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28.02.2009 General News

EU Rep walks out of forum

By Public Agenda


A representative of the European Union, on Tuesday, stormed out of a public forum on oil because he disagreed with criticisms directed at some of Ghana's development partners.

Mr. Jannik Vaa reportedly told the moderator of the forum that "This is not the way to dialogue" and stormed out of the forum, which was jointly organized by the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC) and Oxfam America with sponsorship from the Ghana Research and Advocacy Programme (G-RAP).

It is believed Mr. Vaa was referring to earlier criticisms directed at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector financing arm of the World Bank Group.

The IFC was mainly criticized for last week's approval of a joint bid from Kosmos and Tullow Energy seeking a $215 million finance package for the development of the Jubilee Oil Field, despite objections from Ghanaian civil society groups and their international partners.

The CSOs had argued there was no completed Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), which had been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency of Ghana.

It is internationally accepted that the purpose of an ESIA is to assess the potential impact of a project prior to approval to determine whether, and under what conditions, it should be approved.

The CSOs had emphasized that the absence of the ESIA meant "IFC undermines an international professional norms and drags down international good practices."

A participant at the forum was of the view that the World Bank Group, the EU and other "development partners" did not have the interest of Ghanaians at heart. Instead, they were only interested in what they could take away from Ghana.

He justified his position, citing the case of the mining sector where various rights had been abused by mining companies and yet the "development partners" found no wrong in those acts.

Ironically, Kyle Kelhofer, who represented the IFC, took no offence. Responding to the comments, Mr. Kelhofer said an IFC team was expected in Ghana next week and they were prepared to hear some of the concerns raised and react appropriately. He stressed that they would engage all stakeholders.

Representing the World Bank, Mr. Kofi Tsikata said Ghanaians should not only hold their governments accountable but also development partners.

The public forum was organized to offer a platform for various interest groups to deliberate on some of the critical steps for the Ghanaian government, donors, oil companies, and civil society to partake in order to maximize gains from the coming oil boom.

The occasion was also used to launch a research report titled: Ghana's Big Test: Oil's Challenge to Democratic Development. The report essentially reviews goings-on in the sector so far and makes recommendations that will help Ghana avoid the "oil curse".

Among others, it recommends that Ghana should develop policy principles, a master plan, and regulations in sequence and as a package. It also encourages the disclosure of all petroleum agreements and licenses. It says "The government will be in a better bargaining position and receive better outcomes if all actors know that agreements will be disclosed."

Presenting an overview of the report, Ian Gary, the author and a Senior Research Advisor of Oxfam America in charge of Extractive Industries, stated that oil could easily undermine the progress that has been made.

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