Guinea sits atop some of the world’s largest reserves of bauxite, as well as important quantities of gold, diamonds and iron ore. And yet, endemic corruption and irresponsible governance of these valuable resources have impoverished, rather than enriched, the country since its independence in 1958. However, as Guinea now experiences its first flushes of democracy, a group of recently elected parliamentarians hope to turn the tide by ensuring that this sort of mismanagement remains firmly in the country’s past.
With assistance from the Revenue Watch Institute (RWI), active in country since 2007, Guinea’s decision-makers have developed new rules, systems and policies that represent a significant step forward in responsible and transparent natural resource governance in the country. Their present challenge is to implement the new mining code as binding law, rather than treat it as general guidance. RWI’s Resource Governance Index awards a satisfactory score of 86 to Guinea’s institutional and legal setting, but better enforcement of the law would substantially improve the country’s overall ranking. Parliamentarians are crucial stakeholders in the implementation of the regulatory framework, as they have a constitutional task to oversee the government’s management of the extractive sector.
To that end, RWI recently convened members of the Parliamentary Committee on Mining and other relevant committees, such as finance, natural resources and the environment, for a workshop on March 25 and 26, with generous support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa. The workshop promoted parliamentary leadership in transparent and accountable extractive management through training and debate. It introduced participants—recently elected parliamentarians with limited experience in natural resource governance—to core subjects. The content of the training was based on five parliamentary briefings, each offering specific guidance on what parliamentarians can do to promote responsible governance during their tenure.
The sessions encouraged interactivity, engagement and dialogue between parliamentarians, local and international experts and representatives of the Guinean civil society. The debate stressed the need for effective cooperation between civil society and parliament to ensure more effective management of extractives on the ground. Following the event, members of parliament asked civil society members to investigate the impact of a mine closure on the Fria mining community after a labour dispute in April 2013 halted operations there.
This workshop is part of a series of capacity-building activities with oversight actors in Guinea, including parliamentarians, civil society and the media.