining company was headquartered) against the mine and the national police on behalf of the victims.   In 2009, photographs emerged confirming the victims account of the torture perpetrated on them. These lawsuits are as yet unresolved. The future of the mine is still unclear. Major ownership was sold to the government of China. A British court froze assets of the prior owner in the UK pending outcome of the lawsuit. The development of the mine has not gone forward yet. This case includes all the risk factors cited in the introduction to this discussion, demonstrates the serious harm that can come to individuals and communities attempting to defend their legal rights against powerful corporate and governmental forces and provides an example of a legal action that can be taken in response to such harm. More information on this case can be found on youtube and Google with combinations of the search words Monterrico; Majaz; "Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos"; Peru and further internet search from there.

Rights and enforcement

Given the rights articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by General Assembly Resolution (2007), how might indigenous communities use this rights framework to address situations like the one described in Peru? As multinational corporations function outside and above the authority of nations, what international enforcement of such rights declarations is possible? Have UN rights regarding indigenous land issues - enumerated in the articles below - been used to support indigenous communities against extractive multinationals?

Article 26
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.
2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.
3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.

Article 27
States shall establish and implement, in conjunction with indigenous peoples concerned, a fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process, giving due recognition to indigenous peoples’ laws, traditions, customs and land tenure systems, to recognize and adjudicate the rights of indigenous peoples pertaining to their lands, territories and resources, including those which were traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used. Indigenous peoples shall have the right to participate in this process.

Article 28
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent.
2. Unless otherwise freely agreed upon by the peoples concerned, compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources equal in quality, size and legal status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress.

Article 29
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources. States shall establish and implement assistance programmes for indigenous peoples for such conservation and protection, without discrimination.
2. States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent.
3. States shall also take effective measures to ensure, as needed, that programmes for monitoring, maintaining and restoring the health of indigenous peoples, as developed and implemented by the peoples affected by such materials, are duly implemented.

OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises framework

Thank you, Mike, for asking how organizations have used the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for protecting communities.  I have a similar framework in mind that has been used to hold mining companies accountable for abuses - the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.  The Guidelines are recommendations addressed by governments to multinational enterprises operating in or from adhering countries. They provide voluntary principles and standards for responsible business conduct in areas such as employment and industrial relations, human rights, environment, information disclosure, combating bribery, consumer interests, science and technology, competition, and taxation.

Have you used these Guidelines to file a complaint against a mining company?  Can these Guidelines be used during negotiations?

There is a great resource developed by the OECD Watch: Guide to the OECD guidelines for multinationals enterprises' complaint procedure

This guide highlights a few success stories, including:

  • Complaint concerning First Quantum Minerals in Zambia - The case against First Quantum is often cited as the earliest success story when a complaint resulted in concrete improvements for impacted communities. This case concerned resettlement of tenant and long-term squatter communities from mining areas in Zambia. First Quantum’s subsidiary, Mopani, was refusing to enter into a dialogue with affected communities and had threatened to call in the Zambian Army to evict the squatters. In response to the complaint, Mopani agreed to remove the threat of forcible evictions from mine land and to restart negotiations on a phased resettlement programme with help from the World Bank.
  • Global Solutions Limited (Australia) Pty. Ltd. case study - This case study reviews the complaint against Global Solutions Limited (Australia) Pty. Ltd. to assess the effectiveness of the Guidelines’ complaint mechanism as a tool to ensure that companies understand and apply international human rights standards to their policies and practices. The complaint was the first case raised in Australia since the 2000 review of the Guidelines. It was lodged to coincide with increased public scrutiny of GSL’s operations, Australia’s policy of mandatory detention and the release of several independent reports that were critical of current practices.

While the latter is not related to extractive mining, it is still useful to look into how advocates are using the OECD Guidelines successfully.

Please share any success stories or lessons learned regarding your own experiences with the OECD Guidelines!

OECD Guidelines

We are far from satisfied with the OECD complaints process. ESPECIALLY when communities are opposing mining projects. As I work on domestic issues I haven't dealved into this first hand but my co-workers have been very disappointed with the results of the Canadian National Contact Point. We've still used and and where there is some potential for a negotiated settlement it may be useful but not for enforcing a community's right to say "no".



legal cases in Canada

This is a progressive public interest law firm based in Toronto that  is pursuing legal suits against Canadian companies for abuses in Guatemala and Ecuador:

It remains to be seen what Canadian courts will do with these cases. There are some serious legal barriers to overcome in having the cases proceed. So far the Ecuadorian case has not had, what I would consider, a reasonable and fair hearing in Canada.

