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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

African experts urge robust policies to ensure
communities benefit from natural capital

By Robert Manyara ARUSHA Tanzania (Xinhua) -- African governments should adopt progressive legislative and policy frameworks to ensure local communities accrue benefits from natural resources, experts said here on Wednesday.

The experts, attending a regional workshop, acknowledged that Africa has immense natural wealth that could be harnessed to address challenges facing communities like poverty, hunger, malnutrition and energy deficit.

Lesle Jansen, director of Natural Justice, a South African non-profit group, said that both customary and civil laws can be used to facilitate equitable sharing of benefits derived from natural resources between governments, industry and communities.

“For instance customary laws can be used in negotiating and signing agreements with local communities in regards to how they will benefit from the natural resources,” Jansen said.

She added that domesticating the international laws will ensure the interests of the communities and users of the resources so that the investors are equitably addressed to avoid conflicts.

The Nagoya Protocol and Convention on Biological Diversity are among the international guidelines providing framework on access, use and sharing of natural resources, including genetic resources and indigenous knowledge.

By ratifying these international guidelines and unifying them with specific matters arising from exploitation of natural resources, governments are spearheading empowerment of locals and development of grassroots economies, the experts agreed.

However, communities cannot enjoy benefits accrued from the genetic and biological natural resources if their land rights are not safeguarded, said Indigenous Peoples of Africa Representative to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Elifuraha Laltaika.

“Communities have strong attachment to their natural resources and therefore you cause them devastating poverty when their land rights are disrupted,” said Elifuraha.

Kenya’s National Land Commission chairman Swazuri A. Muhammad said the international framework has ostensibly averted wanton exploitation of the natural resources in some African countries, but lack of awareness among local communities on the existence of these guidelines has affected how they use their own resources.

“There are many protocols, conventions and agreements regarding access and sharing benefits accruing from natural resources, but the local communities are not adhering to them because of ignorance on their existence,” Swazuri said.

“We need to sensitize them. We need to transfer to them knowledge in these protocols, conventions and agreements,” he said.

“The local people should be empowered to identify their own natural resources and be actively involved in developing the related laws and policies since they are the owners of the resources,” Swazuri said.

Shadrack Omondi, executive director of Resource Conflict Institute, emphasized that sound policies coupled with enforcement of laws is key to averting resource-based conflicts in the region.

             

 

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