Ghana has been lauded for being the first African country to join the Voluntary Principles (VPs) to guide extractive companies in maintaining safety and security of their operations.
Pat Alsup, the outgoing United States Deputy Ambassador said as the first African country to join the VPs, Ghana took a brave step forward.
“In March 2014, when the government of Ghana made its formal decision to join the VPs, we were all very pleased; but given Ghana’s leadership in other global initiatives – from EITI to the Kimberly Process –we were not entirely surprised,” she said
Alsup gave the commendation in Accra on Thursday at a multi-stakeholder workshop on the VPs and said Ghana had long been a regional leader in human rights, good governance and environmental stewardship.
The goal of the workshop was to draw the country’s action plan for the implementation of the VPs and to build support for a common plan – to make compliance with the VPs a norm across Ghana.
She said such an action plan would guide stakeholders in the extractive industry towards a common understanding and approach to protecting human rights.
Alsup pointed out that it would improve communications between corporations, government and civil society organisations (CSOs), creating channels for addressing and solving other complex and long-standing problems.
She said Ghana’s action plan would help other African countries to better understand how and why they should commit to the important initiative, adding that, in the end, Ghana’s co-operation would gain a valuable new forum for collaboration across the mining and oil sectors and with government.
Alsup further hailed the Swiss government for playing an active role in bringing Ghana into the initiative, adding that, the Government of Ghana would enjoy the benefits of a more stable and profitable extractive sector that invited further investment and participation from the world’s most respected companies.
She said Ghana’s CSOs would gain a seat at the VPs table, and greater recognition for their contribution to the success of the industry and the communities who support it.
Alsup praised Newmont Ghana and Tullow Oil for the support they had shown; stating “These two companies have made protecting human rights a priority in their operations in Ghana, providing us with a vivid case study on how the VPs work, and why they are so valuable, both in Ghana and around the world”.
Alsup is leaving Ghana after a three-year duty tour.
Nii Osah Mills, Minister for Lands and Natural Resources said the VPs would improve collaboration and problem-solving with companies and civil-society, promoting a more stable investment environment and safeguarding investment returns.
He said the government had the responsibility to promote and protect human rights by promoting better business environments, and also reducing the extractive business costs related to security.
Ghana which is the only African country on the VPs, formally joined the Initiative in April, 2014.
The VPs on Security and Human Right is a set of principles designed to guide companies in maintaining the safety and security of their operations within an operating framework that encourages respect for human rights, while helping companies to work effectively with governments that seek to protect human rights.