A case being brought by another legal team re. a case in Congo:

We also had a bill that almost made it through our house of Commons. Bill C-300 would have made government support from mining companies contingent on them not breaking human rights and environmental standards and would have provided a vehicle for investigation of complaints.


Database of caselaw protecting indigenous communities

Thank you, Ramsey, for sharing these examples of cases in Canada being brought against mining companies!  I wanted to let you all know that another great place to find examples of cases like these is the ESCR-Net website.  They have a caselaw database:  When you select the thematic focus (on the right sidebar) "Indigenous Peoples Rights" you will see 17 examples of cases from all over the world.  This is very useful if you are looking into legal tactics...

Mahogany in Peru

The resource conflict I am studying is mahogany logging in Peru and Bolivia so many of the points you all brought up tie in with my project.  I have learned a lot of how the practices of exporting the mahogany are, for the most part completely illegal.  The logging companies often times export mahogany as a less valuable wood therefore paying less of a tax on the wood. I am first of all curious on how this injustice continues to happen. Clearly there are illegal practices going on but how do we identify them and how can we use that identification to put a stop to the logging that is occurring?

What is "free, prior and informed consent"?

Hello practitioners,

The concept of "free, prior and informed consent" is an important human right used in the protection of indigenous communities.  This concept, mentioned in another thread of this dialogue already, is often not acknowledged by governments - but it is recognized in international law.  So, what is included in this concept, and how do we use it?

In the New Tactics notebook Recipe for Dialogue: Corporate training for building relationships with Indigenous communities, First Peoples Wordwide defines "free, prior and informed consent" as:

Free: Freedom from external manipulation, interference or coercion by either the government or the company.

Prior: Achieved before exploration or government permit- ting of the proposed activity.


  • Full disclosure of the intent and scope of the activity. 
  • Decisions made in a language and process understand-able to the communities. 
  • Provision for training and education made to allow for full understanding of the potential impacts of the resource activity.


  • Consent determined according to the people’s own customary laws, rights and practices.
  • Customary institutions and representative organizations involved in all decisions.
  • Respect by the company for the final decision of the Indigenous people.

Is this how you define this concept? Are we missing anything? How have you used the concept of "free, prior and informed consent" in your work in protecting Indigenous communities? How does this translate into real impact (laws, policies, etc)?


As Kantin said: “The concept of ´free, prior and informed consent´ is an important human right used in the protection of indigenous communities.” If extractive corporations and governments respect this international and national legal procedure, there would be a total change in the communities’ life; their culture, spirituality, economical, political and social life would flow as they wish with well being for all the community population.

Many of the conflicts we are

Many of the conflicts we are studying in class are already in conflict, and some have been for several years.  Once mining and resource extraction has begun in a country, how are the indigenous people able to have their voice heard by any of the other parties involved, such as the governments or the mining companies, etc. I am currently researching the Buffalo Commons, endorses restoring the natural habitat of buffalo in the Great Plains to help revive what the Great Plains once were.  However along the way, there has been a lot of resistance, and recently people have been taking a serious look at the Great Plains and through speakers coming to visit the towns in the Great Plains and seeing that these towns have not become any more prosperous some local governments have begun slowly changing their perspectives of the Buffalo Commons.   Which tactics do you think work best in helping parties in contention see both sides of arguments, and help reduce conflict? Why have these one (s) worked (or not worked) better than others? 

Bluefin tuna

I have been studying a conflict in the Mediterranean Sea surrounding Bluefin Tuna extraction.  Small family owned fishing companies are the ones being scrutinized because they continue to fish after the season, and falsely report their catches.  From their point of view, they continue to do so because all other fishermen in the area continue to do so, and they will run out of business and options if they don't keep up with the competition.  How can groups like these that are so small continue to hold their business when their resource is becoming extinct?  Consumers, companies, traders, and fishermen all need the same thing, for the tuna to become sustainable again.  Does anyone have any ideas on how consumers, fishermen, and large corporations involved in the bluefin tuna trade could agree on a strategy to meet their shared goal?


