July 21, 2006
International nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as Oxfam America and Toronto's Rights Action are training Guatemala's local leaders to "empower" minorities and indigenous groups to denounce development of mining operations as "neo-colonial" ventures, says columnist Andrea Tunarosa.
Yet, the very nature of NGOs saves them from having a real stake in the communities they affect through their activism. NGOs can blow through town like a hurricane disrupting development and then be gone, explains Tunarosa.
The mines, on the other hand, have long-term relationships to manage. Concerned about its role in northern Guatemala, for example, Glamis Gold Ltd, which operates a gold mine there, has taken several steps to improve the community:
- It funded the construction of a local road that was not needed for the mine but was beneficial to the poor community.
- It offered to fund 32 new teaching positions to help meet the increasing demand for public education in the area.
- The company also took an unprecedented step by helping to launch an independent monitoring association that will provide environmental studies.
If Guatemala were a "global investors' oasis," as some NGOs claim, more than 50 percent of the population wouldn't be living below the national poverty line, says Tunarosa. And while they assert that the country is not ready for investments in mining, the opposite would appear to be true for the communities that have already benefited.
Source: Andrea Tunarosa, "What Do NGOs Have Against Poor Guatemalans?," the Wall Street Journal, July 21, 2006
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