Strengthening our collaboration with civil society in Latin America and the Caribbean

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In 2022, the global Publish What You Pay (PWYP) movement campaigning for transparent and accountable extractive industries will strengthen its presence in Latin America and the Caribbean. The majority of countries here extract oil, gas, and minerals, making this a key region for the natural resource governance agenda – even more so as the world needs to ensure a just energy transition to a low carbon economy. The experiences, creativity, and actions of Latin American civil society will undoubtedly contribute important elements to advance PWYP’s Vision 2025 at both national, regional, and global levels. And PWYP activists around the world can share 20 years of solid campaigning and coalition-building experience with their new colleagues in the region.

PWYP’s engagement in Latin America and the Caribbean comes at a very significant time: as our movement celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, we are looking to respond to the critical issues of our time: the climate emergency, the environmental crisis, the pandemic and the worsening social inequalities that are resulting. Ensuring a just energy transition is one key factor in addressing those challenges.

This transition has clear implications for the oil, gas, and mining sectors in the region. On the one hand, producing countries and territories must progressively and responsibly abandon fossil fuels, and this must be accompanied by measures allowing them to diversify their sources of economic and fiscal income. On the other hand, the energy transition will involve expanding mining activity to extract and process critical minerals, such as cobalt, lithium, copper, and nickel. The global shift to renewable energies means that the demand for those minerals will skyrocket and new extractive projects will be implemented in LAC and around the world. However, under the current mining model, this would be highly risky.

LAC countries would be even more dependent on mining activity for their finance and economy, with subsequent risks of economic and fiscal instability, corruption, inappropriate use of public revenues, environment degradation, and human rights violations. If we don’t ensure a strong civil society engagement in decision-making regarding mining policies and projects, extensive mineral extraction will result in more negative social and environmental impacts; especially on the indigenous, peasant, and afro-descendent communities, and more particularly on women, youth and children. This is all the more alarming given widespread civic space restrictions in some of the region’s countries, deepened with the pandemic. Countries where land defenders are being harassed, attacked, and murdered, thus deterring activism and opposition against damaging policies and projects.

A strong, diverse, and united civil society to ensure a just energy transition

All these elements highlight the need to act quickly to ensure a just energy transition in LAC, one that addresses the historical environmental and social debts of the extractive sector, avoids future negative impacts, and puts people at the centre. A strong, diverse, and united civil society, including grassroots communities and movements, women’s groups, and vulnerable populations, plays a key role in addressing the challenges that the region is already facing.

In this context, PWYP aims to support, boost and amplify the important work that civil society is doing, in response to demand from organisations across the continent who have been working on these issues for the decades and with which PWYP has been collaborating for years via the Latin American Network on Extractive Industries (RLIE).

As a first step in this direction, on 3 March, the PWYP Global Council welcomed the first PWYP national coalition in LACLa Mesa de Sociedad Civil para la Transparencia en las Industrias Extractivas in Colombia. With the creation of the new LAC Regional Coordination, our efforts in the coming years will continue to focus on strengthening and broadening the civil society movement by incubating or affiliating national PWYP coalitions in other Latin American and Caribbean countries.

We will also identify opportunities for regional advocacy, strategy building, and campaigns to collectively achieve tangible changes in the region. Strongly convinced that together we can have a greater impact, in collaboration with Oxfam and dozens of partner organisations from the region, we are promoting a Regional Group for Just Energy Transition in LAC.

Transparency, participation, and protection of civic space as common strategic agendas in LAC

Transparency continues to be a central agenda for civil society in LAC. It is a key element to ensuring social and community participation in decision-making, in order to promote a just energy transition. In 2022 our partners in Mexico, Colombia and Peru will be carrying out actions in the framework of the PWYP #DiscloseTheDeal campaign, to advocate for hydrocarbon and mining contracts disclosure, including social, environmental and climate related information. Countries in which we are also supporting civil society to position their transparency agendas during the Validation processes of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

However, this decision-making cannot be truly democratic if everyone does not have the same opportunities to participate. Funds from the Ford Foundation’s Social Bonds initiative will be sub-granted by PWYP to several of our partners in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia to collectively advance a just energy transition, gender equality and inclusion of populations traditionally excluded from decisions, such as indigenous peoples and peasants, youth, and people with disabilities; as well as the protection of civic space and of environmental defenders.

These are some of the actions that we plan to implement in the region, with a focus in 2022 on Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile, with the aim to expand our support to coalitions in other countries in the coming years. This work will be accompanied by actions at the regional level to take civil society agendas beyond national borders.

At this key moment, the addition of Latin American voices to the PWYP global movement opens the opportunity to strengthen and enrich collective action through mutual learning and the exchange of knowledge and experiences. In the face of the urgent and imperative challenges facing the world, a united global civil society will make a difference.

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