Ellen Gustafson

University of St. Thomas Justice and Peace Studies student

Bluefin Tuna

Is making the Bluefin Tuna sustainable again actually the goal?  The obvious answer and the answer that most people on all sides of the conflict will give is yes.  But this goal is not what our policies reflect.  Environmentalist can give us an estimate on how many fish should be caught each year to maintain and even allow for the population to increase, however, policies set by law makers continue to exceed such estimates.  Further more, due to poor regulation; the actual number of fish caught by the companies continues to exceed that allowed by governmental policies.  As for the consumers there are those who either don't care or don't believe the population will run out and so demand for Bluefin Tuna continues to exist.

If we look at what happened to Cod, we must ask do the companies, traders and fishermen really care.  After the population of Cod was wiped-out the industry quickly moved on to the now exploding population of lobster.

I think the best way to ensure the sustainability of our fish populations is to target the consumers' awareness and the enforcement of the policies we do create.

If you haven't already watched the documentary End of the Line, I would recommend it, its good. 

Expanding the definition of community

This is not something that works in every case. However, in my work on the campaign to keep a Nestlé Waters North America water bottling facility out of the Columbia River Gorge we have found that technically the community that has a say in this issue is actually state wide. Every campaign is different but as you develop a strategy and decide what tactics to use based on your strategic plan, you may find that the decision makers or agencies involved in the process for the natural resources extraction go far beyond the community level. You may be able to organize support from that broader base to win the battle. In the case of the campaign in Oregon there is broad base support for our campaign across the state because people value the scenic qualities of the Columbia River Gorge, and also people often don't trust Nestlé based on its terrible track record on a number of practices both in the United States and internationally. Most of the strength in this campaign comes from that broad grassroots support as well as diverse coalition of groups opposing the water bottling project as well.

I have found that the tactic of defining the impacted community as all Oregonians (because we all "own" the water that would be given to Nestlé to bottle) had really increased our power on our campaign and it also raises the issue of natural resource extraction and its impacts on rural communities to a broader audience. This tactic also helps counter the short-sighted goal of a handful of jobs in the local community vs. the long term goal of protecting the health and safety of these communities and, in the case of water bottling, protection of a common resource.

Helpful Tools for Analysis of Strategy and Tactics


Thank you so much for this very helpful sharing of strategy and tactics as you have been applying this thinking to your campaign. I would like to point out some areas you highlighted and some tools that can be useful to others as they do their own strategic and tactical thinking.

You raised the importance of analyzing the reach and investment of people, institutions and communities that reach beyond the immediate community, as you stated:

JDeGraw wrote:

Every campaign is different but as you develop a strategy and decide what tactics to use based on your strategic plan, you may find that the decision makers or agencies involved in the process for the natural resources extraction go far beyond the community level. You may be able to organize support from that broader base to win the battle. 

Your comment that decision makers or agencies involved in the process go far beyond the community level is true for most issues we are trying to address. New Tactics has developed a great tool called "tactical mapping" that can assist groups in doing this kind of analysis regarding their issue.

You go on to describe the kinds of positions and assets that your campaign has been able to identify in terms of reaching out to prospective allies.

I'd also like to point people to another great tool that New Tactics adapted from Training for Change called a Spectrum of Allies tool. This tool is provides an excellent resource for thinking about tactics that can engage people at different points on the spectrum.

JDeGraw wrote:

In the case of the campaign in Oregon there is broad base support for our campaign across the state because people value the scenic qualities of the Columbia River Gorge, and also people often don't trust Nestlé based on its terrible track record on a number of practices both in the United States and internationally. Most of the strength in this campaign comes from that broad grassroots support as well as diverse coalition of groups opposing the water bottling project as well.

I have found that the tactic of defining the impacted community as all Oregonians (because we all "own" the water that would be given to Nestlé to bottle) had really increased our power on our campaign and it also raises the issue of natural resource extraction and its impacts on rural communities to a broader audience. This tactic also helps counter the short-sighted goal of a handful of jobs in the local community vs. the long term goal of protecting the health and safety of these communities and, in the case of water bottling, protection of a common resource.

Finally, I want to thank you for highlighting the way you developed your "messaging" to frame the issue as a value and concern of the whole state of Oregon. Another excellent tool for assisting groups in thinking about this process also comes from Training for Change - called Myth-Reality-Value.

