In democracies, governments, Medias and citizens trough the parliament, the NGOs and social networks have a say in the way the country’s wealth is being managed and exploited. The process of transparency between these three spheres involves a real communication about the governance of the resources and a facilitated access to data.
In a capitalist socio-economic context, the activity and revenues of private sector should now be more visible and easily scrutinized than they ever were in the past. A public auditing of companies followed by a larger dissemination of the results would certainly reinforce the principles of accountability and social responsibility in the society. Some specialized organizations take on the mission to bring together in this approach, all the concerned parties and to make the relevant information accessible from many to many.
EITI is one of these bodies. It targets countries with oil, gas and mining industries and has the objective to unveil the results related to these sectors with the ambition to see them in real “on the ground”.
More details about this initiative in this interview.
How has EITI emerged?
In the late 1990s, several academics such as Jeffrey Sachs, Joseph Stiglitz, Terry Lynn Karl and Paul Collier published research on what was becoming known as the “Resource Curse” or “Paradox of Plenty”. At the same time, journalists identified many stories of rife corruption, conflict and mismanagement within countries’ extractives sectors. The problem went beyond the well-known “Dutch Disease”, the economic phenomenon where natural resource wealth makes other export sectors uncompetitive. Other common effects included the capturing of the revenues by elites, the stunting of the development of tax systems and rising tensions in communities.
The idea of the EITI followed campaigning by Global Witness, other civil society organisations and people like George Soros, increasingly under the campaign name of “Publish What You Pay”. The idea of an “Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative” (EITI) was launched on the global stage in September 2002 by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.
Following this, the UK Department for International Development convened a meeting of civil society, company and government representatives. An agreement emerged that some kind of reporting standard should jointly be developed, summed up in the 12 EITI Principles at the first EITI Conference in 2003. By the time of the 3rd Global Conference in Oslo in October 2006, a small group of countries had chosen to start applying these principles and being transparent about government revenues from their natural resources. At this conference, the stakeholders agreed that the EITI should have its own governance structure, a Board, and a Secretariat. The International Secretariat was established in Oslo in September 2007.
Since 2007, the EITI evolved rapidly. By November 2012, 37 countries were implementing what is now known as the “EITI Standard” with 16 of these recognised as “EITI Compliant”. Australia had begun to pilot EITI implementation in some of its provinces and Colombia, Ukraine and the United States had started preparation to implement.
70 major oil, gas and mining companies have to date expressed their support for the EITI Principles. Countries have disclosed their revenues in over 100 EITI reports, which covered a total of over US$700 billion.
How do you implement the EITI measures in a country? Is it you who solicit gorvenments or is it the other way around?
It is entirely up to governments themselves to decide if they want to follow the EITI Standard. Citizens of this social media age expect their government to be open and transparent. Governments in many countries are committing to transparency as a consequence of citizens’ expectations, but they are also realising that transparency makes governing easier and that it improves the investment climate for business.
Right now, several governments – in Myanmar, Tunisia, Libya, the United States, to name a few – have expressed an interest in following the EITI. We at the EITI International Secretariat work together with many other partner organisations to support and advise how the EITI could be implemented in their countries.
What is the part of each stakeholder in this process of transparency and accountability?
The EITI standard is implemented by governments, but it requires that civil society and business work together with the government oversee the whole process. It is by bringing all stakeholders to the table and working together that EITI has been able to make rapid progress towards more transparency around revenues from natural resources.
How do EITI communicate it results to the largest public? Do you involve Medias?
While transparency in itself is good, just publishing the numbers does not lead to accountability. To achieve accountability, awareness and debate about the findings are needed. This is why EITI places so high importance on that civil society must be active participants in the whole process, and that governments need to go out of their way to communicate the findings from the revenue figures that are disclosed. Nigeria’s EITI, for example, is right now playing an active role in how Nigeria should improve their highly-corrupt management of their oil. A free and lively media is necessary for EITI to work and for transparency to lead to change. Yet, countries are facing the challenge of communicating the often-technical findings from the EITI into understandable facts that media can report.
I could also add that each country has their own EITI website, where citizens and media can access all the data directly. We at the international EITI Secretariat also host all the data on our own website, at www.eiti.org, where you can view and compare all the data from the 37 implementing EITI countries.
What about 2012 results? What countries are doing good? what are the new countries that will collaborate with you for 2013?
In this year we have seen a clear increase in the number of countries that have started to disclose their revenue figures in EITI Reports. We reached EITI Report number 100 a few weeks ago.
We now have 18 countries that are recognised as Compliant with the EITI standard, meaning that they have a functioning process to regularly disclose the revenues.
Colombia, Sao Tome and Principe, Ukraine have become accepted as EITI Candidate countries and will start disclosing their data. Countries like the United States, Australia, Tajikistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Tunisia have all made notable steps towards following the EITI standard. President Obama announced their EITI implementation one year ago, and Australia is currently running a pilot.
Norway is one of the countries meeting all requirements in the EITI standard, tell us more about this? Who are your interlocutors and partners?
Norway has been a key supporter of the global efforts to improve transparency of natural resource revenues. Even before Norway’s support of the EITI, the country was seen as a global leader in transparency and good management of natural resources. That is why it was so important that the Norwegian government decided to implement the EITI standard themselves. By “practicing what they preach”, Norway has shown that even countries that are transparent about their natural resources should hold themselves to the global standard – and that this can be done at a low cost. Norway’s implementation of the EITI is no doubt a key reason many other countries have chosen to be transparent about government revenues from natural resources. Involved in the Norwegian EITI group are representatives from Transparency International, Publish What You Pay, The labour movement and the University of Oslo, in addition to companies and government ministries.