Green Advocates International in collaboration with two civil society groups has concluded a one day national multi stakeholders’ conference on Voluntary Principles and International Grievance Mechanism to create awareness on how to use the instruments.
The two civil society groups are the Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD) and the Natural Resources Women Platform, an organization setup in 2010 by a group of women from forest communities and urban slum communities across Liberia to amplify the voices of marginalized women. The Alliance for Rural Democracy is a conglomeration of community based organizations working across the country to resolve issues confronting rural communities, urban slums, squatter communities and independent labor unions, while Green Advocates International is an environmental rights group working to advance wide range of issues through the provision of legal aid, consultations and supports to local communities whose rights are being violated. The multi stakeholders’ conference on Voluntary Principles and International Grievance Mechanism follows a national experience sharing dialogue and four regional trainings held across the country. The conference attracted human rights campaigners from across the country, oil palm giant Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL), representatives of civil society groups, government agencies including the Ministry of Justice, Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It was funded by the Australian High Commission Direct Aid Program as part of a project labeled “using voluntary principles and international grievance mechanism to protect; respect and remedy rights of affected communities impacted by the operation of extractive companies in Liberia”. The Direct Aid Program (DAP) is a flexible small grants program funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs through the High Commission in several countries including Ghana. DAP projects reportedly have strong developmental focus and are aimed at contributing to poverty reduction and strengthening poor communities, John Nimley Brownell of Green Advocates International said. According to Brownell the primary objective of DAP project is to achieve a practical and tangible humanitarian or developmental outcome in vulnerable communities. He explained that DAP funds activities that have a direct, practical and immediate impact and disclosed that funding is available for reputable community groups, local or international NGOs, academic institutions, research bodies, local government agencies or other organizations engaged in development activities on a not-for-profit basis. Applications, Brownell disclosed, can be submitted for projects in the High Commission’s nine countries of accreditation: Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo. Applications may be submitted by individuals or businesses on behalf of an NGO or other implementing organization as part of a partnership. “Thus, in January, 2016 a project proposed by Green Advocates International titled “Using voluntary principles and international grievance mechanism to Protect, Respect and Remedy Rights of affected communities impacted by the operation of extractive companies in Liberia” was selected for funding by the Australian Direct Aid Program (DAP),” Brownell told the audience. He also disclosed that as part of the implementation processes, Green Advocates International has completed the first phrase to the project, which had to do with setting up of the project team, desk studies, developing training materials (standard and cartoon versions) on voluntary principles and the grievance mechanisms of various international institutions and organizations that provide a platform for individuals and communities whose rights have been violated to be able to complain.