Good morning, it’s a pleasure to be here today among this distinguished group of government, corporate and civil society leaders. Together, you represent the potential and promise of the Voluntary Principles Initiative in Ghana. Just as we were thrilled to see Ghana commit to joining the VPs just over a year ago, we are now excited to see concrete steps toward its implementation. The work you’ll do today will ensure that the Voluntary Principles and the protection of Human Rights continue to gain momentum, both in Ghana and around the world.
I’d like to express our sincerest thanks to the government of Switzerland for underwriting the costs of this event. Since they joined the VPs initiative in 2011, Switzerland has been deeply involved in the ongoing development of the VPs, playing an important role in bringing Ghana into the initiative.
I’d additionally like to recognize and thank both Newmont Mining and Tullow Oil for the support they have shown. These two companies have made protecting human rights a priority in their operations in Ghana, providing us with a vivid case study on how the VPs work, and why they are so valuable, both in Ghana and around the world.
In March of 2014, when the government of Ghana made its formal decision to join the VPs, we were all very pleased… but given Ghana’s leadership in other global initiatives – from EITI to the Kimberly Process – we were not entirely surprised. Ghana has long been a regional leader in human rights, good governance, and environmental stewardship. As the first African country to join the VPs, Ghana took a brave step forward. Together with Switzerland, Australia, the UK and Canada, the U.S. has been proud to welcome them into the initiative.
The goal of today’s session is to build support for a common plan – to make compliance with the VPs a norm across Ghana. The plan will lay out a road map, guiding stakeholders in the extractives sector toward a common understanding and approach to protecting human rights. Along the way, it will improve communications between corporations, government and civil society, creating channels for addressing and solving other complex and long-standing problems. And ultimately, this plan will help other African countries to better understand how and why they too should commit to this important initiative.
In the end, Ghana’s corporations will gain a valuable new forum for collaboration across the mining and oil sectors and with government. Ghana’s civil society organizations will gain a seat at the table, and greater recognition for their contribution to the success of the industry and the communities who support it. Finally, government will enjoy the benefits of a more stable and profitable extractives sector that invites further investment and participation from the world’s most respected companies. It is an inspiring vision for the future of this sector, and for Ghana.
This happens to be my last full day in Ghana after three years of service, and I have been forever moved by the power of Ghana’s people to work together to make their country better. So I will leave Ghana with one more example of what makes this country strong. I wish you every success for your implementation planning, and congratulate you for leading the way towards strong respect for human rights, both in Ghana and around the world. Thank you.