Australian experience inspires transparency in Liberian natural resource sector

Jenkins Flahwor of Liberia assumed the role of Project Director of the Committee for Peace and Development Advocacy (COPDA) a mere two months after graduating from his Australian Government- funded Short Course at the University of Sydney in Australia.

As part of his Work Plan on Return, Jenkins established four community monitoring and advocacy groups in five communities in 2012.

COPDA’s management team has increased the focus of the organisation’s work to ensure transparency and accountability in the natural resource sector of Liberia.

“The expansion of COPDA’s programs between September 2011 and 2012, with a focus on the natural resource sector, was hugely based on my experience in Australia. During field visits to Australian mines and interaction with mining companies, I had noticed the positive relationship between the mining companies and the aboriginal communities, which was lacking in Liberia,” he said.

The overall objective of this initiative was to bring about some level of transparency and accountability in the management of the contribution to the Nimba County Social Development Fund by the two major mining companies in the county.

Consequently, mining companies in the area were beginning to respond to the concerns of communities, with one of them paying benefits to communities whose farmlands were affected by its operations.

Jenkins played a key role in the formation of the Nimba County Civil Society Coalition on Natural Resource Accountability. The group of civil society and community-based organisations advocates for sustainable mining and the management of revenue generated from the mining sector for the benefit of mining communities in Nimba County.

He attributes his success directly to his short stint in Australia as an Awardee. “Although intensive and short in duration (six weeks), knowledge and skills gained in issues management and scenario planning are greatly helping me succeed in my job as Program Director,” says Jenkins, who established the innovative Natural Resource Governance and Accountability Program at COPDA.

Spurred on by this experience, Jenkins developed and submitted two project proposals focusing on natural resource management with an emphasis on the extractive industries, such as mining, and ways poor mining communities can benefit from revenues generated from mining activities. The two proposals were approved by the US-based National Endowment for Democracy and the Australia Awards Small Grants Scheme, respectively.

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