Seeking benefits, avoiding conflicts

A new report on Uganda’s emerging oil and gas industry says companies can improve their corporate social responsibility (CSR) to give fairer employment, compensation and land deals to communities.

The report Seeking Benefits and Avoiding Conflicts: A Community-Company Assessment of Uganda's Hydrocarbon Industry is the culmination of a year of consultation, validation discussions, roundtables and workshops, conducted by the Ugandan members of the study team and coordinated by the Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas (CSCO). The University of Leeds provided overall project support and leadership. Business-Community Synergies (BCS) provided training and guidance on the methodology.

The study is part of a broader, four-year study coordinated by the University of Leeds into how large-scale discoveries of natural resources in Uganda, Ghana (oil and gas), Brazil (bauxite) and Zambia (copper) can benefit people living in and around areas of natural resource extraction.

The Uganda report focuses on the relationship between Tullow Oil - a London-based oil and gas exploration and production company listed in the FTSE 100 - and communities living in and near the Albertine Graben, where Tullow has experienced tremendous commercial success in the past four years. The study team used the Community-Company Assessment (CCA) methodology, which BCS developed and has used successfully in several settings including Northern Canada, Namibia, Mali, Peru and the United States. Using the s gathered through the CCA process, researchers refined the material into six recommendations for Tullow:

  • Reform local hiring process to maximize community employment opportunities
  • Follow international best practice when compensating community members for displacement or relocation
  • Address fear and anxiety about potential evictions and establish grievance and consultation mechanisms
  • Improve information-sharing and community interaction processes
  • Work to prevent illegal land speculation by third parties, and
  • Improve the process of choosing and implementing CSR projects
  • At the report's launch in Kampala on December 1, Henry Bazira, Chairperson of CSCO, the organisation that has led the year of consultation workshops and roundtables at several levels of government and civil society, summarised the findings and challenged the 100-plus participants -- including MPs from Uganda, Ghana and Tanzania and many Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) representatives -- to pick meaningful talking points and continue to advocate for better community-oil company relations.

    BCS President Rani Parker, who designed the research methodology, trained the researchers, and led the field work, said: "Natural resource extractive contexts are highly challenging and complex from every level of governance. However, nothing is more powerful than being able to give voice to one's concerns and hopes, learning to hear different perspectives, to acknowledge the reality of viewpoints with which one may not agree, and to build relationships of trust." The project's director, James Van Alstine from the Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds, said: "While corporate social responsibility projects are generally welcomed and desired by local communities in Uganda's oil producing Lake Albert region, our research has found that the nature of the projects and how they are implemented can be improved. For example, it is important to ensure that company interventions are consistent with government development plans and local priorities. "In addition, much of the work on 'good governance' in the extractive industries by NGOs and development partners has focused on national level regulatory frameworks and revenue transparency. While these issues are important, our work has demonstrated the need for research-driven community, industry and local government engagement at the site of resource extraction, in order for often marginalised community voices to be heard at the highest levels of decision-making." Core funding for the project comes from the United States-based Alcoa Foundation.
     
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