Are there tools and resources that others have found helpful to you and your allies as you have developed your strategy and tactics?

Tactical Mapping and Spectrum of Allies

I want to reply to Nancy by affirming the significance of the Tactical Mapping and Spectrum of Allies tools made available on the New Tactics for Human Rights website. Since learning to use these tools, it's become my habit to introduce them in leadership and organizational consulting work, and in our university classroom. In fact these tools help us plan organizational change within our own university too. I hope featured practitioners and other readers will familiarize themselves with these potent tools for mapping power and locating points of leverage in systems for more making strategies and tactics more informed and effective.



I like that you address tactics for involvement on a local level. One of the discussions that I carry with me from our Active Non-Violence course is the discussion on how to involve people. I think possibly one of the largest obstacles in peacemaking is the involvement of third parties. Some of the tactics my group came up with were finding common ground between different groups to unite them for a single cause. I think tying links together and showing common ground is probably also very affective. We discussed highlighting issues under a positive joining, for example, the day outside for the green space they did this year. 


Anna Fernandez

University of St. Thomas Justice and Peace Studies Student

International or Governmental Organizations' Involvement?

Thank you for your insights Julia.  You bring up an excellent point when you say that,

JDeGraw wrote:

Every campaign is different but as you develop a strategy and decide what tactics to use based on your strategic plan, you may find that the decision makers or agencies involved in the process for the natural resources extraction go far beyond the community level" and that, "Most of the strength in this campaign comes from that broad grassroots support as well as diverse coalition of groups opposing the water bottling project as well.

I am curious as to your, and/or other practitioners’, opinion on what roles international or governmental organizations play in resolving natural resource based conflicts?  In your experiences, which ones have been effective and which ones have not?  In your opinion, are they provoking or escalating the conflict?

Amber Bickel University of St. Thomas JPST Student

Non-state actors

While it is important to recognize the roles of international or governmental organizations, I would like to add an element to Amber's question. Over the last few years especially, we have seen warfare and conflict change very rapidly from traditional warfare, which tends to have a declaration and an end, to today's more modern wars which seem to be ongoing conflicts less defined than traditional warfare. It seems that this shift has become more and more apparent and will perhaps become the norm for conflict in the future. As globalization increases, we see more non-state actors (private or commercial etc...) becoming also manifesting as significant actors in resource conflict. Their non-state actor status differentiates them from the legislation expectations a political organization would answer to. What kind of regulation do these non-state actors fall under? 

Anna Fernandez

Justice and Peace Studies Student

University of St. Thomas

Taking action to support governmental intervention


Given the mixed reviews of some governmental intervention in resource-based conflicts, I want to call our attention to a current effort  in the US regarding Conflict minerals. The message below is from Julian Lazalde of Catholic Relief Services (a guest speaker in our Conflcit Resolution class). He is calling on US citizens to advocate for enforcement provisions of the Congo Conflict Minerals Act:

The US Securities and Exchange Commission is in the process of assessing how the provisions in the Congo Conflict Minerals Act will be implemented, now that it is law.  As you can imagine, certain sectors of the business community are doing everything they can to get to SEC decision-makers in the hopes of delaying or watering down the provisions.

Our advocacy team in Baltimore has informed us that in their meetings with SEC officials they were informed that pointed letters from our partners and constituency could go a long way towards ensuring the provisions and rules we want to see enforced are not delayed or watered down.  Some major corporations are lobbying hard for this to happen, so we are trying to counteract this force. 

What we’re looking for are personalized letters to the SEC in support of comprehensive rules to implement the Congo conflict minerals provisions to the fullest extent. This issue will come to a head by the end of May, so the window is short but hopefully something that resonates with citizens and consumers.

Here is a template for a letter that can be sent today to address this issue:


April XX, 2011

The Honorable Mary L. Schapiro


Securities and Exchange Commission

100 F Street NE

Washington, DC 20549

Dear Chairman Schapiro,

[Begin your letter by stating why you are writing. Please use your own words. We have provided examples of points you may want to make. Be sure to include how the Congo conflict minerals provisions will benefit you as an investor and/or consumer.]

