The government’s economic blue print the Transitional Stabilization Programme is anchored on exploitation of natural resources to trigger economic growth and this is a vitally interesting position for us. We totally agree and recognize that investment in the natural resources sector is key for economic growth. However, the problem is that some laws and policies adopted by government do not attract and promote responsible investments and businesses. We are concerned about failure by government to create a conducive and predictable political and legal environment due to policy implementation inconsistencies. By responsible investors we refer to business practices that protect and promote human rights, the environment, labour rights and public disclosure of contracts and revenues. These are values that are not being applied by many local and foreign businesses-some of whom are opportunists taking advantage of a government desperate for investors. The country has been opened to investors who are solely concerned about profits and not about the social impacts of their activities at all. They internalize profits and socialize the negative impacts. This situation requires independent monitoring and provision of advice to government.
The challenge for business is to take voluntary or legally binding measures to plough back to communities through corporate social responsibility and social investments. There are several international business standards and initiatives that can be applied such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Voluntary Principles on Human rights and Security, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Mineral Supply Chains , the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and Fairtrade among others.
The other challenge is that mainstream civil society groups have not taken deliberate steps to identify investment and business opportunities in the environmental and natural resources sector as a contribution to promoting economic growth and investments. There is need for civil society to carry out research and advocate for responsible investment in the natural resources sector. Investments by companies that respect labour standards, human rights and environmental standards should be promoted. A paradigm shift is needed to make civil society take conscious and deliberate steps to promote responsible business investments in the country.