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February 01, 2013

Expert Shares How Collaborative Efforts Protect Natural Resources and Citizen Interests

February 2013

“Those who seek to circumvent the law will not be tolerated,” says Sidibé Seydou Barry, director of the Bureau Guinéen d’Etudes et d’Evaluations Environnementales, which oversees environmental impact assessments (EIAs) required under Guinean law. “In this way, national interests will be preserved, community interests will be preserved and commercial interests will be preserved—transparency will benefit everyone.”

Sidibé Seydou Barry, director of Bureau Guinéen d’Etudes et d’Evaluations Environnementales.

Sidibé says it is an exciting time for those who seek to encourage Guinea’s development while protecting its natural resources. With the support of government and civil society alike, new initiatives aim to ensure that commercial enterprises respect Guinea’s land and its people. In 2011, the Ministry of the Environment established his office, formalizing its mandate to oversee EIAs.

With a rise in large-scale development, particularly in the mining sector, such projects are increasingly on Guineans’ minds. The country is rich in mineral resources, with roughly one-third of the world’s reserves of bauxite, 200 million tons of gold and sizeable quantities of diamonds and uranium. Sidibé notes that, as has been the case in many countries struggling with mining-related governance issues, corporations sometimes have been misled by Guinean officials driven by personal interests rather than by a desire to protect the environment and community rights.

After the adoption of a new mining code in 2011, officials began drafting legislation to accompany the code, including improved laws on conducting EIAs, which analyze how a project might affect humans and animals, as well as land, water and air quality. EIAs also consider community and social impacts, such as the loss of cultural resources, and make suggestions on less harmful methods.

In 2012, Sidibé’s team led the drafting efforts. The first drafts, he admits, “were voluminous and impractical.” Soon after, ABA ROLI and the Centre du Commerce International pour le Développement (CECIDE)—as part of a program to protect community rights during the ongoing mining reform process—began to work alongside Sidibé’s team to refine the drafts. The revised language was vetted by a range of stakeholders, from ministry officials to civil society groups. The resulting drafts now require that communities be consulted during multiple stages of the EIA process, that they be involved in the implementation of environmental management plans, and that they serve on monitoring committees, which were initially designed as governmental structures. These are important achievements as historically Guinean communities have not participated in EIAs or in natural resource management as genuine stakeholders.

“The enforcement of clear standards for the EIAs are key to protecting the environment and the interests of local populations,” says Sidibé, who studied law in Conakry and abroad. During a Dakar conservation conference, he shared the drafts with participants. His regional counterparts admired them, with several noting that Guinea—after the anticipated 2013 adoption of the laws—will set an important example for the region.

“The drafting process increased awareness among Guinean officials on the economic and social rights of communities, and on their role, as state actors, in protecting those rights,” affirms Sidibé. “This was something that people understood, but there were no real efforts to translate that into practice—ABA ROLI changed that.”

Sidibé looks forward to the law’s adoption and believes that the new standards will minimize corruption and ensure that communities are treated equally nationwide. “When companies arrive, we will tell them about the EIAs and the obligations of mining investors—the process will be presented in an official legal document.”

To learn more about our work in Guinea, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at [email protected].