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OSIWA Launches West African Resource Watch

Dakar, Senegal, Thursday, 2 July 2009

The Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) today in Dakar launched the West Africa Resource Watch (WARW), an institute to combat mismanagement and corruption by promoting transparency and accountability in the management of revenues in resource rich West African countries.

The report contains the outcome of studies sponsored by OSIWA and conducted in Nigeria, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Ghana, and Sierra Leone to assess the transparent, accountable, equitable and sustainable management of natural resources in the seven
countries.The goal of WARW, according to its Coordinator, Mr. Dayo Olaide, is to create “an open society where there is citizens’ participation in decision making, transparency and accountability in economic policy making and in the generation and use of public resources towards equity and social justice”:

Mr. Olaide said WARW would mobilise technical and financial resources to increase the voice of civil society, advocate for responsive use of resource revenues and strengthen key government agencies, laws and regulations that guide extractive operations and use of resource revenues.

He announced that WARW had established a Resource Documentation Centre to promote scholarly research and knowledge in critical areas of natural resource and environmental management to stimulate evidence-based advocacy among civil society organizations and promote exchanges among academics, professionals and policy makers in the sub-region.

Speaking at the occasion, the Executive Director of OSIWA, Dr. Nana Tanko, noted that most of the governments in the region that had embraced the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) are only paying lip-service to the concept so as “to be seen to be doing the right thing”.

She however said, OSIWA welcomed the willingness by companies to declare what they pay to governments as royalties and also welcomed the agreement by governments to declare what they receive as revenues from natural resources.

Dr. Tanko stressed that OSIWA was committed to building the capacity of civil society organizations and research institutes conduct research and advocacy on the issues, which are very technical, and to engage with governments. She identified WARW as a framework through which this commitment could be realized.

Presenting the report of the seven-country needs assessment, Mr. Bishop Akolgo, the Executive Director of the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC) in Ghana who coordinated the research, noted that none of the countries surveyed had precise information about the quantity and quality of their natural resources and none of them also had the internal capacity to
monitor the quantities of the natural resources actually being extracted by the international companies.

He said in almost in all the cases, the natural resources were being shipped abroad for processing as there is little or no processing of the resources being done in the countries where they are extracted.

Mr. Akolgo also observed that all the countries have “stability clauses” in their contracts with the international companies exploiting their natural resources and that these clauses had made modification of the contracts to increase governments’ take during rising prices difficult. This, he said, had become particularly important because most of the contracts were drawn
up between 15 and 20 years ago when the prices of the commodities were very
low.

Besides the stability clauses, all the countries also have various generous exemptions to the international companies as incentives.

Mr. Akolgo recommended that the States should take advantage of the current high prices of different natural resources to re-visit these contracts. He urged governments to have visions of how to use extractives to transform the national economies and the society.

Dr. Tanko said WARW and the report will also be launched in each of the countries where the needs assessment was conducted.

For further information, please contact:

Dayo Olaide
Coordinator, West Africa Resource Watch
Cell: +234 806 561 2022

E-mail: oolaide@osiwa. org