Wole Olaleye, the IANRA coordinator presented at the Bench Marks Foundation annual conference titled ‘organising in the times of pandemics’, which took place on 20th October 2020.
According to Olaleye, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed gaping holes in organisational functions of not just the civil society but of all industries in general. COVID-19 worsened the volatile nature of civil society organisations, handicapping activities in the process. In an attempt to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic, organisations adopted various strategies. Olaleye therefore gave an account of the IANRA network, the problems its member organisations have faced, and the many lessons learnt thereof.
The network was formed in 2009 by both non-governmental and community-based organisations who came together to promote a regime of just and sustainable use of natural resources in the continent. It aims to unite poor and marginalised communities in the continent so that they too, can enjoy rights to equitable benefits from natural resources. Moreover, IANRA at its core, advocates and promotes the sustainability of these activities.
However, COVID-19 pandemic has caused members of the network to put a halt to most of their activities thereby incapacitating the ambitions of the members’ advocacy and policy initiatives.
Despite the notoriously detrimental impacts of the pandemic, members of the network managed to navigate most of the challenges. Three strategies were dominantly utilized:
Members that have managed to sail through the pandemic ensured that their activities were relevant to the communities they serve. These organisations provided their communities with relative protective essentials such as facemasks, medical equipment, sanitizers, training community-hub personnel; abandoning their advocative mandates and solely focusing on helping to sustain lives in the communities amidst the pandemic.
Innovation and Adaptation
They improved on Innovation and adaptability to the current reality. This happened through the increased use of social media platforms and video streaming services, enabling then to engage with communities as well as improving collaborative efforts amongst other civil society organisations – democratising spaces of engagement.
Now more than ever, the question of ‘sustainability’ has become critical core focus. Due to the pandemic, the funding environment has become more stringent and domestic resource mobilisation for some of the members’ advocacy initiatives. There is need to look for alternative mechanisms of funding as a mechanism of ensuring continuous sustainability of organisational activities. Therefore, members who manage to build sustainable incomes streams are the ones who will continue being effective in times of the pandemic.
“However, as a network we came to the realisation that if we are to effectively help mining communities, more focus needs to be given to artisanal and small-scale farmers as it remains a marginalised sector”
People in this sector still suffer from the impact of its mining operations – health, livelihood, social unrest etc.
Thus, our goal is to propose strategies that include the voices of the miners themselves and find ways to transform the sector as it is a large employer of labour. In economies such DRC as in particular, ASM contributes more than 50% to the national coffers is therefore a key sector. Moreover, there is need for increased reach of the network in order to create a broad and sustainable mining regime in the continent. It is impossible to advocate for ‘no mining’ policies in the continent but our duty is to find strategies that will mitigate the negative impacts of mining practices to communities.
Furthermore, pressure needs to be applied to the power centres of the mining sector in order to transform it. This is a process that can be done by introspecting relationships in the broader economic and political systems of both the international community and the African continent. We cannot move the centre, but we can put pressure on it to start decentralising and building solidarity among mining communities, link all the struggles and increase pressure on corporations.
Organising in times of the pandemic has been a mammoth task but not an impossible one. Through relevance, innovation, adaptability and creating sustainable income streams, organisations can and have withstood all challenges till date.