Tackling governance heads-on
A field and unique monitoring approach
Only when poor governance is tackled can long-lasting solutions be found. However many international development/aid efforts often focus on the symptoms. For example, providing emergency health care to refugees may not be addressing the root problem, but it is certainly necessary to save lives, treating the symptoms often seems the only realistic path to making progress since tackling poor governance is a daunting and risky task. Addressing poor governance is politically sensitive and many international aid groups and donors depend on government permission to operate in country.
Resource Extraction Monitoring (REM) is one of the few non-profit organisation organisations in the world that tackles poor governance head-on. We differ from conventional NGOs in that REM establishes formal partnerships with target governments and donors. Founded in 2003, we specialise in independent monitoring of law enforcement and governance for activities related to the extraction and management of natural resources. To date our focus has been on the forestry sector but we are branching out into other resources sector. Why the focus on natural resources?
Many of the world’s richest countries in terms of natural resources have some of the world’s poorest populations. In fact, natural resource wealth and corruption, instability and even armed conflict go hand in hand so often, development experts have coined the phrase “the natural resource curse.” To turn this ‘curse’ into a blessing that can help improve the livelihoods of poor people, promote sustainable development and conserve biodiversity, there needs to be accountable bureaucracies, transparency, and consistent and fair law enforcement – put simply, good governance. Otherwise, corruption runs rampant, taxes are not collected, organised crime spreads, infrastructure crumbles…the symptoms fester and the disease persists.
REM employs a unique approach based on monitoring how laws are applied in the field (whether on land or at sea) in partnership with governments to identify solutions and act on them. Here is how it works: we go in the field alone or with government agents to see what is being done vs. what should be done; we publish reports on what we find; we review findings with senior government officials and urge them to take action; and finally, we monitor what the government actually does in response to the findings and continually working so that governments take real action, in collaboration with the international community, civil society and media. Of course, the international donors help with providing some much needed leverage to generate the political will to establish a monitoring program that allows REM access to exploitation contracts, checkpoints, etc. in order to conduct in-depth investigations.
Corruption and low governance capacity are complex issues and progress can be slow but once an impact is made the results can be significant, long lasting, and raise the bar for law enforcement. For instance, as a direct result of our work in Cameroon, 55 illegally issued forest titles were cancelled, fine collection rates doubled in some areas, and ministry staff were shuffled to improve efficiency.
Being proactive without campaigning
REM supports a constructive approach to poor governance problems involving governments, the international donor community, the private sector and civil society. We deduced from our experience that the effectiveness of our work depended heavily on the independence from the major players in the industry and at the same time, our ability to communicate with each of them to make a diagnosis of the observed activities and contribute to improvements.
REM is thus not a campaigning organisation, but proactive as it seeks to establish the facts in the field and within the administration, to support international efforts in promoting transparency, good governance and legality of the trade of natural resources and push for positive action. We go beyond investigating problems and work daily for several years with governments to help them implement solutions, adapting our recommendations to their constraints. This is a long haul approach but which leads to additional legislative tools, sanctions being applied and other concrete results.
Our work is linked very closely with forest policy and donors, providing tools formally incorporated by the governments concerned, and contributing directly to the development of these policies and processes.
REM's HQ is in Cambridge. We have had offices in Cameroon (2005-2009), Congo Brazzaville (2006-2013) and Congo Kinshasa (2010-2013).
Our funds come mainly from the European Union, the UK Department for International Development, the World Bank, the UN FAO or foundations.
...include legal and monitoring experts, environmental consultants, technicians and managers working in producer countries (capital + field) and the UK. This creates a dynamic link between the reality on the ground and international markets and policies.
REM entered over 2000 forest infractions documented by REM and monitors in WRI’s Open Transparency Portal.