Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Farai MaguwuHuman Rights award winner, Farai Maguwu, Director, Centre for Research and Development in Mutare, Zimbabwe, attended the Caux Forum for Human Security between 10- 18 July - “a life-changing encounter”, as he puts it. “I came across ordinary people doing incredible work in their countries and changing the lives of people,” he said.  

The Caux Forum gave him an opportunity to meet some of the people who had played a major role in some of the uprisings that have swept across North Africa and the Middle East. “Having the opportunity to listen to the men and women from Egypt and Tunisia narrate their heroic stories was something special,” he adds.

Maguwu himself is also special in what he has accomplished. He has been awarded the Human Rights Watch’s Alison Des Forges Award for valour, for documenting the sufferings of villagers around the Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe. This led to him being imprisoned for more than a month in mid-2010. His case generated international attention and put a strong focus on the human rights violations taking place in Marange. This led to calls on the Zimbabwean Government to remove its troops from these areas.

What he experienced at Caux opened new doors in his mind. He writes:

“I left the Caux Forum with much determination to move forward the Natural Resource Dialogue Forum in Zimbabwe. This brings together Faith-Based Organisations, NGOs and Community-Based Organisations to discuss ways of making government and extractive industries account for the natural resources they extract with little if any benefit to the communities where they are located.

“Upon arrival back home I organized a meeting with the National Association of Non Governmental Organizations (NANGO) and the German Development Service (DED) to discuss the possibilities of collaboration in the Natural Resource Dialogue Forum. Both NANGO and DED promised to support the Forum and the first collaborative Forum involving NANGO will be held early September.” Maguwu now plans to expand the Natural Resource Dialogue Forum by building collaboration across Africa. 
“I also had very fruitful discussions with Africa delegates from Kenya, Uganda, Burkina Faso, DRC, Mali, Egypt and South Africa at which we agreed that it was important to establish an African Forum to push for a review of mining policies in Africa so that the poor can benefit,” he said. “At this meeting there was agreement on the importance of carrying out research to identify resource areas in Africa, evaluate the resources and engage relevant stakeholders armed with hard facts.”
Ordinary people making a difference
During his time at Caux, especially during the Forum for Human Security, Maguwu was inspired by the moving stories he heard of how ordinary people can make a huge difference in the lives of the people.
“What quickly comes to mind is the story of Yacouba Savadongo of Burkina Faso. Rather than sitting idle and crying about the fast pace of desertification, Yacouba took it upon himself to re-green the desert, hence earning himself the title, The Man Who Stopped The Desert.” Yacouba’s story teaches us that you don’t have to have lots of money to be an initiator of change.
“Rather than telling yourself that someone out there will do something, why not tell yourself that you are that someone and if you do nothing you are letting down humanity and future generations who are counting on you. I learnt that if we can all do something positive, in our limited capacities, the world will never be the same again.”
The Centre for Research and Development (CRD) does research and documentation in the extractive sector in Zimbabwe where communities are excluded from decision making and profits sharing. This has become a major source of conflict between communities living in and near resource rich areas on one side and the companies and government on the other side.
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