Session 1 - EITI globally and its impact on revenue transparency

This session covered the EITI’s impact internationally in relation to promoting transparency and accountability and increasing the revenues collected by governments. It also aimed to spark a general debate about future EITI guidelines and strategic efforts to link EITI more effectively with broader transparency and accountability initiatives.

Claude Kabemba's picture

Director of the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW)

October 3rd, 2012

This session covered the EITI’s impact internationally in relation to promoting transparency and accountability and increasing the revenues collected by governments. It also aimed to spark a general debate about future EITI guidelines and strategic efforts to link EITI more effectively with broader transparency and accountability initiatives.

Ms Clare Short, Chair of EITI, opened the session with a speech that focussed on promoting the global implementation of the EITI. She explained that the EITI was a response to the fact that many resource-rich countries also had extremely high levels of poverty – and was an attempt to make governments take responsibility for better natural resource management.

In 2006, an EITI International Board was set up with representatives from the extractive industries, governments and civil society organisations. An International Secretariat was also established with its head office in Oslo. Today the EITI has 35 implementing countries – 2/3rds of which are in Africa.

Ms Short suggested that “If all African member states could work together and collaborate within the EITI framework, they could become a real force during discussions on how certain important governance matters could be structured.” She challenged African states to combine forces so that they could secure real control over their resources. However, in order to achieve this, she stressed that African countries must apply the EITI fully so that its impact can be felt. She recognised that “in spite of progress in establishing a strong foundation, we have not yet managed to ensure transparency leading to proper utilisation of revenue.”

She pointed to the fact that the reliance on revenue from extractive industries reduces the interest that governments of resource-rich countries have in being accountable to their citizens. This is why people must maintain the pressure on governments – but in order for the pressure to bear fruit a large number of people must be informed and integrated into the movement. “The population of a country must be informed about the extent of the revenues from the extractive industries – but the people must also demand that their money is well spent,” she said.

Ms Short argued that ‘compliant’ should refer to minimum standards – and that countries needed to do more to bring about real accountability in the extractive industries.

She maintained that the EITI is a superb foundation for greater transparency and accountability. However, it is just a start. Countries must be encouraged to continue publishing reports about the extractive industries sector – and to produce reports that are comparable to the levels of transparency seen at the international level. The International Secretariat requires reports from stakeholders in the field in order to publish them internationally. These reports allow for easier exchange of experiences between countries and regions, and help to design general recommendations for the International Secretariat on how to restructure and improve the EITI.

Ms Short also suggested the need to create discussion groups to work with civil society organisations and mining companies to encourage countries to exploit their natural resources in the most rational and beneficial manner.

Discussions

1. Problem of natural resources and conflicts

Most participants thought that the EITI was limited in its application, particularly in areas of conflict, such as eastern DRC. How is it possible to promote transparency in natural resource management in conflict-affected areas? Should the EITI contribute to conflict resolution?

Ms Short believes that the EITI cannot resolve every problem and that it would be a mistake to set too many targets for the standard. However, she was clear that in the case of minerals and conflicts, the EITI does have a role to play but that this should always be complementary to the bodies mandated to keep the peace, such as MONUSCO in DRC. The UN Group of Experts has made it clear that the conflict there is fuelled by the illegal exploitation of eastern DRC’s massive natural resources and that this shows the importance of promoting the legal, transparent and accountable exploitation of resources.

2. The link between transparency and accountability

There was consensus that the EITI has promoted transparency through the publication of figures. This is an important foundation. Participants also agreed that transparency should not be an end in itself – but that it must lead to accountability. While there has been progress in terms of the publication of figures through the EITI, it has not yet led to accountability. There are still a number of institutional challenges at country level that need to be overcome to ensure that all relevant information about the extractive industries is available. However, there is a consensus that accountability has not been enhanced in most African countries and it is an area that the EITI must focus on.

Ms Short argued that the problem with many African countries lies in their inability to apply existing laws and that real change should come from within those countries. For example, Nigeria has a lot of work to do because most of its people are still not benefiting from its vast natural resources. Ms Short stressed that it was vital to keep battling to improve transparency since this would help the population to demand better natural resource governance.

3. Ownership of the EITI considering Africa’s large membership

Civil society representatives were adamant that since Africa makes up 2/3rds of the EITI membership, it should have more influence over the direction the EITI takes. They were also clear about wanting to expand the EITI across the continent but the lack of political will and solidarity at government level was limiting progress. In particular, there was a feeling that Heads of State were not genuine about adopting the initiative. And despite civil society’s enthusiasm, it lacks the capacity and financial means to push the process forward through advocacy and lobbying. The meeting suggested that foreign aid could assist African civil society organisations to strengthen their capacity.

Ms Short responded that “governments had the tendency to not want to be accountable,” which is why it is necessary for civil society to be strong enough to continue pushing to promote transparency. She added that it was necessary to find ways to influence Heads of State and pointed to the African Union’s Mining Vision as one potential way. Indeed, by using the African Mining Vision it might be possible to get Heads of State together to discuss transparency in the extractives sector. She also said that the International Secretariat would see whether it would be possible to include transparency discussions at AU Heads of State meetings but admitted that this approach could prove counter-productive if it appears as if outsiders were dictating to African countries.

Ms Short said that it would be a great day for Africa if the entire continent adopted the EITI. However, there is still a long way to go and there is a need for greater African and international solidarity to support the implementation of the EITI in candidate and compliant African countries – and to promote the expansion of the EITI to every other country on the continent.

4. Successes of the EITI

The participants all agreed that the EITI had made a lot of progress since it was launched in the region. There was an appeal for the concept of transparency to be expanded beyond revenue to include the entire value chain. Ms Short reiterated that it was necessary to speak not only about transparency of revenues but also contracts, in particular provisions regarding tax matters. There was also debate about the question of minimum standards in relation to governance – since setting a very high target might not attract other countries and investors to join the process.

About the author(s)

Claude Kabemba is the Director of the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW). In 2006, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) asked him to spearhead the formation of SARW. He holds a PhD in International Relations (Political economy) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Thesis: Democratisation and the Political Economy of a Dysfunctional State: The Case of the Democratic Republic of Congo). Before joining SARW, he worked at the Human Sciences Research Council and the Electoral institute of Southern Africa as a Chief Research Manager and Research Manager respectively. He has also worked at the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Centre for Policy Studies as Policy Analyst. Dr. Kabemba’s main areas of research interest include: Political economy of Sub Saharan Africa with focus on Southern and Central Africa looking specifically on issues of democratization and governance, natural resources governance, election politics, citizen participation, conflicts, media, political parties, civil society and social policies. He has consulted for international organizations such Oxfam, UNHCR, The Norwegian People’s Aid, Electoral Commissions and the African Union. He has undertaken various evaluations related to the work of Electoral Commissions and civil society groups interventions in the electoral process in many African countries. He is regularly approached by both local and international media for comments on political and social issues on the continent. His publication record spans from books (as editor), book chapters, journal articles, monographs, research reports, and newspaper articles.

Contacts

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