Sample Opening Statements:

Investor focus

·     I am happy that the Securities and Exchange Commission has the opportunity to reduce risks for investors while helping to bring an end to the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo by implementing the appropriate rules for Section 1502 (Conflict Minerals) of the “Dodd Frank Act.”

·     As an investor, I want to be able to make a choice of whether or not to invest in businesses whose mineral sourcing practices contribute to the on-going crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

·     As more and more people understand the links between conflict minerals and the violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, there are increased risks to investing in companies that source minerals that finance armed groups in that region.

Consumer focus 

·     I am happy that Congress has given the Securities and Exchange Commission the mandate to help bring an end to the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo by implementing the appropriate rules for Section 1502 (Conflict Minerals) of the “Dodd Frank Act.”

·     I want to be able to choose to purchase goods that I can count on to be truly “DRC conflict-free.”

·     I know that some of the items that I purchase may contain conflict minerals. I want to know whether the things I buy have contributed to financing the horrific violence in the eastern Congo. It is very important to me to have a choice.


Sample Main Messages

1.     Require companies to comply with all reporting requirements immediately upon release of the final rules.


·     All of the reporting requirements should take effect immediately. Prolonging the suffering of the people in the Congo would undermine what the law intended to accomplish.

·     All companies should be required to comply with the full set of reporting requirements as soon as they are published.

2.     Detail what companies must do to verify whether they source minerals that benefit armed groups in the Congo.


·     Transparency in company supply chains is at the heart of this legislation. The SEC should provide specific instructions on what companies must do to check their supply chains to find out if they are sourcing conflict minerals that contribute to violence.

·     The SEC should specify what companies must include in their reports on their country of origin inquiry and their due diligence on mineral sourcing.

3.     Require companies labeling products “DRC conflict-free” to meet a high standard of proof.


·     Companies that wish to label products as conflict-free should have to meet a high standard of proof, and the documentation of this claim should be easily available to the public.

·     I would like to be able to buy products that are labeled “DRC conflict-free.” Companies must be required to clearly document the proof that their products merit that label.

·     I would be willing to pay more for a “DRC conflict-free” product only if the company can prove that this claim is true.

4.     Ensure that the information reported by companies is easily available to the public.


·     In order for the information reported by companies to be useful to investors and consumers it must be made easily available both on the SEC’s website and on the company’s website.

·     Information about sourcing practices that benefit armed groups who commit human rights violations must be easily accessible because they are very important to my purchasing and investment decisions.

5.     The rules should cover all conflict minerals and all companies.


·     The rules should cover gold, tin, tungsten and tantalum, and

·     All companies should be required to provide comprehensive reports, without exceptions.

Sample Closing Statements

·     Thank the SEC for the work that they are doing on this vitally important issue.

·     Reemphasize the important impact that strong rules will have on your decision-making abilities as an investor and/or consumer and on the lives of the people in the Congo.

responding to your question

Dear Amber,

Responding to your query about the roles of INGOs, NGOs and GO in resolving natural resource based conflicts. All these organisations certainly do play important role in minimising conflict. I am here stressing as minimising rather than solving as completely sovling the resource use problems is like saving the world from Global Environmental Change. So, I would be using the term minimising rather than solving from here onwards.

What we expect as a researcher is that these organisations work hand in hand with community and with each other. However, in realy scenario it is difficult to see such thing. We would assume that all of these parties want to assist the communities for better world, in our case refrain from illegal resource extraction and support for sustainable resource management. However, my theory of such coordination was totally proved wrong when I conducted my field work at Bardia. There were numerous institutional problems:

- The INGOs and NGOs had their own working areas or issues, such as economic opportunities, social development through better infrastructure and facilities and alternatives to resource use. Having their own area of their funding, there are limited opportunities for communities to get fulfilled their needs. When enquired with the communities about the incentives provided by these organisations, they suggested that they did not want to waste the funds and it will develop their community so they write the proposal based on the organisations funding criteria. Due to this, although there are projects to support communities and provide incentives, communities do not stop themselves in illegal resource extraction. I have provided several examples from different protected area about this in my paper.

