Its about development: Commentary on CIDA and Mining Companies


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An Op-Ed piece Wayne Dunn wrote on CIDA’s collaboration with mining companies. The article argues that it is about the development impact, not about the interests of one Canadian group or another.

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Its about development: Commentary on CIDA and Mining Companies

  1. 1. Its About Development (not NGOs vs Mining companies)I have been listening to the debate regarding CIDA’s partnership with some Canadian mining companiesand felt compelled to put forward some thoughts based on over two decades of experience working atthe interface where the interests of communities, global private sector, governments, developmentagencies, environment, NGOs and others meet. There have been some spectacular successes andabysmal failures at that interface. Impoverished people and communities have been uplifted, or theyhave been pushed further down, environmental miracles and disasters have occurred. It has been farless about the types of partners involved than it has been about the right partner, plan and approach,based on the specific situation.The recent discussion over CIDAs collaboration with Canadian mining interests in support ofinternational development has been framed in terms of the interests of Canadian NGOs vs the interestsof Canadian mining companies. The discussion is more properly framed in relation to the interests ofthe people and communities that should be the beneficiaries of Canadas development assistance. It’sabout the world’s poor and how CIDA can best support education, health and other development issues.CIDA does not have an easy role. Its budget comes from Canadian taxpayers and it has a responsibilityto ensure that the money it invests in development produces results. CIDA often works with andthrough Canadian partners including NGOs, educational institutions, private sector (including mining)and other partners. There are successful examples for all types of partners, just as there areunsuccessful examples. No single group holds a monopoly on success, or failure.I was one of the first to facilitate a large, developmental partnership project between CIDA and aCanadian mining company. Canadian mining company Placer Dome wanted to go far beyond normalpractices and assist the families of 2,500 retrenched mineworkers to establish alternative incomestreams. The company committed $5,000,000, CIDA contributed $2,000,000, a number of local NGOsand organizations were involved and the direct impact was felt by thousands of families in hundreds ofcommunities across Southern Africa. The indirect impact changed the social face of the South Africanmining industry and led directly to the industry’s progressive (and economically self-interested)HIV/AIDS programming and the project was published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (link)and used as a case study by the Stanford Business School.
  2. 2. After the success of work in South Africa the World Bank asked Placer Dome to help develop a strategicapproach to HIV/AIDS programming in Papua New Guinea that would engage all stakeholders. We puttogether a plan and CIDA contributed $200,0000, Placer Dome about the same amount and otherpartners including Australian Aid, World Bank, World Health Organization, PNG AIDS, Chamber of Minesand others contributed cash and resources. The end result was a Public Private Partnership Strategy andprogramming for HIV/AIDS in PNG that was enthusiastically endorsed by a broad cross section of theHIV/AIDS constituency.In Turkey Eldorado Gold was in the process of developing a gold mine and their work with localcommunities identified agricultural development as a key local priority. CIDA partnered with Eldorado(CIDA $200,000 cash, Eldorado ~$750,000 cash and in-kind) and strategies and programs weredeveloped that helped to increase income and productivity of the farmers.In all of these cases a development impact was achieved because CIDA picked the right partner for thesituation. The mining companies, by virtue of their presence in the area and understanding of thesituation, were uniquely positioned to produce results in these cases. In other cases it may well be anNGO or others that would be the best partner. Experiences like these should help to guide the currentdebate.Canada has a global responsibility to support development around the world. The execution of thatresponsibility should not be about one Canadian group or another, but rather about the impact ondevelopment. It isn’t a mining company vs NGO issue. The mining sector has done terrible things topeople and communities, in Canada and globally. But, so have churches, NGOs, governments andothers. All these groups have positive accomplishments too. CIDA cannot, and should not excludeentire sectors from its partnership programs. CIDA must find the partners that enable it to be the mostefficient at supporting development for the world’s poor.Wayne Dunn has worked with private sector, governments, NGOs, civil society and others on over 60social responsibility/development projects in over 30 countries. He can be reached at +1.250.743.7619or