In his welcome address the University of Makeni Vice Chancellor Professor Joseph Turay said, Sierra Leoneans should be able to participate and benefit from the management of natural resources. “The Sierra Leone quality of resource governance will affect the well being of our eco system” he noted.
Professor Turay further stressed that governance suppose to be a necessary foundation for a just world, (A world that values and conserves nature). He reiterated that the multi stakeholders conference was timely because it will help the country to develop standards and methods. “Let us build a body of knowledge on natural resources governance, let this stakeholders conference serve as a platform to promote linkages, share experiences and mobilized concerted effort to improve natural resource governance” he mentioned.
The University of Makeni Good Governance Department was established in 2005, to promote an inclusive decision making process in the governance and development of Sierra Leone .Above all, Sierra Leone’s development plan (the Agenda for Prosperity) as one of its main pillars- the management of natural resources. Our country is rich in natural resources (both renewable and non renewable).The natural resources are the initial driver for rapid growth. Natural resources could significantly create jobs and generate revenue. Natural resources could distort environment if not well plan.
Head of the Good Governance Department, Dr. Alexander Chimange informed participants and facilitators of the conference that the resource governance project was designed in line with the university’s three main functions which include researching, teaching and community service. Dr. Chimange mentioned that the conference was about good resource management in the Northern Region where investment initiatives are being implemented. “This is to promote transparency, accountability, common good, community participation while reducing corruption, plunder and environmental degradation” he explained.
Currently, the project is funded by the Association of Development Aid (AGEH) which is a German Church based organization. The project engaged investment companies which are mostly represented in the conference. Also the aim of the conference was to enhance the promotion of effective dialogue, mutual cooperation and effective communication between investment initiatives and community members in order to attain community development.
Presenting the topic “Cooperate Social Responsibility and Investment Ethics” a leading facilitator of the conference Unisa Patrick Kamara said most investment agreements are not done in a free and fair manner because the community people in most cases are not represented when the negotiations are taken place. Mr. Kamara therefore noted that very little normally being done by investment companies to fulfill their Cooperate Social Responsibilities. “When our government ministers negotiated mining laws on behalf of the people they become richer and the community become poorer and poorer” he mentioned.
Many people from different works of life were in attendance. A representative from ADAX /SUNBIRD Bioenergy Company ,Fatmata Fornah said the company’s investment agreement was inclusive of all community stakeholders and the process was very transparent .She also noted that the company conscious of it Cooperate Social Responsibilities, and as a result of that they have employed over 3000 workers ,raised household incomes in all areas of operations and have a Farmer Feed School project that is empowering farmers to agricultural commercialization.
Many participants from different school of thoughts believe that the conference was a step in the right direction that would change society and maintain sustainable development.