Peter E. Aldinger, Addressing Environmental Justice Concerns in Developing Countries: Mining in Nigeria, Uganda and Ghana
Author, published in Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, Vol. 26, Issue 4.
Peter E. Aldinger is a visiting Attorney with the Environmental Law Institute, Post-Conflict Natural Resource Management program. Mr. Aldinger is the author of Addressing Environmental Justice Concerns in Developing Countries: Mining in Nigeria, Uganda and Ghana, published in GIELR Issue 26.4. The article analyzes how poor and rural communities in Nigeria, Uganda, and Ghana are — or are not — protected by law from the environmental and health effects of mining activities.
Although law review articles traditionally list an author’s professional and/or academic credentials [ed. note: see Mr. Aldinger’s full article, below] rarely do law reviews ask their authors, much less reveal to their readers, what motivated you to write this article?
We at GIELR decided to ask our authors this question and to share their responses, with the idea that this would provide our readers with a more complete, and ultimately more fulfilling, level of engagement with the articles we publish. Mr. Aldinger’s response:
Following the completion of my legal studies in London, I leveraged my previous experience in Liberia – I had previously worked on a security sector reform project over a three-and-a-half year period – to secure a law fellowship with the joint W&L Law School / Carter Center program. I was placed at the Liberian Ministry of Internal Affairs where I worked closely with the Deputy Minister of Research and Development Planning to assist him in his duties, which primarily related to local governance. Although I encountered many issues, two stood out: the first was the desperate need for a clearly defined local government structure supported by effective institutions. The second, related matter was the need for statutory protection of rural communities and the resources and ecosystems they relied upon; because of the overlapping, blurred governance structure that currently exists, which includes the dual customary-statutory legal system, there is a great deal of confusion regarding boundaries, responsibilities, and property rights.
This has negatively contributed to the current situation, whereby huge tracts of land have been awarded to concessionaires, often without the free prior and informed consent from the affected communities. Corrupt local officials have, sadly, exploited the general confusion by forging communal land deeds and selling them to these same enterprises, often without the latter being aware of the perpetrated fraud. As a result, large groups of rural people have been disenfranchised and displaced from their land, and ecosystems significantly degraded by over-logging and the growth of ‘mega plantations’ – some of which are to ultimately span over 220,000 hectares.
In response to these concerns, I decided to pursue an LL.M. as a means to develop a better understanding of environmental and natural resources law so that I could return to the field and assist in addressing some of the problems I had observed. I selected the topic of environmental justice (or environmental democracy, as it is sometimes now referred to) to write on because of what I had seen in West Africa: people were not given an adequate opportunity to participate in the decision-making processes that affected them, which led to their further impoverishment as well as environmental destruction. Although I did not see the effects of mining with my own eyes, I became aware of the rapid expansion of mineral development projects within Liberia and the continent more widely. Knowing the weak capacity of many sub-Saharan governments, I was interested in how, if at all, national laws provided the public with the means to protect themselves through a participatory process, and how they could be improved.