The Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) works to empower those that have been worst affected by the activities of extractive industries, helping to get a better deal. SDN is piloting its approach in the Niger Delta, working with local communities and civil society groups. The Niger Delta is a prime example of the resource curse. The paradox of the detla is the existence of acute poverty in the midst of plenty. Although billions of dollars of oil wealth flow from the region every year, the majority of communities live on less than $1 a day.
SDN believes little is being done to improve the lives of the millions of people of the Niger Delta while corruption thrives at all levels of government. Some have chosen violence to fight this injustice,focusing the world's attention on the Niger Delta. SDN supports those that have chosen non-violence to collectivise their bargaining power in order to prove that peaceful action, based on sound ideas, is the best chance for a prosperous and stable Niger Delta.
SDN sees poor governance as the root of the problems in the Niger Delta. Military rulers amassed personal fortunes from the Delta's oil revenues for many years, paying little attention to the region's development and its impoverished population. The transition from military to civilian rule in 1999 has not resulted in an improvement of the lives of the population in the Niger Delta.
The legacy of military rule and the personalisation of politics in the Niger Delta is not a conducive environment for a strong and independent civil society. SDN believes that civil society actors are the key to reversing the current trend of violence and poor governance. Within the Niger Delta civil society capacity is weak reliant on a few champions of the people. Civil society activities are often small scale, confined to specific areas, generally under-funded and disparate. However, civil society groups have a real drive and determination to make a positive difference to the Niger Delta. They have local knowledge on how to best deal with the mounting local problems, are passionate about their mission in the Niger Delta society and determined to continue their work despite many obstacles of different natures.
Communities know what they want. SDN's role is to support them to attain their needs. They do not provide direct development assistance for infrastructural projects or give direct aid but we empower communities and build their capacity to identify, lobby for and implement projects that address their key needs.
Only civil society actors can reverse the current violent trends in the Niger Delta society. The positive elements in the Niger Delta, community groups and civil society actors, must be supported and empowered to make stronger and clearer grassroots interventions. Non-violent actors should be able to take the lead of the peace agenda and become a force for transformative change.
SDN supports their efforts at the creation of a holistic civil society driven agenda for the non-violent resolution to the growing conflict in the Niger Delta.