Land, biodiversity and extractive industries in southern Africa

By Willis Ombai | September 17th, 2013
Land, biodiversity and the extractive industries in southern Africa

In the natural resources sector, laws are often formulated to regulate the relationship between men and the environment. Ideally, the law can play a vital role in regulating and protecting communities from adverse environmental and social impacts of mining, loss of land, biodiversity and natural wealth, as well as other human rights violations. Almost all countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have developed laws and institutions to regulate and monitor the extraction of mineral resources and their impact on the environment and people. However, the level of implementation and enforcement of those laws varies across the region and in some cases legal gaps exist.

In light of this, the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) commissioned research in three SADC countries – Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe – to assess the effectiveness of exiting legal and institutional frameworks governing land, social and environmental accountability in the extractive sector. This discussion document - Land, biodiversity and extractive industries in southern Africa: How effective are legal and institutional frameworks in protecting people and the environment? - analyses the findings of the three reports and identifies current legal and institutional frameworks in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana that seek to protect land, biodiversity and communities from the adverse impacts of mining.

It highlights good practices while also capturing crosscutting weaknesses and gaps in the legal frameworks. The policy brief also analyses the institutional capacities of responsible government departments, whose legal mandate is to monitor and hold mining companies accountable, and looks at the domestication and application of regional and international instruments. More importantly, the efficacy of voluntary practices and standards adopted by mining companies and financial institutions to promote social and environmental accountability in the extractive sector is also assessed.

In many respects this is a performance appraisal of governments and mining companies in the three SADC countries in terms of how they apply and uphold the concept of social and environmental accountability from a legal perspective. It is based on the need to ensure that mining companies and governments are more accountable and responsible, and take steps to promote the rights of communities affected by mining operations and to ensure environmental and biodiversity sustainability.

However, this policy brief is not meant to be an exhaustive discussion of all the legal instruments in each country but rather a cursory overview that aims to inform the debate and provide some concrete recommendations, which will contribute to strengthening regulatory frameworks in the SADC region that protect the environment and communities from the potentially adverse effects of the extractive industries.

This analysis and the original resarch studies are part of a larger programme funded by UNDP and GEF, and managed by OSISA - Partnering with civil society to enhance sustainable land management in sub-Saharan Africa.


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