Reformer in exceptional times

Rajo Daniella Randriafeno kept transparency on track as the Minister of Mines after Madagascar’s coup.

This profile of the month was written by Christina Berger.

From an early age, Daniella Randriafeno has known about the tug of war when people fight over what belongs to whom. Fleshing out “who gets what” steps on many people’s sensitivities. She remembers her grandfather recounting anecdotes from his daily encounters in his position as land tenure advocate in colonial Madagascar, and she still looks up to him for his great skills in navigating the hot terrain in the grab for land – mediating interests, setting clear boundaries, and creating structure and clarity. 

Little did she know that her future would follow in these footsteps.

Nature and resource hot spot

Madagascar is known for its unique biodiversity. According to the WWF, a worldwide conservation group, 600 new species have been discovered in the past decade alone. Madagascar also has a number of minerals, including chromite, coal, bauxite and gold.

Despite this richness, the people of Madagascar are not seeing that their natural resources lead to economic development. With a mindset for change, Daniella, a trained mining geologist and former World Bank consultant, says, “I want people to see results from Madagascar’s natural resources. We must show that we are making best use of them”.

Here comes the storm

Political unrest erupted in Madagascar soon after the country achieved EITI Candidature status in 2008. Taking advantage of the massive protests, a military coup toppled the democratically elected President in March 2009. The military coup led to the country’s political isolation by the African Union, the European Union, and other international bodies. The EITI Board suspended Madagascar in October 2011. 

Governing in a non-government

During this stormy time, Daniella was appointed Minister of Mines by the transition government. While almost all of the country’s formal institutions were failing, the EITI provided a forum for effective governing. Under her leadership, Daniella united high-level officials in previous governments, intellectuals, activists and companies to join forces in reviving the EITI process after Madagascar’s suspension. She built trust with the different constituencies representing opposing interests around the table. The diverse multi-stakeholder group of Madagascar managed to prove that transparency and accountability in the extractive industries were possible. 

The EITI Madagascar continued to disclose its mining revenues during the suspension period. And it is mostly due to her tenacity that this June, Madagascar was reinstated as an EITI member following democratic elections.

Where is our share?

One major concern for this former Minister of Mines has always been the economic development of the regions affected by mining activities. Local communities see the environmental impact of the exploitation of their natural resources, but are still awaiting the economic benefit, and do not know where to direct their frustration. “Their [the local communities’] anger was often directed towards the mining companies. After the publication of the EITI Reports, people began to realise that the management of their resources is a shared responsibility between companies, the central and local governments.” 

“When people saw how much companies paid to the central government in taxes and royalties in 2010 for example, they began to ask questions about how this money is used and who is benefiting from it”, she adds. 

The EITI Report became a tool for mayors of many towns to claim a share for their community. With the publication of each EITI Report, local communities can find out how much they should be receiving from the central government – and can claim their share. It is now up to the local communities to demonstrate how the revenues will be used for sustainable development at the local level.

Running uphill

The challenges continue to be significant. The new government took office in April 2014. As a reshuffling of priorities often follows a change in power, Daniella is spending much of her energy convincing the new office holders of the importance and effectiveness of the EITI for their country. 

Madagascar’s EITI remains ambitious. For one, it has published a comprehensive workplan for 2014, which has already been an inspiration for other EITI countries. It sets out what the main areas of actions are for the year and keeps the focus on important issues. 

Working out the plan was in itself a tour de force of diplomacy and incessant convincing on why the EITI matters in Madagascar, and uniting diverging interests in the multi-stakeholder group. Daniella says, “Yes, it is ambitious – but that’s the minimum!”

As interim National Coordinator, Daniella has a clear understanding of what the EIT’s role ought to be in Madagascar. “The EITI should become a central element of all resource governance decisions in Madagascar” she says – almost impatiently. 

The verdict is still out on how successful the EITI will be under the new government. But as we know, Daniella Randriafeno is not easily deterred.

 

To learn more about the EITI Madagascar, please visit the country page on the EITI website and the national website.