Tuesday, July 3, 2018

An IAPG report from the
FORAM 18 pilot event

David Ovadia
(IAPG-UK coordinator)
David Ovadia (coordinator of IAPG-United Kingdom) recently represented IAPG at the FORAM 18 pilot event (Nancy, France, 27 June 2018). FORAM, whose full title is "Towards a World Forum on Raw Materials" is a Horizon 2020 project funded by the European Commission. The main objective of FORAM is to develop a platform of international experts and stakeholders who will together help to improve international cooperation on raw materials and investments worldwide. By closely working with the relevant stakeholders in industry, European and international organisations, governments, academia and civil society, the project is contributing to consolidate the efforts of a more joint and coherent approach towards raw materials policies. FORAM seeks to engage the international stakeholders coming from different sectors of the value chain of the raw materials into a dialogue, so that experiences will be shared and understanding of all aspects of raw materials will be increased. FORAM is led by World Resources Forum Association and coordinated by 11 other international organizations. More information is available on the project’s website (http://www.foramproject.net/)
To achieve this goal, the FORAM project has reviewed and mapped the activities of existing national and international initiatives, programmes and policy documents (to see the results of the mapping, please visit: http://www.foramproject.net/index.php/geo-map-and-results/). In parallel, the project has set up a Stakeholder Network composed of more than 170 experts from relevant organizations, coming from G20 and other countries active in the non-energy abiotic raw materials sector.
The FORAM project has set itself ambitious goals that are still in their early stages of being delivered. Some of these goals will require a greater absorption of the underlying principles of geoethics and in turn will contribute to them. Examples include recommending policies that minimise mining's negative environmental and social legacies, and a greater sharing between public and industry bodies of data and geo-information, both for reasons of cost savings and to ensure maintenance of quality. There was an interesting discussion on the use of blockchain technology as applied to geo-data, although this concept was somewhat light on detail.
Most, if not all, of the 100 or so invited attendees accepted that the extractive sectors are essential to modern society but more must be done to 'clean up' the process, in every sense of the term – in other words there should be a raising of ethical standards. The debate on how this could be achieved remains on-going, as it was pointed out that even if the European Union adopts stricter policies in these areas, these would only apply to EU anchored activities, leaving much of the sector outside such controls. It is open to organisations such as the United Nations (UN) to endorse and even require higher standards in the sector, but such a position is far from imminent, if at all, and could be seen as shifting the mining industry towards becoming a global utility, in which much of the risk would inevitably be moved from private investors to the taxpayer, and hence it is likely to be politically controversial.
Overall, the FORAM project is seen as an important flag bearer for geoethics, although its ability to deliver any actual changes, within the constraints of being a time-limited EU research project, is not clear. The dialogue between IAPG and FORAM has begun, and will be carried forwards with input from the members of both organisations.

FORAM 18 pilot event website: http://www.foramproject.net/index.php/pilot-event/

IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics: