Doha: Publish What You Pay (PWYP), the global civil society coalition, said today that the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) needs to redouble its efforts to protect civil society activists and ensure that civil society is an equal partner in efforts to achieve transparency in natural resource revenue management.
The EITI is an international initiative which works to ensure that revenue payments to governments around the world from oil, gas and mining companies are fully disclosed to the public, so that citizens can check how the money is managed and reduce the risk of corruption and misuse.
Without civil society, there is no EITI
Speaking at the fourth EITI Global Conference in Doha, Qatar, the PWYP International Coordinator Radhika Sarin said: “Without civil society, there is no EITI. We are concerned that civil society is not being given a fair hearing in many countries while harassment and intimidation of transparency activists have occurred all too often in others, most recently in Gabon. We are very disappointed by the news that Marc Ona, the Coordinator of PWYP Gabon, remains under a travel ban placed on him by the Gabonese authorities and is therefore unable to participate in this conference.”
Mr Ona and another member of PWYP Gabon were arrested on 31 December 2008 along with three other anti-corruption activists and journalists. They were provisionally released on 12 January 2009 but face prosecution on unfounded charges in what appears to be an attempt to intimidate and silence anti-corruption advocates.
“The EITI Chairman has expressed his concern about the arrests to Gabon’s President El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba, which is positive. But we need the EITI to adopt a clear and public zero-tolerance policy for any attempts to stop civil society groups from operating freely,” Ms Sarin said.
Christian Mounzeo, president of Rencontre pour la Paix et les Droits de l’Homme, a human rights organisation in the Republic of Congo, called on the EITI to help equip members of civil society with the tools and information they need to make the initiative work. “As local watchdogs of the EITI in our countries, we deserve better access to information and greater protection from harassment, intimidation, false accusations and reprisals as a result of our work. It is central to the credibility of the EITI’s international standing that civil society activists are able to work freely and without fear of interference or threats.”
Slow implementation of EITI is a concern, rules must be respected
PWYP fully supports the implementation of the EITI but is concerned by its slow pace in many countries. Most of the current EITI Candidate countries are due to undergo validation, a third-party check to ensure they are meeting the rules of the initiative, by March 2010. “Rules are critical for the integrity of the EITI and we need to be rigorous about applying them over the coming year as countries approach validation,” said Gavin Hayman, campaigns director of the UK-based anti-corruption watchdog Global Witness.
PWYP welcomes the news that Azerbaijan has become the first country to undergo validation and achieve EITI Compliant country status. “This is a significant milestone and shows that the EITI standard is achievable,” said Ingilab Ahmadov, director of the Public Finance Monitoring Centre in Azerbaijan. “We also welcome the establishment of a permanent Multi-Stakeholder Group in Azerbaijan, which we have sorely lacked in the past. This is a positive achievement that has been the direct result of the validation process, and we expect to see a stronger and more robust multi-stakeholder process take root over the next few months.”
In congratulating Norway on becoming the first OECD country to become an EITI Candidate, Michel Roy, international advocacy director of the French organisation Secours Catholique said: “We welcome Norway’s first steps towards implementation which should be a wake-up call to other OECD countries, including those who are EITI Board members, such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia and France, who feel that EITI is not for them. Norway recognises that its implementation of the EITI is helping to broaden ownership and interest in the initiative and we would like to see other supporting countries follow Norway’s lead.”
EITI is a start but complementary measures are needed
Heeding the alarming statistic that only 26 out of more than 50 resource-rich countries have thus far volunteered to implement the EITI, PWYP calls on the EITI and all its stakeholders to support complementary measures, such as stock market listing requirements and international accounting standards, that will strengthen and advance the agenda of resource revenue transparency.
Soon to be introduced in the United States Congress, the Extractive Industries Transparency Disclosure Act (EITDA) is proposed legislation which would require all companies registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to publish how much they pay each government for oil, gas and minerals. The EITDA would include American and foreign companies, and would apply to the vast majority of major extractive companies, including 90% of the major internationally operating oil companies.
Furthermore, the International Accounting Standard Board’s task force on extractives, has included the proposals put forward by PWYP for country-specific disclosure of extractive company payments in its deliberations and will soon be presenting its recommendations for a new financial reporting standard for extractive activities.
“No single initiative is sufficient on its own,” said Bennett Freeman, Oxfam America/Oxfam International board member. “Mandatory disclosure requirements will strengthen reporting and bring us closer to achieving a global standard for disclosure of natural resource revenues.”
PWYP also recognises the critical importance of pushing for greater transparency in licensing procedures and contractual arrangements, which are not covered through the EITI. PWYP welcomes specific efforts to make the EITI more relevant and significant within national and regional contexts, such as the application of the EITI principles to resources like timber and fisheries, and to the transport of hydrocarbons.
“The EITI is entering a crucial period, during which the validation process will be under great scrutiny. Civil society should be allowed to play its rightful part, from commitment through to full implementation,” Ms Sarin said. “Natural resource revenue transparency, achieved through a combination of voluntary and mandatory measures, is key to achieving poverty reduction, economic growth and development. PWYP calls on all stakeholders to support this multi-faceted approach.”
Notes to Editors:
Publish What You Pay (PWYP) is a global civil society coalition that campaigns for transparency in the payment, receipt and management of revenues from the oil, gas and mining industries.
Joseph Williams, Information and Advocacy Officer
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