Conflict Resolution|systems design

Theory Becomes Practice: A Project with Built-In Conflict Prevention

From the invaluable BASESwiki comes news of just the development I and others have pounded the table about:  A long-term project that features a formal and permanent “canary-in-the-mine” that identifies and addresses problems early on, and successfully prevents conflicts.

Thirty years ago the Peruvian government expropriated more than 2,000 hectares of land in the High Andes to develop the Tintaya open-pit copper mine.  The mine was subsequently privatized and operated first by BHP Billiton and now by Xstrata.

The community complaints were numerous — lack of fair compensation for the land; forced evictions; water and air pollution; deterioration of the health of animals and people; loss of livelihoods. 

With the assistance of Oxfam, BHP Billiton, and others, a “Mesa de Diàlogo” was established in 2000.  Four years later, an agreement was signed by all stakeholders to maintain the “Mesa” as a permanent mechanism through which solutions to any problems will be sought.  Sub-groups were established under the “Mesa” to focus on problems involving land, sustainable development, human rights abuses and the environment.  Participants include company representatives, community delegates, and members of NGOs.

Curiously, the company’s initial response to these community complaints was to defend its activities and question the truth of the claims made by the communities.  BHP Billiton eventually accepted the complaints, partly because the head office staff undertook their own investigations and no longer accepted at face value reports from mine site employees that had rejected community grievances.

The report at BASESwiki has more detail about an approach to conflict that seeks to prevent rather than to resolve disputes.  It is an impressive story that leaves the great question: WHY NOT OTHERS???

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