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Response to IMF framework on DSM

May 9, 2014

Intervention to the 13-16 May, 2014 Pacific ACP States 5th Regional Training Workshop Organised in Partnership with IMF (Pacific Financial Technical Assistance Centre): Financial Aspects of DSM being held in Rarotonga.

IMG_5429bReading SOPAC‘s Pacific-ACP States Regional Legislative and Regulatory Framework for Deep Sea Minerals Exploration and Exploitation, the foreward reads: “Pacific people have a shared responsibility to protect and preserve the health of the Pacific Ocean, and this must be at the forefront of the national, regional and global agendas.”

Pacific people do share the responsibility of our region, as we define ourselves as the stewards of the ocean as well as of its land and resources.  Collectively, Pacific people are the custodians of this place with a deep ecological understanding that is interwoven with our histories, languages, mythologies and identities. This deep affinity with the ocean and our environment has not always provided us with the determination to monetize our resources and capitalize on a system whose value is intrinsically inviolable, but it has provided us with the will to self-determination; to protect and decide upon our regional biodiversity through our own customary consent processes.

Policy advisers to Pacific Island governments do not always privilege our biodiversity above financialization and economic development, but for a people whose traditional livelihood have depended upon our ocean resources, we have sought amenable ways to participate in both the globalized world while maintaining customary economies that are intrinsic to our regional biodiversity.  As stewards, it is important that Pacific people (not merely government and institutions) have a self-determining right in the decision-making process and appropriateness of seabed mining as a development option, as well as other options for indigenous resource development in the region.

We depend on the breeding grounds and migration of fish, seabirds and other ocean life; the sustainability of our reefs; the health, access and viability of our lands, waters and cultural properties; and have adopted a strict application of the precautionary principle as a means to assert moratoria as well. Until we have a full accounting of both the economic and ecological risks, we need a moratorium on DSM.

We anticipate that seabed mining, like other extractive industries in the Pacific, creates deep tensions in our island communities, tensions that breed divisiveness and disrupts social cohesion. When SOPAC references devising a roadmap towards developing a “regional legislative and regulatory framework for deep sea minerals exploration and exploitation,” or any other extractive process, they should include well-being indicators in the community.  These indicators, such as what Vanuatu has taken the lead on, adjusts statistical information to provide a more rounded indication of well-being, and moves away from definitions of poverty that the World Bank has been using to create a sense of insecurity among many of our low-income island States.

As we look towards 2020, beyond the 2015 post-development agenda, we need to take a broader view of the role the Pacific plays and begin to analyze the benefits and disadvantages of agreements between individual Pacific Island States and extractive industries.  We anticipate that once emerging and developing economies agree to resource-based investor-state partnership agreements, the future enforcement of climate initiatives will bind rather than benefit Pacific Island States. We are concerned that structural economic revisions in national accounting, taxation, investment and trade within the multilateral trading system– particularly ones that include liberalizing investor rights provisions– will not benefit the region with terms that Pacific people would find equitable.

As the IMF surveys the multilateral macro-financial land/seascape that they will play in financing DSM, we anticipate that there are future risk projections that are contained in the IMF’s analysis concerning environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity.  A question that Pacific Island States should be asking is how degradation and depletion will be accounted for in 2020, and how dominant economies will account for the privatization of resources through R&D, including the risk and insurance on future anticipated profits.

If Pacific Island States can withhold further agreements until there is a greater understanding of how the 2015 post-development agenda streamline investment rights and trade in developing countries, then States and CSOs can develop greater tools to analyze the ecological and economic impact that DSM will have on Pacific people and our biodiversity. The IMFs own assessment of DSM should begin to include projections that include independent indigenous initiatives.

Additionally, anticipating conceptual frameworks interweaving legal, ecological and economic data, the IMF’s surveillance of this data should include a Peoples’ compact, one that raises the normative recognition of free, prior and informed consent, with the consent process located not with States or the mineral and mining consortium, but with processes inherent in customary structures.

I want to recommend that the IMF include a regional independent agency that will address many of the shortcomings that State or industry sponsored data would report, and sponsor to raise the recognition of free, prior and informed consent as originally conceived in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples so that it can be included in the IMF’s “hierarchy” of obligations. As long as there is a conceptual legal and economic framework being devised for funding considerations to industries and States, I think it is of paramount importance that the IMF embraces some kind of People’s agency that could help to provide legitimacy to meet the IMF obligations of oversight of the world’s economy.

Views expressed are independent of Moana Nui Action Alliance and should not reflect the views of campaigners in the Stop Experimental Seabed Mining coalition.

Arnie Saiki
Coordinator- Moana Nui Action Alliance

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