August 2nd 2023
The recent violent gang attacks at ArcelorMittal’s mines in Liberia have shed light on a broader issue concerning the failure of engagement with local communities, reflecting a national concern. It appears that AML is seeking to continue to exploit its position by demanding 25 years of further abuse, attempting to become the sole operator of a national asset despite President Weah’s clear directive in Executive Order 112 for an Independent Operator and MultiUser approach.
In recent times, we have witnessed yet another unfortunate incident that highlights the urgent need for companies to build trust with the local communities they operate in. The violent gang attacks at ArcelorMittal’s mines in Liberia serve as a stark reminder that neglecting community relations can have grave consequences. This is not an isolated event, and it, yet again, confirms that AML has been putting its own benefit in the forefront, whilst disregarding the community of its operating areas and the Liberian nation, in general. If businesses continue to operate without genuine engagement and cooperation with local residents, similar incidents are likely to recur. In such circumstances, politicians are more inclined to listen to the concerns of their citizens, making it essential for companies to prioritize community trust.
The incident at ArcelorMittal’s mines underscores the critical importance of fostering strong relationships with local communities. When businesses take a proactive approach to understand and address the needs and aspirations of the people living in the vicinity of their operations, they can create a foundation of trust. Transparency and regular communication with the community can help dispel misunderstandings and create a platform for constructive dialogue.
The process of building trust should begin long before any operation commences. Prior to setting up business activities, companies must invest in conducting thorough assessments of the social and environmental impacts their projects may have on the local population. Engaging with community leaders, residents, and relevant stakeholders from the outset allows companies to integrate community perspectives into their decision-making processes, ensuring mutual respect and understanding.
Moreover, sustainable development initiatives must become an integral part of a company’s agenda. By investing in projects that directly benefit local communities, such as education, healthcare, and infrastructure improvements, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of those they interact with. Such efforts go a long way in cultivating goodwill and fostering a sense of partnership between companies and the community.
Listening to the concerns and grievances of the locals is fundamental. When communities raise issues, it is vital for companies to respond in a timely and compassionate manner, actively seeking solutions together. Ignoring or dismissing community concerns can lead to deepening resentment and ultimately to escalated conflicts, damaging the company’s reputation and future prospects.
Collaboration with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society groups can be beneficial as well. These organizations often act as intermediaries between the company and the community, facilitating dialogue, and helping to bridge gaps. Companies should be open to working with such organizations, recognizing their role in ensuring a fair and balanced discourse.
Furthermore, investing in skills training and local employment opportunities can empower community members, equipping them to participate meaningfully in the economic activities associated with the company’s operations. Inclusivity and a shared sense of prosperity can foster a climate of cooperation and trust.
Ultimately, politicians tend to heed the concerns of their constituents. When a company actively engages in building trust with local communities, it not only helps prevent incidents like the ones witnessed at ArcelorMittal’s mines but also garners political support. Local communities are more likely to stand by companies that demonstrate genuine commitment to their well-being.
Companies must recognize that building trust with local communities is not only a moral responsibility but also a strategic imperative. Neglecting this aspect of their operations can lead to unfortunate consequences, detrimental to both their reputation and operations.
Photo credit: LiberianObserver