- There is a lack of coordination between different NGOs. Numerous NGOs are working in conservation and resource management areas, such as protected area management. One would expect these NGOs to work together and support communities and protect natural resources. However, based on my observation at Bardia, I found that NGOs with support from INGOs, they compete with each other to show the greater level of impact. For example, to reduce the impact of illegal fuel wood extraction NGOs are providing biogas plants to communities. To install the biogas, there are certain criteria to be fulfilled by households, which is to provide a part of the costs and labour to build toilets and biogas plants. Due to these criteria, only those households who could afford and are wealthy enough to afford install biogas plants, leaving those poor households to illegal resource extraction. Having the same rules for all households, different NGOs follow the pattern and include households and compete with each other to show in their report the number of households they have targetted. None of these organisations work together to support the poorer households. When enquired about this with the NGO coordinators, they suggested that if they did not charge any money for the biogas, the household would not care for it. Which is true but there should be some other alternatives for poor households.

- In Nepal, all the development programmes are channelled through Government organisations (GO)as it is easy to work with them and then follow the rules. When asked with GO officials and NGO's offcials, they all claim that they work together. However, I found a lack of monitoring process from GO on the project activities of NGOs. As said by channelling programmes from GO, it would have been nice if GO regulalry monitor their work and seek information, because if some organisations are not working inline with the needs of communities, there is just a waste of resources and degradation of trust with local people.


All the above points are negative, however it does not mean that these organisations do not do anything. In some cases they have developed capabilities of households through regular savings and cooperatives. I would recommend that these organisations work together to see the actual need and discuss how to target the most vulnerable groups.

Handing over to Community: Kangchenjunga Conservation Area

I totally agree with previous comments made on "sacred sites", there are numerous examples from both Nepal and India, where indigeneous people have kept aside some part of forests, land and water as sacred and religious sites. There are even some sacred as well as religious trees, which are totally forbidden to cut.

Reflecting from Nepal's lessons, Kanchenjunga Conservation Area (KCA), also a part of Sacred Himalayas Landscape project, has been handed over to the communities for conservation and management with financial and technical support from World Wildlife Fund. This is one of the renowned example showing how communities are themsleves capable to enforce rules, conserve the resources and sustainbly manage them as well. Based on my research at Bardia also, when communities feel that they have rights over the resources, they work well than enforcing stricter rules to control them.

In one of my studies villages, where they did not have any Buffer Zone Community Forest (BZCF), households were regularly in conflict with park mangement for illegal resource extraction. To solve this problem, a generaly assembly was held by the park management office, including NGO's coordinators and all the communities from that village. I was doing my PhD field work so was able to attend and participate in the assembly. The conclusion of the assembly was that households will watch out for the illegal resource users and that a degraded land would be provided with support from NGO's and Park management to restore and then hand over to community as BZCF. However, the settlements where the degraded park area was located they did not agree to do so. When enquired during interviews, one of the groups stressed that

"the Park people need some free labour to restore the area, so they are asking us to work on it. Once it is restored, they will again take from it and like other BZCF, we would not have any rights to do anything. We will work from beginning and once there are stock (trees) they (park manager) will come to take back from it. So, its better not to do anything. And moreover, like other villages, we need a full stock forest not a degraded one." (PhD thesis)

This is another example and probably could be one of the tools to bring communities back as an active owner and manager rather than passive worker and participants.

Given your work in Nepal with

Given your work in Nepal with the conflicts, we have talked a lot in class about third party intervention and third parties working with indigenous groups to help de-escalate conflicts.  However, as you were explaining above there seems to be some frustration between the two parties involved in protecting these sacred sites.  What kind of credibility does third party intervention lend to the de-escalation process?  Do you feel conflicts do better with third party intervention, or is there a time and place appropriate for third party intervention?

What tools are being used to shift the power back to communities

To anwser the first question and taking the first example: free, prior and informed consent: there is a helpful guide to FPIC from oxfam.

Living in Peru, I can see the classical figure of economic interests by transnational enterprises and local population, often living in the least developed regions of the country. There you can see the instruments yet mentioned in this platform: dividing of communities, corruption etc. In this case the guide could bring advantage to the community - if they agree to the project, are well informed and have a future plan about their sustainible developement.The question is: who can support this kind of information (who has the ressources to drive often more than 12 hours into a region where access to new technologies like the internet is common like an university degree - nearly cero?)

However this is only one conformation in the complex reality. Another emerging problem is the (also here mentioned) ilegal mining on small scale. The same community members are extracting minerals, with harsh effects on environment and causing damage to future generations. Anyone has experience in this field an could give an advice how to deal with?


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