In Liberia, the Citizen Helpdesks work to address accountability challenges related to large gold mining concessions. Their associates are trained in participatory techniques and they work with affected communities to establish agreements with mining companies.
Problems and Purpose
Liberia is host to a number of mining operations, which can impact local communities' health and economic situation. Mineral Development Agreements (MDAs) are a way of managing this and comprise an agreement between affected communities, mining companies and the government to make arrangements for any compensation due to communities. The language and procedure associated with MDAs is often complex and is not accessible to affected communities, leaving them disempowered.
Citizens Helpdesks in Liberia address this problem by recruiting and training people on the ground to act as a facilitator and liaison between communities and mining companies. These Community Frontline Associates (CFAs) are trained in community dialogue and help gather views from the local community and link them with mining companies to enhance trust and cooperation.
Background History and Context
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Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Participants are members of the local communities where mining companies are operating. Insight into the demographics of these communities is captured in the Citizen Helpdesk surveys of the area.
Methods and Tools Used
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Community Frontline Associates (CFAs) are selected by communities and led by local journalists who are trained in community engagement, constructive dialogue techniques and methodologies for data collection and analysis. They work with affected communities to understand key issues and community concerns in relation to mining operations, and assist communities in acting upon Mineral Development Agreements (MDAs). MDAs establish incentives, payments, and responsibilities between the mining company, the government, and the community, but the language is legalistic and technical, and ordinary citizens have little knowledge as to what they permit and restrict.
The goal is to use the information generated from community members to better inform future decision-making, ensure fair treatment of community members, and build trust and accountability among communities, government and the mining companies.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Progress on the community's understanding of MDAs and their satisfaction with mining companies is monitored by Citizen Helpdesk surveys. The most recent survey available (2018) showed that knowledge and understanding of MDAs remained low, but that CFAs had become a reliable source of information for the community and that discussions were making progress .
Analysis and Lessons Learned
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 Accountability Lab Liberia (2018). Citizen Helpdesk Survey Report. Available at: https://www.civacts.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/CHDs-Liberia-3rd-Survey-Report-March-2018.pdf (Accessed 12 August 2020)
The first submission of this Participedia entry was adapted from a research project by the Institute of Development Studies, 'Linking Participation and Economic Advancement’ licensed and reproduced under Creative Commons (CC BY 3.0).