The Southern Africa Regional Forum (SARF) has as a group been a strong advocate for justice in the extractive industry and in governance since 2012.
The issues are a shared priority, as the forum’s 44 members and one observer work with communities affected by multinational or large companies working in the region. Taking the viewpoint that as the business sector works globally, so too must communities reach out globally, the forum works to raise the voices of communities nationally, regionally and globally.
The result of this collaboration saw ACT Alliance become one of very few organisations to have people from affected communities present at the second UN session on Business and Human Rights in Geneva in December 2013. Members took part in seminars, side-events and a held a meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders, Ms Margaret Sekaggya. The impact of hearing first-hand experiences left a significant mark. Ms Sekaggya made reference to the meeting with ACT in one of her reports during the conference.
With many members active in the region on these issues, the forum established a working group on business and human rights and has for several years organised an Alternative Mining Indaba (AMI) in South Africa. Originally set up by ACT member Economic Justice Network, the AMI is today the civil society answer to the largest annual conference on mining in Africa, the Mining Indaba that takes place in Cape Town. Since 2013 the AMI has expanded, creating local and national AMIs in the region to address issues of oil and gas exploitation, one such example being in Mozambique. Today the Mozambican government and local authorities refer to ACT Alliance as a ‘voice from the communities’ when talking about extractive industries.
And in 2013 the organisers of the Mining Indaba threatened court action to protect the name ‘Mining Indaba’. For the forum, this shows the voice of the AMI is growing. What originally began as a small gathering of people concerned about extractives in Africa is today a gathering of people and organisations from across the globe enabling affected communities to speak out and be heard. It is a clear example of how coordinated advocacy is helping communities to protect their human rights.