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In Brief

Photo credit: PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE, available from Flickr under a Creative Commons license

  • On November 4th – 6th NRGI organised a workshop, in collaboration with PWYP and FTDES, in resource-rich southern Tunisia, to improve the knowledge of civil society actors on EITI and extractive issues.
  • How can Open Data support the Publish What You Pay campaign? Check out this blog from School of Data about PWYP Indonesia’s work.
  • Global Witness is looking for an Executive Director! Do you think you’re up to the task?

OpenOil and PWYP Canada launch a global repository of oil contracts

OpenOil and its partners on Monday launched the world's first comprehensive archive of oil contracts. Some 385 host government contracts from 54 countries are now available with one click. The repository includes contracts which govern oil production in many countries where disclosure has largely been unknown, such as Algeria, Angola, Chad, China, Egypt, India, Israel, Kazakhstan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Ukraine and Yemen. All contracts had previously been put in public domain but were scattered across scores of websites and buried in corporate filings. PWYP Canada outlined how corporate disclosures were mined in a release announcing the project's joint findings.

Get news from our friends over at IBP

Did you know that one of the most powerful tools available to fight poverty, improve public services and promote development is the government’s budget? Now you can receive regular updates  on what civil society groups around the world are doing to improve government budget systems, and get the latest on public finance issues and developments in the transparency and accountability field. Join the thousands of civil society representatives, public officials, donor representatives, INGO representatives and other public finance and development stakeholders worldwide and subscribe to the IBP e-Newsletter!

Could companies in Australia soon have to publish what they pay?

Photo credit: Andrew, availble from Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Last week, the leader of the Greens in Australia, Christine Milne, introduced the Corporations Amendment Bill (aptly nicknamed the publish what you pay bill) to oblige Australian listed extractive companies to publish their payments on a project and country level.

This legislation would bring Australia in line with mandatory disclosure rules around the world, as Norway, the EU and the US have all adopted legislation on extractive company transparency and Canada is in the process of doing the same. In her statement, Christine stated that, "Australia is lagging behind on corporation responsibility and fighting corruption. We have a responsibility to the developing nations, in our region and around the world, to be a leader and not a laggard."

Whilst the bill faces significant opposition, not least from the extractive sector in Australia, it could at least help pave the way for the country to implement EITI – something the PWYP coalition has been campaigning on for some time. Australia did conduct a pilot of the initiative, and indeed hosted the international EITI conference in 2012, but little progress has been made since.

The legislation is still at the Australian Senate - watch this space!

How can transparency help local communities?

It may be a cliché, but it still rings true that natural resources often prove a curse rather than a blessing to citizens. This is particularly the case for those communities living near extractive sites. Not only does wealth generated by extractive projects rarely trickle down to them, but they suffer all the disadvantages of living near such a site: pollution, relocation, loss of land and livelihood, conflict and more. Their say over how these projects are managed is minimal; most - if not all - of the decisions are brokered between government and company. When it comes to engagement, communities are often an after-thought.

Communities experience twin difficulties - a deterioration of living conditions and a process of disempowerment as they lose control over their environment. A lack of information and communication, combined with differing expectations, exacerbate an already tense situation and communities often turn to direct action - barricades or protests for instance - to have their voices heard. These direct actions do get attention, but they rarely result in positive change for communities. More often than not, communities are subjected to repression and violence as a result of their actions.

The picture looks bleak. So what can a campaign such as Publish What You Pay do? The focus on revenue transparency can, to be sure, decrease corruption and mismanagement of natural resources, so that citizens eventually benefit from extraction. But what can be done about the lives communities are currently leading in resource-rich countries? Where does transparency and accountability come into play?

Increasing openness and transparency at the local level can do a great deal. For Publish What You Pay Côte d’Ivoire, working directly at the local level has four broad aims:  to reduce conflict; strengthen the negotiating hand of communities; strengthen the credibility of communities as stakeholders; and create a platform through which citizens can engage.

To find out more about PWYP Côte d’Ivoire’s work, with a focus on the oil and gas producing region of Jacqueville, read this case study.

Making sure that women too, are part of the transparency revolution

PWYP & UN Women launch guide for integrating gender perspectives into the value chain.

Our vision is for a world where all citizens benefit from their natural resources – if we want this vision to be truly realised, we need to make sure that women are not excluded from the transparency revolution.

Studies have shown that women are often the first to bear the negative impact of extraction, as they lose the land they work on and still have to find ways to provide for their families. The influx of migrant workers and cash makes them more vulnerable to sexual violence while pollution means they often have to travel further distances to collect water, which can expose them to danger.

It’s not just about the fact that women are affected differently by the extractive industries and that we need to tailor our approaches  – it’s about the fact that women often do not have a voice or platform to talk about their experiences. Any process that seeks to engage communities over their natural resources – be it via consultations, surveys or village hall meetings – needs to ensure that women are receiving the information and also have a safe space to speak. When it comes to negotiation, women need to have a seat at that table in order to ensure their specific needs are met.

That’s why we’ve been working with UN Women to launch a toolkit that examines how to approach gender issues at each step of the value chain. As well as providing a quick narrative at each step, from the discovery of natural resources to wrapping up a project, the guide offers specific questions that users can explore to examine whether their approaches are sensitive to the different needs of men and women.

PWYP Uganda coordinator Winnie Ngaabirwe said of the chain that it “allows stakeholders to appreciate why natural resource governance must be inclusive.

“Most importantly,” she continued, “it puts women at the centre of the discussions and uses their knowledge and skills for sustainable development along the entire value chain. Women are no longer to be seen as victims of natural resource extraction, but instead as a strong constituency that shapes the world's natural resource governance and management.”

You can explore the chain on our website –  we will be making print copies, as well as different language copies, available soon.

Civil society workshop discusses implementing the EITI in Europe

Miles Litvinoff, PWYP UK Coordinator, shares his experience of a workshop on EITI implementation in the UK

It was good to meet with colleagues from German civil society, and from Publiez Ce Que Vous Payez France and Publish What You Pay Norway, this week in Berlin to discuss implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Europe. Our workshop was organised and hosted by the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung and PowerShift to share experience and insights from our countries’ national EITI processes.

Norway is already EITI compliant and has published five EITI reports since 2008. The US was the next OECD country to follow Norway and is due to publish its first EITI report by March 2016. In the EU, France, Germany, Italy and the UK committed in the June 2013 G8 Leaders’ Communiqué to implement the EITI as well as to quickly transpose into national law the extractive industry disclosure requirements of the EU Accounting and Transparency Directives. The UK’s EITI candidacy was approved by the EITI’s international board at its October 2014 meeting in Myanmar, and the UK is required to submit its first report by April 2016.

It is right that more Northern countries walk the talk in relation to the EITI. We need to dispel the view that the EITI is an asymmetrical or even neo-colonial arrangement imposed by developed on developing countries. Instead, it must become a genuinely joint enterprise uniting North and South in ensuring that citizens have effective oversight over their countries’ stewardship of natural resources, and that the exploitation of oil, gas and minerals worldwide results in outcomes that truly benefit the public interest. Let’s hope Australia follows soon.