CEO, Cassie Doyle discusses the challenges and opportunities ahead for CIRDI and how her professional and volunteer career in the public service and the NGO sector has prepared her to take the Institute to the next level.
CIRDI’s mandate was a big draw. It is as a way for me to further two important ideals in my life – international development and sustainable development. I believe that CIRDI’s focus on governance is right and it’s an area where Canada has lots to offer. CIRDI’s partnership approach also appeals to me – I like that any support the Institute offers is as a result of collaboration with the government of a developing country. All in, this job aligns well with my values and it is an opportunity to hone the strategic focus of a new and important organization.
I feel like all my life’s work has prepared me for this role at CIRDI. I have worked at the nexus of the environment and natural resource development for the past 20 years. In all sorts of situations I have worked to frame and develop interventions to achieve the best balance of social, economic and environmental outcomes. I think this hands-on experience in Canada, developing governance tools related to natural resources and the environment, prepares me well to work with other governments.
Importance of engagement
My experience in environmental management with the province of British Columbia taught me the importance of well-designed, meaningful engagement. I gained an understanding and deep respect for the rights of First Nations related to their traditional lands. I know how divisive issues around resource development can be – and I have seen first-hand how parties with divergent interests can come together and reach agreement.
Board work at Oxfam – social justice approach
I also bring a background in international development. Just out of university, I spent time as a volunteer with Canadian Crossroads in rural India. That sparked a big interest in development, which led to a long volunteer commitment to Oxfam Canada. My time on the board of Oxfam was enormously influential. It taught me about the politics and systems that influence development and it grounded me in a social justice approach to working with development partners.
Power of change influenced by technology
Lastly, having worked recently in the Silicon Valley, I am inspired by how our world is being transformed by innovation and technology. I came away from San Francisco feeling the power of change catalyzed by technology and software. I am convinced that the populist tools enabled by the computer revolution will ultimately strengthen global democracy and governance. I bring that consciousness and a commitment to innovation to my new job.
CIRDI’S main challenge is its very broad mandate. In order to realize impact in these early years of the Institute, we need to concentrate our partnerships and to focus our programming in a few priority countries or geographic areas.
A wealth of experience to share
That said, there is tremendous potential. Canada is rich in natural resource knowledge and strong systems of governance. We don’t always get it right but we do learn from our mistakes and we have a wealth of experience to share. From our scientists to our community activists, we in Canada have learned much about how to develop resources in a beneficial way.
Many wise voices
There’s lots of opportunity to offer the lessons of Canada to other countries as they work through the same issues. But there are many wise voices in this conversation; we will continue to learn as we go and to encourage dialogue and shared learning among all our partners.
I understand that mining in developing countries is a charged issue – and for good reason, given some of the high-risk projects that have been built in the past. This is the very reason for an organization like CIRDI to exist. I believe that strong governance is the best protection against poorly executed mining projects – that includes the whole process from permitting to ongoing reporting and inspections. Our developing-country partners want to strengthen their own capacity to secure the highest level of sustainable benefits from their extractive industries for their citizens. I think CIRDI’s work can offer a protection against the pitfalls of weak resource development, so that governments can mitigate the risks associated with mining, in order to realize the social and economic benefits.
I would never apologize for being too close to government as my career has provided me with an amazing opportunity to contribute to the most important issues of our day. Governments play a unique role in a democracy. They lead the important work of setting the right conditions in a country or province for the greater good. I’ve had the privilege of working at the deputy minister level under all three major political parties in Canada and that’s taught me a lot about the real complexity of advancing a broad public interest agenda. To me, that means crafting a path that achieves benefits in each of the three pillars of sustainability – social, environmental and economic.
I think the most creative work happens when divergent interests gather around the same table to hammer out an acceptable outcome. Governments often do the convening to make this happen. This is also a role CIRDI can play. I look forward to contributing my experience as a collaborator and a convener working for the greater good.
I think CIRDI’s goal of becoming self-sustaining is best advanced through active engagement with a range of strategic partners. We need to structure our work in a way that delivers real value. I bring a broad network to CIRDI and will actively reach out to a variety of constituencies in the development and natural resources worlds to work on approaches that build a diverse base of support.
I know that there has been criticism of the establishment of CIRDI at UBC and its governance by the coalition of three universities. First off I think that it wouldn’t be an initiative related to natural resources if there wasn’t some debate and opposition. And I think it’s healthy to have this kind of scrutiny. That’s the fundamental value of an open democratic society like the one we enjoy in Canada. I look forward to engaging with the Institute’s critics.
Secondly, I believe that the coalition of universities that established CIRDI brings a real depth of expertise to work on international development and mining. For instance, in an area like artisanal and small-scale mining, we offer leading expertise on how to organize and formalize these activities to the benefit of the miners and surrounding environment.
This is a really important question and one worthy of serious consideration. I’m a pragmatist and so would say that metals and minerals underpin our entire way of living, from our computers to our high-rise buildings to our bikes.
Recognize impact of full life cycle
Given that reality, it’s critical that we continue to find ways to ensure the most sustainable way of extracting and using non-renewable resources – and to recognize the impact of the full life cycle of how resources are produced.
Technological advances and exacting standards
We need more technological advances and exacting standards on how to permit and monitor resource extraction operations. That said, we’ve made progress – just look back at some of the old mines that we have in this country and you’ll see that we have made improvements in the way newer mines are developed. There have been major innovations introduced to improve worker safety and reduce environmental impact.
Ripple effect of benefits
As we work to diminish negative side effects of resource extraction, we also need to foster a ripple effect of positive benefits through local procurement, training and capacity building to establish effective governance and policy frameworks.
Another part of the equation is resource productivity – using and re-using resources as efficiently as possible to avoid waste. We see this approach at play with a valuable metal like copper – today the world uses more recycled copper on an annual basis than that derived from extraction. And just as we are learning to do with our forests, our fish and our water, we need to be more conscious of how we consume non-renewable mineral resources.