Press Responses: July 9, 2008

Letter to the Editor - Embassy, July 9, 2008

World Bank’s CSR Praise Met with Cynicism in Light of Gov’t Stalling

The World Bank and the Canadian government are not unalike (RE: “World Bank Applauds Canada’s Americas Focus,” June 25). Both initiated a process to respond to complaints from civil society and communities about the negative human rights, environmental and economic impacts of publicly-funded extractive projects. In the World Bank’s case, it was the Extractive Industries Review (EIR). In the Canadian case, it was the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries.

Both processes involved major consultations with affected groups, communities and industry. Both processes developed landmark reports with a series of progressive recommendations that would have changed the landscape of natural resource development for the better. The bank then rejected the majority of the recommendations outlined in the EIR, and instead ramped up its investment in mining, oil and gas. The Canadian government looks set to follow suit.

It is therefore with a great deal of cynicism that we react to the notion of the Canadian government responding to both its own process and the bank’s process with a little CSR paint and the illusion that extractive projects contribute to local development.

If Canada and Canadian extractives projects were serious about development, they would stop resisting paying higher taxes in developing countries. A year ago, at the Group of Eight meeting in Germany, G8 leaders expressed concern that “in some cases...extraction and processing of resources are associated with misuse of revenues, environmental destruction, armed conflict and state fragility,” and identified the need for “further enhancing the contribution of mineral resources to sustainable growth.”

Stephen Harper affirmed that “implementation of the (national roundtable) recommendations from this process will place Canada among the most active G8 countries in advancing international guidelines and principles on corporate social responsibility (CSR) in this sector.”

We totally agree. But a year later, we are still waiting for the prime minister to keep that promise.

Fraser Reilly-King
Co-ordinator, The Halifax Initiative
Ottawa, ON