Social accountability in the extractive industries: a review of the Ethiopian experience
Resource rich countries of Africa, except few, have not succeeded in reducing poverty and improving the living conditions of the majority of poor citizens. Lack of a proper social accountability system and practice are among the major factors contributing to the problem. As a result, social accountability has received attention from policy makers, policy researchers and donors. This research, based on desk reviews, tries to discuss the concepts, actors and mechanisms of social accountability and then reflects on the Ethiopian experience in general and on legal regimes for social accountability in the extractive industries in particular. Assessment revealed that the concept of social accountability is pretty new to Ethiopia. Issues and concerns of social accountability constitute important components of human rights. In light of this, the legal regimes for the extractive industry in Ethiopia have provided basic legal and regulatory frameworks for social accountability. Nonetheless, most of the legal and regulatory provisions are not sufficient to fully promote and ensure social accountability. The laws have provided discretionary powers to public agencies to decide on citizens’ rights. Local peoples’ objections to any project to be implemented on their land and territories, or to any proposed displacement by extractive project, or any disagreement with a project owner on the amount of compensation is not binding. This is against the principles of social accountability in the extractive industries. Effective social accountability depends on the proper functioning of the supply and demand sides of social accountability. Provision of legal and regulatory frameworks by government to govern decisions and actions of implementing government agencies and private sector actors is not enough. There should be demand from citizens in general and the local people in particular where projects are implemented.
Keywords: Social accountability, extractive industries, Ethiopia