The recent discovery of oil in Uganda has been a double-edged sword for local communities. As the activity of oil companies intensifies in the region, communities anticipate benefits in the form of better roads, education facilities, and fair compensation for the land they lose to oil developments. But concerns run high about land-grabbing, an expected influx of migrant workers, nepotism, misuse of funds, and environmental damage. So far, oil companies are still in exploration stage, but rumours and suspicions are already rampant.
Improved information flow, understanding and interaction between local communities, the government and oil companies are crucial in minimising the harmful potential for escalating rumours and fears. Dialogue is an important way of achieving greater trust and accountability.
So Alert started working with local organisations in Uganda’s oil region to promote greater awareness and understanding about the oil sector. In 2010, we helped the Kitara Heritage Development Agency (KHEDA) open an oil information centre. Two centres were established in 2011, in partnership with two other local organisations, and we’re planning to open two more in 2012. These centres promote the sharing of information among local communities, oil companies and policy-makers, and provide a convenient location for dialogue.
During 2011 we also helped our partners organise a series of community dialogue events, convening local groups to share information and views about oil. Government and oil company representatives participated, to listen and help answer people’s questions, and introducing an important element of accountability.
Public debate on oil
Towards the end of 2011, there was increasing public scrutiny of the way the Ugandan Government and the oil companies were managing the new oil sector. A debate on oil was held in parliament highlighting procurement processes and bribery allegations. A set of accountability and transparency principles were agreed, and published in newspapers. Alert’s dialogue process helped prepare the legislators for this debate and for the forthcoming parliamentary bills to be tabled in 2012. The parliamentary group supported by Alert since 2010 was at the heart of these developments. Throughout the debates, Alert was a key source of constructive and objective information for parliamentarians. Our publication Oil and Gas Laws in Uganda: A Legislators’ Guide was regularly referred to, and we received constant requests for more information. As a result, we have developed a reputation across government and opposition alike for our reliable, transparent, objective and apolitical approach to this complex issue.
For further information, contact Jessie Banfield at email@example.com.