It is a ray of hope, an end to a long tunnel and a source of dispute. It is said that valuable things are hard to come by but worth waiting for. Our treasures are buried, at times thousands of meters underneath our very own feet, and all it takes to access them are the three M: Money, Machinery and Men. Afghanistan however does not have all of it yet. Contract after contract are being signed to generate more and more money to the state but are we strong enough to control it? To manage it? To turn every opportunity into gold rather than a curse that could follow us for centuries to come?
The problem with dreams is that we tend to expect the optimal and in a society where rumours spin into conspiracies; the realm of misunderstandings and abuse of power, information and resources, expands. When your main worry is about your next meal, it is normal that one wishes that the rich minerals underneath one’s feet will pay for the new livestock, house and life. Dreams separate from reality can however cause more harm than good as it creates an endless wish-list for all the things that one might be missing in life. Lack of transparency in the extractive industries causes clashes and misunderstandings between civil society, citizens, private sector and the government. Where no information is available, unfulfilled expectations and hopes can develop into severe mistrust.
Afghanistan is supposed to generate billions from its mines, yet the government is still very young and mining contracts are many. Citizens can play a large role in assuring that environmental and social fragments are not harmed by mining investment but the foundation of this role lies in trust, which is severely lacking. Citizens do not trust the government to be fair, just or honest. The government does not trust citizens to be knowledgeable, valuable or useful. Both say to have facts and few join hands.
The government expects to make billions out of the sector. Citizens expect schools, roads, clinics and employment but the true question is; how are these expectations going to be fulfilled if the most important actors in making this dream come true do not work as partners?