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  • Nick Cuba

Ximena Warnaars from the Ford Foundation visits Clark

Updated: Sep 24, 2019

Last week we hosted Ximena Warnaars, a Program Officer in the Natural Resources and Climate Change program at the Ford Foundation, for a busy, two-day trip to Worcester. Ximena’s grant-making work at Ford focuses on resource extraction and community rights. Prior to Ford, Ximena was Director of EarthRights International (ERI) in Peru, and earned a PhD in Development Studies at the University of Manchester where she was advised by Tony Bebbington and Penny Harvey. Her doctoral research addressed how the territorial dynamics created by mining interact with preexisting territorial projects in southern Ecuador. She focused especially on small town residents’ everyday experience of the arrival of mining and the ways in which these are shaped by historical memory.

Ximena spoke in Tony’s First Year Intensive course, Development and Environment in Latin America: Difficult Questions, Creative Responses, providing an overview of the mining sector and describing how affected communities establish and exert their rights to influence or benefit from extractive development through Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). She discussed her own role in working on FPIC with communities and civil society organizations, as well as some of the ways in which the Ford Foundation does grant-making in this area. In line with the theme of the class, her presentation framed the difficult questions that surround discussions of mining as a development strategy in Latin America and then discussed ways in which communities, NGOs and bodies such as Ford and ERI have responded creatively to these challenges.

In Denise’s seminar on Mega-Development projects, Ximena spoke about her experiences working on natural resource extraction in Latin America which eventually led to her to pursue a PhD. She discussed her dissertation fieldwork which centered on community dynamics and rising socio-environmental conflict in anticipation of Ecuador's first large-scale mining project and how this work has come to inform and shape her trajectory as an activist-scholar-funder. The seminar explores the socio-political and economic dynamics that drive mega development investments across the globe.

Ximena also spoke with current masters and PhD students about her own career trajectory, from being an activist in the Ecuadorian Amazon to deciding to do graduate degrees, and from setting up the EarthRights International office in Lima to joining Ford Foundation. She discussed the personal choices involved in this journey, but believes that it has ultimately allowed her to fulfill her goal of creating new conversations about resource rights and of amplifying and speaking out on messages that may not be otherwise heard. She said that one of her career lessons, as an activist, has been the need to focus one’s efforts on the change that can be achieved, even within constraining circumstances. Another lesson for her has been the need to accept one’s own positionality, and the privileges and limitations it implies, using those opportunities to pursue one’s social change goals rather than trying to play a role that is better performed by others, in particular grassroots organizations.

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