EITI: civil society and rumpus in Lima
27 February 2016
Judging from this week’s UK press coverage of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Conference – held in Lima – readers would have thought discussions were mainly dominated by the brouhaha caused by the selections process of candidates on to the EITI Board (see for example The Economist http://www.economist.com/news/business/21693596-tensions-run-high-international-transparency-initiative-flare-up ).This resulted in NGO representatives walking out from the EITI board meeting. Whilst internal governance issues urgently need addressing there are other substantive policy issues that deserve further discussion.
The EITI was founded in 2003 with a mandate to improve transparency in the extractives sector by making information about government revenues received from extractive industries and the payments made by companies to governments more transparent. Today it is an organisation with 49 members committed to implementing the EITI standards.
Peru attained EITI-compliant status in 2012 after overhauling its tax system and adopting a programme of fiscal, environmental and social reform in order to achieve compliance. One of the most important changes introduced was to disclose company payments made to both central and local governments and to use these resource revenues to positively influence local development.
In spite of these advances, Peru in common with other resource-rich countries faces significant challenges in managing its natural resource wealth more effectively. As the voice of civil society grows ever stronger, so does the demand for ensuring that the benefits of natural resource revenues are shared more widely and fairly.
Such demands go beyond the present remit of the EITI. Evidently transparency in revenues alone will not bring about social justice and environmental sustainability, nor will it guarantee the sound management of extractive resources. It can however be an effective tool for changing the decisions and actions of policy makers if civil society is free to operate and the voices of the vulnerable and marginalised are meaningfully included in development decisions which affect them.
As pointed out by Prof. Anthony Bebbington during the EITI side event (which was jointly organised by Propuesta Ciudadana, Publish What You Pay, Oxfam, PSG), faced with an increasingly hostile environment, civil society solidarity and protection is more important than ever.
The PSG will shortly provide its own set of opinion pieces, somewhat different in tone and content than the view expressed by The Economist, from the 2016 EITI Conference. Keep an eye on our website for further information, including Bebbington’s report from the EITI side event ‘Participation is power – How protecting citizens’ voices will deliver real results in natural resource governance’.