On June 15th AFJN had the pleasure of attending an event featuring Delphine Djiraibe, a prominent human rights activist in Chad. Her talk, along with input from other organizations, shed light on current conditions in Chad as a result of predatory extractive industries and what US policy and advocacy can do about it.
When the World Bank got involved with extractive industries in Chad (in this case oil and gas) in 2000, the plan was to simultaneously invest and build state capacity in order to funnel oil revenue into poverty reduction programs in Chad. At the outset Chadian civil society protested, and the World Bank hired extra PR to spin the story to gain a favorable outcome. This high-risk plan did not yield the potential high rewards; the World Bank did not sufficiently follow through on its promise to build Chad’s capacity and rule of law, and so the oil revenue did not help reduce poverty. Because Chad could not effectively use the oil revenue, the World Bank withdrew from the country in 2008 when the majority of the debt had been paid. Ms. Djiraibe said the Chadian president, Idriss Déby Itno, has altered the constitution to keep himself in power, doubtless because of the high oil revenue.
The civil society outcry and ensuing debacle did spur some important rules for the World Bank, which, if followed, could help stop the “resource curse” which contributes to holding many developing countries in poverty. The Extractive Industries Review, a project by the World Bank, concluded that extractive industries don’t actually alleviate poverty. It claimed extractive industries should not be supported in a situation where a government lacks rule of law and/or is violating human rights. There is also the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a project for which Chad is a candidate. Signatories to the EITI must make payments public and transparent, complete independent audits and create multi-stakeholder group with civil society overseers. While these ideas are progressive and well thought-out, the current situation on the ground in Chad is grim.
The “infrastructure” built in Chad consists of many schools without teachers and hospitals without doctors. Access to electricity and drinking water is low; political participation is about 20%. Because of Chad’s geographical situation, many African ex-militants end up there, like rebels from Libya and Darfur. Ms. Djiraibe said she feared any conflict that begins in Chad would last a long time because the president’s extensive funds allow for hiring many mercenaries. There are also more direct casualties of extractive industries. Three children drowned in unattended oil wells recently which were left open during the rainy season.
So what can be done? Chadian organizations do work on implementing the EITI guidelines, but access to information is low. Section 1504 (disclosure of payments by resource extraction issuers) of the US Dodd-Frank law, which AFJN has been actively trying to have implemented, would do much to fight corruption and help transparency. It would become international law, because the rules would apply to all companies which register with the Security Exchange Commission. Ms. Djiraibe asked those in the US to encourage the State Department to be more active through their ambassador, and create space for civil society by supporting Justice and Peace commissions. A USAID office in Chad would help development. Also, State Department could give more support and protection to activists like Ms. Djiraibe, since State relies on such work to make human rights reports and formulate policy. Click for more information about the EITI, Chad, and Ms. Djiraibe.