As part of its mining and extractive programme, the Network Movement for Justice and Development NMJD Monday started a 2-day training on natural resource transparency instruments for civil society groups from eastern districts of Kono, Kenema and the western area at the YMCA hall, Fort Street.
The objective of the training is to educate on the relevance of transparency and accountability as instruments in the management of natural resource revenue i.e. DACDF, KP, CDF, forestry and environmental funds.
It is also to explain relevant aspects of the forestry act, the mines and mineral act and other natural resource policies that will enable community leaders and CSOs to advocate for their demands.
Welcoming participants at the training, Mohamed Turay of NMJD said that citizens have the right to know to be able to influence government's decisions about the commercialization of natural resources and how money made is managed and spent because the exploitation of natural resources often occupy and irreversibly destroy lands taking heavy tolls on the environment and communities. Hence, land-dependent population, in particular, must have a say about exploitation of sub-surface resources.
He said that all citizens are entitled to know how deals about exploitation of natural resources are negotiated, how much revenue the government receives and how it is consumed as demanding resource revenue transparency is an essential step in holding governments responsible and can be especially important in countries where resource revenues make up a high percentage of the national budget.
"Sierra Leone natural resources are public resources and the public has a right to control whether, when and how they are used. If the public is kept in the dark about how much revenue is being earned and if budgetary processes are left unchecked, natural resources wealth often ends up concentrating in the hands of local and international elites taking a double toll on the poor," he said adding that the information gaps in Sierra Leone in terms of natural resources extraction between government ministries and local authorities are wide.
This he said is because community people have little or no knowledge about natural resources management and extraction in their communities. "Even where the information is available, the channel of communication to reach out to the wider public especially the illiterate in the rural setting is always very challenging," he said.
He added that there is a need to capacitate communities and mining platforms on transparency instrument which could be used to know the provision in the laws and policies which empower communities to access information relating to the management of natural resources. Such training, he said, will also put communities in a better position in terms of checking government and corporate entities' level of transparency and accountability in the management and utilization of revenue from natural resources.