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Breaking Ground

Engaging Communities in Extractive and Infrastructure Projects

WRI analyzed existing community engagement standards and guidance, as well as experiences in several high profile projects. Based on this analysis, WRI developed seven Principles for Effective Community Engagement for extractive and infrastructure projects.

Key Findings

Executive Summary

Growing demand for energy and natural resources has led many low-income, resource-rich countries to open remote areas to industrial development. Even as a financial crisis engulfed the global economy in 2008 and 2009, projects such as oil pipelines, roads, and mines continued to remain key development priorities.

In many of these countries, however, strong institutions and governance systems are not yet in place to ensure that extractive and infrastructure projects do not adversely affect local communities. As a result, these sectors have generated a history of harmful environmental and social impacts on local communities. These impacts create risks for companies, governments, and financiers.

For several years, companies, governments, and financial institutions have responded to these challenges by signing up to various initiatives that provide standards and guidance to foster better industry practices. Financial institutions, in particular, often require clients in these sectors to meet environmental and social standards, in order to avoid or mitigate risk.

Many project proponents, host governments, and financial institutions recognize that a strong relationship with those affected by a project can improve the identification and management of risks, as well as long-term project viability. But community engagement efforts often fall short because of a failure to understand local political and community dynamics, or a failure to fully engage all local stakeholders affected by a project.

Establishing Effective Community Engagement Principles

WRI analyzed existing community engagement standards and guidance, as well as experiences in several high profile projects. Our analysis revealed that key gaps remain in the knowledge base and on-the-ground application of community engagement standards. Despite the abundance of existing reports and manuals that provide guidance on community engagement, much of the publicly available information on how project proponents engage communities reveals great difficulty in applying existing guidance effectively.

Based on this analysis, we developed seven Principles for Effective Community Engagement for extractive and infrastructure projects. These principles are intended to serve two key purposes:

  • For companies and governments developing projects: to provide a framework for identifying solutions to core community engagement challenges.

  • For citizen organizations supporting communities: to serve as a resource, in order to empower local communities to provide more meaningful input into project design and implementation.

Principles For Effective Community Engagement

  1. Prepare communities before engaging.
  2. Determine what level of engagement is needed.
  3. Integrate community engagement into each phase of the project cycle.
  4. Include traditionally excluded stakeholders.
  5. Gain free, prior and informed consent.
  6. Resolve community grievances through dialogue.
  7. Promote participatory monitoring by local communities.

Video

Engage Communities, Avoid Conflict

Kirk Herbertson explains the story of the Mae Moh coal plant in Thailand and how it demonstrates why early community engagement is critical.

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