BONG - NIMBA - GRAND BASSA COUNTIES
CENTAL has engaged citizens in Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa counties as part of its "Resource and You" project. The project has been useful in getting citizens to understand aspect of concession agreements related to them. CENTAL has also facilitated forums in which communities, companies and public officials come together to discussion improvement in development outcomes. The community leaders, youths, women, elderly and physically challenged are represented in these forum.
Given its strategic role in promoting openness of revenue streams from the extractive sector, CENTAL met with the Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (LEITI) and laid the groundwork for collaboration in mainstreaming LEITI activities in communities. LEITI was responsive to the partnership and the multi-stakeholder steering committee assigned one of its members to work with us. Minister Ekema Witherspoon of the Ministry of Internal Affairs was an awesome partner. He went with CENTAL to forums in cities, towns and villages across the three counties.
Lessons Learnt and Observations
- Dealing with companies can be difficult especially when they intend on evading meetings with communities in which they work.
- Traveling to communities connected by bad roads during rainy season can be particularly risky to the lives of staff.
- Communities have high expectations from projects and are concern about the impact of projects. There are too many projects without much impact.
- County level officials do not want to attend public functions because they do not have funds to cover travel cost. Some officials argued that limited public resources available to them do not provide for extra attendance of CSO related activities.
- Communities are prepared to listen when meetings are brokered by trusted and neutral CSO like CENTAL. Companies and public officials are also prepared to attend.
- Air of uneasiness existing in the affected communities of Grand Bassa, Bong and Nimba resulting from the perceived wrong treatment by ArcelorMittal. Communities are alleging that the company enjoys the support of the Government and does not feel obligated to the local population, a concern stressed repeatedly at forums and focus group discussions.
- The companies are slow to respond to environmental and social problems that affect communities. Most families in affected communities depend on agriculture to support their livelihood and problems arising - for example poisoning of water sources need urgent redress. Communities have threaten disruption to companies operations if some of these issues are not addressed.
- There are lots of suspicion and misinformation among the local communities. Continual engagement with the people by county authorities and companies can be a useful way to enhance local participation and information sharing.