CIVICUS points to lack of civic space in EITI countries
27 August 2017
CIVICUS, an international civil society organization, has just published a report analysing the latest trends of the state of civic space in all EITI (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative) member countries. The EITI is a global standard aimed at promoting transparency and better practices in the management of oil, gas and mineral resources.
The analysis takes its data from the CIVICUS Monitor. Launched earlier this year, this is a remarkable tool that aims to provide up-to-date information on the state of civic society space around the world. It is based on how well countries respect the three fundamental freedoms underpinning the good-functioning of civil society: freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. It classifies countries as having open, narrowed, obstructed, repressed or closed civic space.
Particularly interesting is the analysis of the state of civic space in resource-rich countries that have signed up to EITI principles. One of EITI’s key characteristics is that it is a multi-stakeholder mechanism, in which civil society is considered essential in ensuring proper accountability. Of the 51 EITI countries seven are in the Americas. According to the report, when compared to all 195 countries worldwide, the prevalence of open civic space among EITI countries is significantly lower (6% vs. 14%), even though many leading oil and mineral producing countries where civic space is considered ‘closed’, ‘repressed’ or ‘obstructed’ are not currently EITI members. But nearly half the countries in the world that have obstructed civic space are EITI members.
Peru is one of the 24 countries classified as ‘obstructed’, meaning that there are serious restrictions to civic space, with “a combination of legal and practical constraints on the full enjoyment of fundamental rights”. These include excessive force used in response to protests, bureaucratic harassment and demeaning public statements. Detention and criminalisation of activists and protesters are also commonplace.
The report examines the drivers of such restrictions as well as the main methods used to constrain civic space. Its analysis examines the period between June 2016 and May 2017. It shows that civic space freedoms were most frequently violated through, among other factors, “the detention of human rights defenders and protesters, the use of excessive force against protests and the prevention or disruption of protests, and attacks on journalists and censorship of the media”.
Peru is mentioned in some instances, for example, during the October 2016 protests against the giant Las Bambas copper mining project, when one person died and 20 others were injured. It also mentions the killing of radio host Hernán Choquepata Ordoñez, shot in November 2016 during a live broadcast in Arequipa in which listeners registered complaints and criticised the authorities. Choquepata had previously received death threats, but these had not been heeded by the authorities.
The report stresses that, although it did not limit its scope to the impact of extractive industries on civic space, it is evident that “a growing area of civil society concern is with the connections between civic space restriction and natural resource extraction, and the extent to which backlashes come in response to civil society’s demands for transparency in the extractive sector”. It also underlines the importance of civil society participation in the EITI process since it is key to framing the way in which EITI implementation process reflects local circumstances.
CIVICUS ends with a series of recommendations on the workings of the EITI itself (shortened from the original). These include:
Enhancing the requirements for multi-stakeholder engagement and ensuring that civil society organisations (CSOs) enjoy the “full, free, active and effective engagement” within country-level multi-stakeholder groups.
Ensuring that all member governments engage fully and meaningfully with CSOs;
Applying existing requirements more strictly and consistently.
Promoting timely validation procedures against EITI standards for all those countries in which civic space is seriously restricted.
Prescribing corrective actions to governments of countries with serious civic space restrictions and close monitoring of their progress in implementing recommendations.
Applying credible sanctions, including suspension, against countries failing to make discernible progress in upholding fundamental civil society rights.