My comments will, I think, complement yours, John, but will be focused on a specific sector and an issue that is currently quite topical in the media, and that's mining and the role that mining plays in the development strategies of many of the countries in which my organization works.
My organization is a non-profit development organization that works on formal and non-formal education, livelihood, health, and governance issues in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. We have a particular focus on social and economic inclusion of marginalized women and youth. We also do a lot of work with the private sector, particularly with the tea industry in Sri Lanka, and on technical and vocational education and training in Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Southern Sudan, and Haiti.
We are also one of the organizations that has received funding from CIDA and from a mining firm for development activities. Rio Tinto Alcan is the mining firm co-funding our project, which is located in the Bibiani District of Ghana, where Rio Tinto Alcan had a controlling share in the Ghana Bauxite Company. I'm going to talk a little bit about that, because I think it's important for the context of my presentation. This company is co-owned by the Government of Ghana, and, interestingly, as our project was commencing, Rio Tinto Alcan sold its share of this firm to a Chinese firm named Bosai but decided to continue funding our project nonetheless.
In my comments today I would like to draw upon our programming experience in Ghana and suggest ways in which the private sector, and the mining sector in particular, should be engaged in social and economic development issues. I would like to suggest a few things that I don't believe the government is or should be doing. I would also like to put forward an agenda of additional issues that I think CIDA should start tackling in ways that would contribute to the resolution of substantive development issues.
First of all, I'd like to emphasize that our project in Ghana is relatively modest in size, duration, and scope, and is focused on the development outcomes of just one of Ghana's over 200 districts. Ours is a three-year project with a planned budget of $927,000, which comprises a $500,000 contribution from CIDA and a $427,000 contribution from Rio Tinto Alcan and WUSC.
I would also emphasize that this is a WUSC project, not an RTA project and not a CIDA project, although both RTA and CIDA are important funders of our initiative. As well, I would say that if Rio Tinto Alcan had not funded this project, it would still be worth doing, but it would be much smaller than it already is.
Our on-the-ground stakeholders for this project are the assembly and local government officials of Bibiani District, the communities in which we are initiating development activities, and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. Given the size of our project and its focus on just one district, it needs to be thought of as a pilot in the sense that the lessons that are learned from this project should help to inform policies and practices at a national level and in other districts of Ghana.
Second, I would say more specifically that our project is focused on building the capacity of the district government to do three things: strengthen the quality of education in public schools, improve water and sanitation at public schools and community sites, and improve the employment outcomes of out-of-school youth through technical and vocational education and training.
Through these more tangible outcomes, however, our project is attempting to do a few broader things, specifically to improve the ability of the district government to plan in a more open and participatory way, essentially helping the local government to establish ways in which it can integrate the ideas and priorities of community members with district plans and services, and be more accountable to local communities for the decisions they make.
As well, we're helping to establish a forum at a district level, through which the local government can better engage all mining companies operating in its district in order to resolve conflicts, enhance collaboration, improve local accountability, encourage greater investment, and ensure that the specific investments of mining firms are well integrated within the district's development plans, thereby reinforcing national policies and strategies in Ghana.
An important aspect of this work is the training and support that will be provided to district officials on the extractive industries transparency index, which Canada supports and which Ghana as well is a signatory to at a national level and is seeking to extend down to regional and local levels. Through our piloting of this training in Bibiani, we're hoping to contribute to this national effort but also to help the district's understanding of the taxes, mining royalties, and revenue sharing that could take place.
There are, of course, many things that need to be done to maximize the benefits that the Bibiani District and Ghana receive from mining operations, including two sets of issues on which we believe Canada could take a lead.
First, in Ghana, the national government notionally sets aside some of the royalties it receives from mining operations to fund the development plans of districts in which mining occurs. Unfortunately, the mechanism through which districts can call upon these resources is not yet established or operational. The framework, policies, and mechanisms that would allow this to happen need to be established, and this is an issue that the Ministry of Local Government has raised itself.
Canada has taken the lead on district planning, district capacity-building, and financing in Ghana in other areas. It could do so here as well, and in a way that reinforces efforts to extend this extractive industry's transparency initiative to the district level.
Secondly, there is no national level forum through which government, civil society, independent voices, and the mining community can regularly come together to discuss issues related to mining operations and practices, community relations and local development, corporate social responsibility, and the strengthening of district governance. There are forums of mining companies, separate networks of communities affected by mining, and disparate government and donor research and policy initiatives, but not a forum that brings all of these stakeholders together on a regular basis. We believe that such a forum would be helpful in unpacking and addressing mining issues and in setting a transparent agenda for action around which all stakeholders could invest.
Next, it's important to understand what our project is not doing. This is I think particularly important in the context of some of the media around this issue over the last several weeks. Specifically, this project is not taking on the mine site corporate social responsibility of Rio Tinto Alcan or of any other mining firm. Indeed, we do not believe it is the Canadian government's role to fund the necessary corporate social responsibility that mining firms must undertake in their catchment areas. CIDA-funded projects are not a substitute for this. They are not an alternative to the kind of CSR that a company must engage in around its mining operations. Mining companies can and should fund these activities themselves and build this within their business plans.
However, I would note that when a company contributes—such as Rio Tinto Alcan has done—to a larger common good beyond the immediate interests of its operations, this is a good thing. This is something that can be encouraged and supported by the government, particularly when it's linked to the better governance of the mining sector as a whole. In other ways, if we think about our own country, our own universities, hospitals, and arts communities would be smaller and fewer if it were not for good corporate donors. Ghana is no different.
Lastly, I'd like to suggest a few areas for further attention and investment by the Canadian government. Most importantly, I think we need to expand our support to the broader set of governance and capacity-building issues in the mining sector, tailored to the specific needs of civil society and national and local governments where mining occurs.
Second, we do need to invest in exploring and resolving issues related to small-scale artisanal mining, both near to and far from large mining operations, such as those of Canadian companies. This is a critically important and under-supported area affecting large numbers of artisanal miners, the communities of which they are a part, the royalties that governments receive—or do not receive, in this case—from mining, and the reputation of the mining industry as a whole.
Third, we need to continue to encourage Canadian mining companies to invest in public goods beyond, again, their specific mine site areas in the world in which they operate. We need to link this, I think, as much as possible, to the better governance of the mining sector itself, something in which Canada and Canadian firms have a strong vested interest, especially as business ethics come under greater scrutiny around the world.