Pan-African conference for civil society organisations to promote public participation in natural resources policy

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For two full days the African Natural Resources Center (ANRC) of the African Development Bank (AfDB) brought together 45 civil society organisations (CSOs) from 30 countries in Africa to discuss ways to foster inclusive and sustainable development through public participation in natural resources policy formulation.

The conference was held on November 10-11 in Johannesburg, South Africa, with the support of the Graça Machel Trust and provided a platform to discuss key challenges and opportunities for consultative dialogue between CSOs, governments and investors. In line with the governance strategic pillar and mandate of the ANRC, the discussions focused on physical and social environmental protection, land and resources development, accountability, and gender equity.

The event started with a panel discussion during which Graça Machel, Founder of the Graça Machel Trust and advocate for women’s and children’s rights, gave a keynote address. Machel said, “This is a rare opportunity through which an important institution creates a platform for CSOs to bring their knowledge, expertise and the aspirations of the constituencies they represent, to shape policy and not just to observe as is normally the case.”

Also present were UNDP Senior Economist Osten Chulu and Peter Eigen, Founder of Transparency International, who said, “It is good that the AfDB is not only listening to CSOs, but is helping to facilitate a proactive role for civil society.”

Sheila Khama, the Director of the ANRC, said, “The aim is to improve natural resources governance through public participation by using the Bank’s unique position to promote the dialogue between governments, investors and communities.”

On the second day, participants broke up into discussion groups to recommend areas of support and collaboration with the ANRC. The group discussions allowed CSOs to identify issues in which ANRC can help build their capacity to participate constructively in Africa’s natural resources development.

The conference is a first step by ANRC towards what will be a mutually beneficial engagement with CSOs.

ANRC is a non-lending entity established by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to boost the capacity of African policy-makers to manage natural resources for improved development outcomes. The Center provides institutional capacity building, policy advice, strategic guidance on investments and negotiations, and targeted technical assistance on regulatory matters.

ANRC is the focal point for the Bank’s activities in the sector, collaborating with African governments, regional institutions, private sector, civil society organizations (CSOs) and donors.