Thursday, October 27, 2011

Denver Law Environmental and Natural Resources Program International Student Profile: Dela Obeng-Sakyi (Ghana)

Our next international student interview features Dela Obeng-Sakyi, an extremely accomplished lawyer from Ghana.

1. Where are you originally from? And where did you grow up? Tell us about your home city or region.

I am from Ghana, a West African country. I spent my childhood in Togo, a French-speaking country also in West Africa. I however went to High School and University in Ghana. I live in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Accra is a city bursting with commercial activity. There are many corporate and financial institutions, universities, hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, “open-air” markets, shops and beaches. It is the most developed city in Ghana. The people are warm, friendly and place a lot of emphasis on politeness and hospitality.

2. What is your educational background? When and where did you attend school and university?

I attended preschool and primary school at Ecole Francaise in Togo from 1979 to 1986. From 1987 to 1994 I attended High School in a girl’s boarding school called Wesley Girls High School in Cape Coast, one of the regions in Ghana. From 1996 to 1999 I read law at the University of Ghana, Legon and attended the Ghana Law School from 1999 to 2001.

3. What experiences have you had, thus far in your career, in terms of addressing environmental or natural resources issues?

I work with a regulatory agency, which monitors the operations of mining companies. I have visited communities located near mining concessions and seen the benefits and adverse effects that mining has had on those communities. Fortunately, I had the opportunity of being part of a team that reviewed the draft mining regulations that encompass most issues related to mining in Ghana. I therefore had a more practical and realistic view of what the real issues are. Although the regulations may not provide for every situation, I believe it is a good start and amendments can be made in the future.

4. What are the key environmental and natural resources issues in your home country?

The main environmental and natural resources issues facing Ghana are:

i) the pollution of rivers, streams, lakes from mining activities from both legal and illegal mining operations,

ii) flooding of most cities during the rainy season,

iii) deforestation from illegal timber logging, and

iv) smog, dust and toxic chemicals emanating from industrial operations.

5. You have chosen to study at Denver Law. Why did you make this choice and what are you hoping to learn and experience while you are here?

DU comes highly recommended from professionals in the mining industry. Since I am currently working in that industry, I believe that studying at DU would broaden my mind on environmental and natural resources laws of various countries as well as issues that other countries face. I am hoping that in gaining that knowledge, it would help me better understand the environment issues facing Ghana and hopefully give me ideas as to how to help the regulatory agency I work with address those issues.

Since I have been here I have met other students from other countries and I am hoping to learn more about their customs, culture, traditions as well as the environmental and mining laws that the countries endowed with mineral resources have.

6. What is your personal philosophy or point of view in terms of the relationship of the environment and natural resources?

I believe that the exploitation of natural resources is important for the development of countries endowed with those resources as well as the world as whole. However exploitation can have adverse effects on the environment as well as affected communities if not well done and monitored. It is therefore important to set up laws, regulations and guidelines to ensure efficient exploitation of mineral resources with as little adverse effect on the environment as possible.

7.Tell us something you would like us to know about your country.

Ghana is changing the face of Africa. There is political stability, economic growth, absence of civil strife, a good educational system and most recently the discovery of oil. Although Ghana has a central government, there are chiefs/kings who exercise some amount of authority over and represent the interests of a diversity of ethnic groups.

8. What is something about you that most people don't know about (for example, do you have an unusual hobby or have perhaps have had an unusual experience in your life)?

I am a conservative, quiet but friendly person. I would love to learn belly-dancing and perform before an audience.

9. Who are your professional role models?

Kojo Bentsi-Enchill, a lawyer and partner of the biggest and one of the leading firms in Ghana. He is a visionary and an upright person. I had the privilege of working for him for six (6) years and I think he is the most intelligent, astute yet humble and simple person I have ever met.

10. What are your plans after completion of your degree?

I intend to go back to my country and use the knowledge I have acquired from this program to help the regulatory agency I work for, regulate and manage the mining industry in a more efficient and practical manner.

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