This study evaluates the effectiveness of multi-stakeholder forums in Western Uganda’s oil and gas sector in improving development outcomes for local communities in the Albertine Graben region. The forums function as an avenue to explain the community members the key junctures in the planning cycle of oil companies; their rights and how to exercise them; encourage them to formulate discussion priorities when engaging with oil companies and the government; and help them understand reasonable expectations from this process. This randomised controlled trial, conducted in 107 project villages, evaluates whether this multi-stakeholder engagement improves transparency and accountability in Uganda.
Communities living near the petroleum exploration and early production phases in the Albertine Graben region of Uganda (which will involve construction of central processing facilities, a refinery and pipelines throughout the region) have a number of concerns. These include restricted access to information, limited opportunities to communicate with key public and private sector decision-makers, displacement, inadequate or delayed compensation, pollution, elite capture of communal resources and potential new economic opportunities. Further, women are at higher social, economic and environmental risks in the extractives context, and their ability to demand transparency and accountability could be different. This study evaluates the effectiveness of these forums in addressing the community concerns described above, and increasing the demand for more transparency and accountability, and the differential impact on men and women.
The study evaluates whether the multi-stakeholder engagement:
- stimulates political knowledge, encourages respondents to pursue more information, enhances awareness about local issues and promotes better decision-making;
- improves land management;
- provides better satisfaction with handling of issues deemed important by the community; and
- leads to better civic participation.
Both treatment and control groups received an information package, and a compilation of question and answers that provided necessary information about oil extraction and revenue in Uganda. The treatment group received multi-stakeholder forums convened by each village chairperson and facilitated interaction with local / provincial authorities and private sector players. At least one meeting was convened in the treatment area.
Theory of change
Access to information is expected to lead to better understanding of the oil sector in the region and the multi-stakeholder forums to increase the probability that community interests are voiced and addressed. The forums create an opportunity for face-to-face interaction with various key stakeholders, make commitments and help the community participants develop a mechanism to follow-up on commitments made by decision-makers in the forums. Possibilities of clear commitment and better follow-up are expected to lead to improved accountability.
The research design is a pre-post one with village-clustered random assignment to treatment and control groups. The difference-in-difference estimator was used to estimate treatment effects. Treatment assignment was randomised at the village level and blocked at the district level. Approximately half of the communities within each district were in the treatment (52 villages) and control (55 villages) groups. The intervention took place in the summer of 2017.
The study shows that the forums have helped increase respondents’ inclination to pursue information about oil development, and trust and interaction with key decision-makers. The study also shows that the communities use civic activities measured by community members’ participation in village meetings and oil sector meetings to better address their oil development concerns and demand accountability from oil-sector decision-makers. However, increases in transparency and the demand for accountability does not appear to have translated into meaningful change in policy outcomes related to land management, social services and local economic development in the short to medium term.
The study did not find any significant differential impact on men and women in any of the key outcomes considered. This may be due to the fact that the intervention did not address practical and strategic gender needs and interests. Further, women representation in the forums were less than expected (20 per cent as against the intended 50 per cent) as forums had to include the elected member of the Local Council (LC1) from the treatment villages who tended to be male.
One of the key recommendations of the study for the government is to more actively engage with communities, companies and various government players to prepare the community for the opportunities and impacts that the petroleum sector could bring, and inform communities of their rights, roles and responsibilities in the sector. This study provides evidence that multi-stakeholder forums could help facilitate this process.