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Join our online course on natural resources for sustainable development

Jeffrey Sachs's picture
Follow #ExtractivesMOOC on Twitter for more information
Register for the e-course at
Mineral and energy resources have repeatedly transformed the world economy and society. In fact, mineral and energy sources have defined the very epochs of human history, from the Copper Age to the Bronze Age, from the Iron Age to the Age of Coal, and in the 20th century, to the Age of Oil. Yet every one of these transitions has been tumultuous. 
Managing these extractive industries lies at the core of managing the world economy. And these days, the challenges are greater than ever. Minerals and energy sources are keys to success and failure of economic development in many countries around the world; the proper management of this sector is critical to the social inclusion of communities around the world that are near to mining sites; and the proper management of the industry is of course essential for environmental sustainability. 
A new massive open online course (MOOC) launching February 1 takes up the extractive sector in all its complexity: economics, law, social inclusion, environmental sustainability, and yes, geopolitics. We analyze how the extractive industries, if properly managed, can be a positive force for sustainable development, rather than a source of instability and inequality.
The MOOC is available worldwide, for free, to students, experts, and interested citizens alike. The course was developed by the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment and the Natural Resource Governance Institute, in partnership with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and with support from the World Bank Group. Those interested can register here
The potential benefits, but also real risks of extractive-industry investment, are now widely recognized by the industry, host countries, academic experts, and civil society. Investments in extractive industries can contribute significantly to sustainable development, through the transfer of capital and technology, linkages with local industries, infrastructure development, and capacity building.
Yet the challenges of harnessing natural resources for sustainable development are great.

Image by Natural Resource Governance Institute
First, the resources in question are finite, putting a premium not only on robust and prudent management of the sector but also on the need for an inter-temporal strategy for spreading the benefits among multiple generations.
Second, there is the real risk of a “resource curse,” both economically and politically. Economically, a mismanaged extractive sector can squeeze out long-term innovation and lead to high macroeconomic volatility. Politically, the resource can be a source of conflict, even open war. The MOOC therefore delves into the challenge of achieving the “resource dividend” rather than the “resource curse.” 
Third, a large extractive sector can create or exacerbate inequalities of income and social exclusion, particularly among vulnerable groups affected by mining operations including indigenous communities and women. 
Fourth, both the extraction and use of minerals and energy can create massive environmental harms, by degrading landscapes, coastlines, riverbeds, and community lands ravaged by mining operations and oil rigs, including toxic spills, air and water pollution, and massive deforestation, as well as the dire threats of human-induced climate change from the combustion of fossil fuels.   
The guiding questions behind this online course are:
How can extractive industry investments be leveraged for sustainable and equitable development, particularly in low-income resource-rich countries?
How can the challenges of poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability, and governance be addressed in an integrated, multi-stakeholder framework for the extractive sector? 
What are the key roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in ensuring mutual accountability, effective collaboration, and shared benefits of the extractive sector?

The course describes the inter-related challenges of governance (laws and contracts, policy and planning frameworks, sound resource management, effective institutions), infrastructure (arrangements for shared platforms, corridor development), economic diversification (industrial policy, training, local procurement), environmental management (climate change resilience and adaptation, avoidance and management of catastrophic environmental events), and economic development (community engagement, investing in development).
We are thankful for the very high interest in this crucial topic. We welcome you as our new students. Enjoy the class!  And share your feedback with us.  

Follow #ExtractivesMOOC on Twitter. 




Submitted by Surendera M. Bhanot on

Thanks for your fb notification regarding this online course of "Natural Resources for sustainable development". I am from India and I am very much perturbed by the manner the natural resources of the country are unmindfully exploited by the corrupt and greedy politico-corporate lobby; and that these are so quickly been siphoned off, that we will be at the brink of some major disaster soon. I am lucky to know about this course and would like to participate in to learn more to see ho we can save those natural resources and use the same for the welfare of the people in a very sustainable manner. I am a RTI Activist and Human Right Defender.

Submitted by Daniel Johnson on

Giving away more of Africa's resources to parasitic western companies is just more of the same tactic that created Africa's poverty to begin with.
Africa doesn't need western 'investment' or 'aid'. Africans need to take back what is rightfully their's by any means necessary.
Not a single square inch of African soil, not a single spec of Africa's gold or diamonds belongs to western companies or their 'investors'.
Africa isn't poor, Africa is being looted at gun point by western governments, with help from the UN and propagandists like Jeffrey Sachs.

The governments are bullied or bribed taking out foreign loans to implement a western-presented development plan, with the result being sufficient tax revenues from economic development to service the foreign loan.
Seldom, if ever, does this happen. What happens is that the plan results in the country becoming indebted to the limit and beyond of its foreign currency earnings. When the country is unable to service the development loan, the creditors send the IMF to tell the indebted government that the IMF will protect the government’s credit rating by lending it the money to pay its bank creditors. However, the conditions are that the government take necessary austerity measures so that the government can repay the IMF. These measures are to curtail public services and the government sector, reduce public pensions, and sell national resources to foreigners. The money saved by reduced social benefits and raised by selling off the country’s assets to foreigners serves to repay the IMF.
This is the way the West has historically looted Third World countries. If a country’s president is reluctant to enter into such a deal, he is simply paid bribes, as the Greek governments were, to go along with the looting of the country the president pretends to represent.
When this method of looting became exhausted, the West bought up agricultural lands and pushed a policy on Third World countries of abandoning food self-sufficiency and producing one or two crops for export earnings. This policy makes Third World populations dependent on food imports from the West. Typically the export earnings are drained off by corrupt governments or by foreign purchasers who pay little while the foreigners selling food charge much. Thus, self-sufficiency is transformed into indebtedness.

Submitted by Elanthendral on

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Submitted by haeini on

Thanks for your details and explanations..I want more information from your side..I Am working in Distributor Aquafina In Chennai.

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