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sharing in governance of extractive industries

Interview with Diego Armando Ramírez and Nadya Aranguren: The role of the Colombian government in preventing or enabling conflict in the extractive sector

Interview by Jasmin Blessing and Sarah Daitch

Nadya Aranguren is thematic advisor in dialogue and conflict prevention in the UNDP Office of Colombia. Since 2014 she has worked with the team that supports the national government in the design and implementation of the territorial strategy for the sustained and equitable management of the oil and gas sector, as well as on other initiatives related to Institutional dialogues.

Diego Ramírez is a psychologist with sound experience in the implementation of social and community projects with vulnerable populations at the national level. He has participated in projects dealing with the implementation of social dialogue methodologies in diverse sectors, in regions where the oil and gas industry is present. He works for the Hydrocarbon territorial strategy of UNDP.

Nadya and Diego were presenters in our NBSAP Forum & GOXI webinar on The Role of Government in Preventing the Escalation of Conflict in Mining, Oil and Gas.

  • How important is the oil and gas sector to Colombia?

The extractive sector, and especially the oil & gas industry, is one of the “engines” for national development. In 2016, the sector contributed to 7% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), accounted for 16% of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), represented 30% of total exports and created more than 95,000 jobs. Today Colombia is the fourth biggest oil producer in Latin America and is the twenty -first biggest-oil producer worldwide.

  • How has the hydrocarbon sector contributed to social and environmental conflicts in Colombia?

According to the Environmental Justice Atlas, 17% of the 126 socio-environmental conflicts in Colombia are linked to the oil & gas industry. According to the Colombian Petroleum Association (ACP), from January 1st and July 31st 2017, 179 extractives project came to a standstill in that time period. The main causes were demands to contract local goods and services, labor issues, roads and social-environmental issues, amongst others.

  • What was the motivation for developing the Territorial Hydrocarbons Strategy in Colombia? How was it developed?

Several factors lead to designing and implementing the National Government Strategy. Firstly, there was a rise in the number of social conflicts in the oil & gas sector. Industry blockades grew five-fold, increasing from 91 in 2010 to 503 in 2013. At the same time, government agencies were already implementing policies and initiatives to ensure greater harmony among the different stakeholders. These initiatives included the Partnerships for Prosperity Programs in 2012; the Regionalization Program; and the Development of Programs to Benefit Communities and meet SDGs. Finally, in 2014 UNDP launched its Extractive Industries for Sustainable Development Strategy, which aims to improve the management of the extractive industry to contribute to sustainable human development. Together, the National Government and ANH decided to create the Territorial Strategy for Equitable and Sustainable Management of the Hydrocarbons Sector (ETH).

  • What is SIGETH, and how has it helped to prevent the escalation of oil and gas conflicts in Colombia?

The geographical information system for the Territorial Hydrocarbons Strategy  (SIGETH) is a third-generation early warning and response system (SART) that allows us to collect and produce qualitative and quantitative information. The system also allows for follow-up in line with the strategy dialogue processes and the guidelines of the government institutions. This is a very useful interactive system which enables the systematization, consolidation and monitoring of all information that is being produced as part of the ETH strategy.

This system allows companies, national authorities and ETH officers to report events through early warning reporting. Timely reporting of social conflicts carried out through the SIGETH, and its immediate and appropriate response, helps to reduce social conflict. When we are facing a conflict situation, the timely response can diminish the length and impact of the situation.

  • How have companies used SIGETH to manage conflict with communities and to follow up on their environmental commitments?

Currently, 27 Oil & Gas companies have access to and are using SIGETH. When a company reports an early warning or de facto event in the system, the Ministry of the Interior team immediately analyzes this information, and then develops and implements a strategy to manage the situation. If, during this process an agreement between the different stakeholders is reached, the system allows commitments made to be registered and followed up on.

  • Specifically, how have you involved civil society in the government’s early warning system to prevent oil and gas conflicts?

The system has been designed and developed by the National Government, with the technical assistance of the United Nations Development Program. Civil society has access to the public website trough this link, where they can find information about what we do, our portfolio and our programs. Civil Society also has access to an interactive map with useful information about the dialogue processes, the social investments, the workshops, etc.

  • How does the oil and gas sector, and the governments improved ability to address conflicts at an early stage contribute to the Colombia’s wider peace process and peace agreement? 

While the signing of the recent peace agreement with the FARC has been a victory for peace, we fear the deal may increase social conflicts in Colombia, not reduce them. We expect that communities will continue to express their economic and social discontent, but now without the fear and constraint that armed groups imposed on them previously. (At the same time the killing of social leaders has increased which might have an impact on the ways social protest will take place). The Strategy and SIGETH could help to diminish social conflict in the sector. This is important, as the oil and gas industry is one of the main funders of post-conflict programs in Colombia. Finally, SIGETH could provide a model for the development of similar strategies for other economic sectors.

  • How can government support the oil and gas sector in being a constructive player in the country’s peace process?

The government needs to remain committed to the work that ETH has done so far. This includes continuing to ensure the financial, technical and political support to the Territorial Hydrocarbons Strategy. As part of the strategy, the government, with the technical assistance of UNDP, has developed tools and methodologies to respond to social conflicts in the territories. In addition, dialogue processes were established to develop a shared vision of the future of the territories and its needs. The social investments of the strategy have strengthened the trust between actors and fostered development projects within the communities. ETH has spread knowledge not only about the oil & gas sector but also about conflict management and community territory planning. Even if the strategy is far from perfect and we are drawing on lessons learned to improve it, one of our main achievements is that we have focused on the development of the territories, which is a key factor for the success of the peace construction process.

 

 

 

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