Over the past few years, traditional cultural institutions have called for their meaningful involvement in the oil and gas sector to enhance economic benefits and development for their respective communities and to protect the cultural resources located within the oil rich regions.
On 21st June, the three prime ministers from Ker Kwaro Acholi, Alur Kingdom and Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom launched Guidelines to equip cultural leaders in their institutions in managing their relationship with the oil and gas companies as productively as possible.
The launch in Hoima was witnessed by representatives from cultural institutions, the oil and gas companies active in the region, the Ministry of Energy and other government agencies, civil society, religious institutions, individual cultural activists and well-wishers. All recognised the important role of Cultural Institutions in the oil and gas sector in the Albertine graben, in conformity with the Constitution and relevant laws of Uganda.
The guidelines were developed to protect and promote the cultural rights of the concerned communities in Bunyoro, Alur and Acholi, and to promote their cultural, economic and social well-being. They reflect the three cultural institutions’ determination to play an active role in preserving tangible and intangible cultural heritage, in ensuring sustainable development and in fostering peace amongst communities. The three cultural institutions jointly developed the Guidelines in a cooperative spirit and expressed the hope that they will also be of use to other cultural institutions in the country as natural and mineral resources are increasingly drawing the attention of investors, sometimes to the detriment of cultural heritage.
In the Guidelines, the concerned cultural institutions urge oil companies to:
- Adhere to cultural rights and respect the rights of people to access, express and enjoy their culture in conditions of equality, human dignity and non-discrimination.
- Respect and protect cultural, historical and sacred natural sites potentially affected by oil and gas activities, and allow unimpeded access to these sites for the affected communities.
- Safeguard land, environment and natural resources, in view of their cultural and economic value, recognise the statutory responsibility of cultural leaders in the management of land held under customary tenure, avoid any form of pollution and consult the affected communities and their cultural institutions with regard to activities impacting natural resources.
- Respect the cultural norms, values and practices of the people, to take all necessary measures to avoid harmful practices and unbecoming behaviours not in agreement with local culture and ensure that oil company and related staff understand well the cultural context in which they operate.
- Contribute to sustainable livelihood, by making all efforts to use local resources, including labour, enterprises, foodstuffs in the implementation of activities for the benefit of local communities, and ensure comprehensive compensation and restoration whenever livelihood options are negatively affected.
- Promote peaceful coexistence, by cooperating closely with cultural leaders and making use of traditional justice systems as the first system of conflict resolution.
- Align all corporate social responsibility initiatives with the priorities and aspirations of the communities concerned.
- Ensure transparency and accountability through an effective and meaningful flow of information with cultural institutions and their communities, and by incorporating the concerned communities and their cultural leaders in relevant decision-making fora.
The Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda facilitated the process and calls upon the government of Uganda to enhance the cultural institutions’ ability to contribute to the responsible extraction of oil and gas, taking into account the need for heritage preservation and community development.