Canadian and Latin American experts discuss the role of local governments in conflict prevention and resolution
During the last week of September 2015, the XI World Mediation Congress was held in Lima, Peru, and one of the initial activities was the workshop: "Abilities of local governments in the prevention and resolution of environmental and social conflicts". The workshop was organized by FCM through its CISAL program. Two experts from Canadian municipalities shared their experiences and best practices in the workshop and started a discussion on the fundamental role, abilities and responsibilities of local governments to prevent or transform environmental and social conflicts into development opportunities.
In addition, representatives from Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, shared lessons learned and contributed to the dialogue with experiences in their respective countries. Some of these experiences came directly from CISAL program participants from local governments and local governments associations in Colombia and Peru.
"Listen, listen, listen"
"In the workshop we put a lot of emphasis on the importance of listening to our citizen's needs in order to address conflicts that affect our municipalities. Also, local governments throughout the Americas need to find ways for effective approaches and communication with provincial and central governments" said Marie-France Brisson, Director General of La Conception, Quebec. Ms. Brisson shared her experience about challenges this small municipality had dealt with in the past years, including a case of water pollution that affected more than 1,500 citizens.
Mayor Phil Vinet from Red Lake, Ontario, shared his experience from a time when his community was opposed to a mining development project in his municipality. "The biggest lesson we learned was listen, listen, listen. Also, we have to guarantee that sustainable community plans make emphasis on community input and community engagement, after all it is their community and they should determine its course and future." Through the stories he shared, it was reaffirmed that since local governments are the order of government closest to communities, they must play a proactive role when it comes to mediation and transforming environmental and social conflicts, especially in mining areas.
On the other hand, one of the workshop participants was representing the Ombudsman of Peru, a respected organization that keeps track of the conflicts that take place throughout the territory. She shared that in 2004 the organization registered 8 environmental and social conflicts in Peru, while in 2015 there were 138 registered cases, almost all related to the extractive sector. The representative emphasized in the need to strengthen the work of the local governments associations in order to empower local institutions, and the importance of improving coordination between governments, mining companies and communities through transparent relationships.
"We acquired new experiences and lessons learned through shared cases in Canada, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. And despite the differences, some elements are repeated throughout the conflicts" said Diana Pombo, CISAL Program Manager in Colombia and Inclusion and Environmental Specialist.
Finally, the workshop was part of the XI World Mediation Congress in which leading academics presented key ideas on mediation. Jean Paul Lederach, one of the world's most influential speakers in peace building and conflict resolution said: "to achieve profound transformation in our communities, we need to address conflict from its roots: understanding the context, knowing the context."
CISAL is a $20 million, five-year initiative (2014-2019) funded by the Government of Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD). CISAL partners work to strengthen the capacity of local governments in Colombia and Peru to successfully manage the impacts and benefits of mining development and promote sustainable economic growth.
This information is also available in Spanish.