Two Canadian Norton Rose Fulbright lawyers have taken part in an international initiative aimed at increasing sustainable economic growth for East Africans, particularly women and vulnerable groups, affected by extractive industries.
Risk advisory Of Counsel Kellie Johnston
with Norton Rose Fulbright’s Calgary office and Toronto-based senior environmental law partner Janet Bobechko
led nine days of training in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania for the Supporting Inclusive Resource Development (SIRD) project.
SIRD is run by the Canadian Bar Association in collaboration with local law societies, and funded by the federal government through Global Affairs Canada.
Johnston and Bobechko provided advocacy training to 65 lawyers working in civil society, legal aid, community-based agencies as well as regulators, professors and parliamentarians. The program is designed to equip them with knowledge and skills in natural resource management to support inclusive and sustainable resource development in the region.
The sessions, conducted over three days in each country, focused on environmental sustainability and occupational health and safety. Johnston and Bobechko discussed Canadian and international practices in assessing environmental impacts; initiatives such as the globally recognized standard Towards Sustainable Mining
, which was developed in 2004 by the Mining Association of Canada and has since been adopted by five other countries on four continents; and the challenges women encounter specifically in the extractive industries.
In many countries, women looking for employment in the mining and oil and gas sectors face gender discrimination and those employed are often subjected to dangerous and poor working conditions. Mining camps, for example, are rarely designed with separate, appropriate living facilities.
Johnston and Bobechko’s presentations specifically addressed how the extractive industries can benefit from women’s contributions, and the ways their health and rights can be better protected.
Janet Bobechko, who was returning to the region for a second time as part of the project, commented:
“In many developing countries, the laws are very similar to ours, but challenges lie in implementation and enforcement. For change to happen, there needs to be a culture shift within the extractive industry operating abroad toward inclusion of women and greater accountability. The training is meant to empower civil society leaders to advocate to companies, and it was deeply satisfying to provide that support.”
Kellie Johnston also commented:
“Our participation helped us gain a better understanding of environmental and operational health and safety laws and regulations in an extractive-intensive area of Africa where many of our clients have projects. The knowledge we acquired as a result of this on-the-ground experience can certainly serve us in our work.”