Interview with Asadullah Zemarai, Integrity Watch Afghanistan CBM-E Manager
In 2011, the program of Community Based Monitoring of Extractives was launched. It aimed at mobilizing citizens and engaging them as communities in monitoring the activities taking place in their midst. This effort set out to raise their capability to become effective participants in the oversight process. We started our work from Mes-Aynak in Logar province. In Mes-Aynak, we had a few concerns. These concerns ranged from the hazards which the ongoing mining activities imposed on environment –especially on the water supply –to the social impacts of such mining activities. In order to deal with these concerns, we provided training and motivational events which encouraged communities to mobilize and begin their own monitoring activities. By 2012, our program had expanded to additional mines in Kabul, Baghlan, Panjshir, Samangan and Nangarhar. Unfortunately, because of such obstacles as: the lack of security, illegal extraction, interference of government authorities, war lords and other influential people, armed groups, MPs and other contractual conflicts, weaknesses in the government’s oversight mechanism in the extractive sector, the non-existence of government collaboration with Civil Society Organizations and the shortage of resources, results achieved by the program were limited.
Considering these challenges, we revised our program strategy and focused on four criteria to continue our efforts in the extractives sector. We decided to only monitor the mines which were accessible, had adequate security and had considerable economic value. These had also to be mining sites we could access through existing Integrity Watch supporters such as provincial offices and staff. More importantly we decided to implement our monitoring programs in mining sites where a legal contract exists between the mining companies and the government. Presently, we work at a chromite mining site in Lalandar and cement mining site in Ghori-Baghlan. Soon, we plan to move to a cement mining site in Jabal-Seraj.
Our community based monitoring programs comprise of local people who monitor on a voluntarily basis. Currently, our monitoring process is going according to plans. Our program is being implemented at two mining sites. Our local monitors have received quality training and are coordinated with government. The quality of mining activities has improved and gives rise to optimism vis-a-vis the impact of monitoring on conditions in the mining sector. We have ten local monitors and expect the number to increase by five as soon as we initiate our program in Jabal-Seraj.
We are planning to monitor as many of the thirty-eight mines as possible where MOMP has signed a contract with the mining companies. Nowadays, there are three types of activities going on in Afghanistan’s mining sector. Engaging local communities in the monitoring of mining activities not only empowers local communities to demand their rights but also enables the central government to have regular external oversight on the mining operation. Monitoring by local people is hoped to prevent conflict and stop misuse by malign actors.