Brussels, 17 June 2013/ ACP: Despite the world’s fixation with the abundant natural resources found in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, the Co-Chair of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA), Hon. Joyce Laboso warned of devastating effects to communities on the ground if the focus stays only on revenues and not lives.

Addressing representatives of more than a hundred ACP and EU countries at the opening ceremony of the JPA, Hon. Laboso called for a global development partnership to delve into the “unsatisfactory and in some cases tragic” exploitation of the natural resources of ACP States, harming ACP people.

“Rising global demand for natural resources has focused disproportionate attention to those extractive industries that can meet the needs of resource-hungry export markets, with very little thought given to the needs of exporting countries and communities earning their livelihoods in the vicinity of extractive industry operations,” she said.

Co-President of the Assembly, Hon. Louis Michel noted that sensible exploitation of ACP’s abundant natural resources could be a “key driver for growth”. He urged transparent accounting processes and sound legal frameworks, finally proposing a “Natural Resources Fund” to support investments in key regions, directly fed by contributions from the sector.

In the case of Africa, the African Development Bank’s 2013 economic outlook highlights natural resource exploitation as a major propeller for the economy. However, Hon. Laboso stressed that without proper institutions for law and order, property rights and clear development objectives, a country’s mineral assets has often turned out to be a “poisoned chalice”.

“While such industries provide a potentially strong source of development finance, if utilised well, they may bring about other possible social and environmental costs, many of which play out at community levels… especially in underdeveloped areas where there are poor, deprived or marginalized communities, leading to conflicts and loss of life.”

Hon. Laboso pointed out that some Europe-based international operators and other developed countries have engaged in questionable activities in pursuit of ACP natural resources, including fishing, mining, logging, and oil companies.

“In order to realise maximum benefits from natural resources, greater participation of people in decision-making and resource management should be taken into account. Further, there is need for accountability and transparency mechanisms to help countries to ensure environmental considerations in natural resources exploitation and the proper and efficient utilisation of the attendant fiscal revenues,” she said.

The issues of natural resources will be a topic for debate without resolution this Wednesday at the ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly.
(Above: Deputy Speaker of the Kenyan National Assembly, Hon. Joyce Laboso/ Photo by European Union)
– ACP Press