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Without a bridge, how can you cross the divide?

Photo by Loi Manalansan.

Empowering mining communities in the Philippines – our latest film.

The Philippines stands at the crossroads. On the one hand, mining barely contributes 1% to the country’s GDP and anti-mining sentiment is strong. On the other, the mineral potential of the country is vast and the government keen to capitalise on it. Which way will the country go?

"For Bantay Kita, it isn’t about whether you are pro or anti mining, it’s really about the way mining is conducted, about integrity and participation. You need to make sure from the very beginning that communities are genuinely informed about the positive and negative impacts of mining. Then, they can actually have a choice."

Bantay Kita offers a bridge for communities and other NGOs to engage with government and extractive companies. Community members can voice their concerns and grievances and also be informed as to what are the real effects and benefits of extraction. It is only by being informed that they can truly decide.

Watch this video to see Bantay Kita in action and meet some of the communities directly affected by mining.

Bantay Kita is a network of Filipino civil society organisations advocating for a transparent and accountable extractive sector. They are a member of Publish What You Pay.

A new mining code in Côte d’Ivoire — but will citizens benefit?

Photo by Koko taillé, available on Flickr under a creative commons license.

Rich in both renewable and non-renewable resources, Côte d’Ivoire was for a long time post-colonial West Africa's success story. As a cocoa exporter and an attractive destination for immigrants, the country experienced a period of stability and prosperity. The economic crisis of the 1990s, however, followed by the conflicts of the 2000s—with coups d’état, civil wars and post-electoral crises—set the country on quite a different path. Today, almost half its citizens live below the poverty line. Could Côte d’Ivoire’s mineral resources provide a way to lift it out of crisis and onto the list of emerging economies?

That, at least, is what the government seems to think: decision-makers in Côte d’Ivoire, who now find themselves in a fairly stable environment, are investigating ways to accelerate the exploitation of the country’s natural resources. Côte d’Ivoire is in fact looking to double its gold production, and for that is seeking to create an environment appealing to investors.

As a result, in early March the Côte d’Ivoire legislature approved a new Mining Code, which aims to increase foreign investment in the sector.

Creating a positive environment for investment, however, is only one of the objectives of a Mining Code— and it does not automatically guarantee that citizens will benefit. Mining codes also provide an opportunity to introduce principles of good governance and responsible management of natural resources, through the inclusion of provisions for transparency, accountability and redistribution of income.

When the Côte d’Ivoire government instigated a revision of its mining code in 2013, PWYP Côte d’Ivoire seized the opportunity to improve the governance of the country’s natural resources...

Read more, to find out how PWYP Côte d’Ivoire seized the opportunity of reforming their mining code!

Tunisia - How can the Fourth Estate unlock the potential of the EITI Standard?

Photo by NapInterrupted, available from Flickr under a creative commons license.

Blog from Diana Kaissy, our MENA coordinator

What role do journalists have to play in the debate over a country’s natural resources? What power can they wield not only to inform citizens, but to shape opinions? In Tunisia, their potential is strong and the topics they could cover many, from holding the government to account on its promise to become EITI candidate, to highlighting the need to review extractive contracts issued before the revolution.

Last week, (May 2-4), I was invited by the Revenue Watch Institute (RWI), MENA office to speak at a workshop they organised to support Tunisian journalists. The training stressed the important role of journalists in the battle for better natural resource management and also built their capacity to cover extractive-related stories. Another outcome of the workshop is to increase the number of articles published about the EITI in Tunisia.

On the occasions that I am invited to speak about the EITI Standard, I always approach these sessions with a set determination: the key message should be to explain to participants that the EITI must be used as a tool to communicate information and data and to deduce stories.

My role was to discuss the EITI standard and refresh the minds of 15 participants about its principles, process and requirements.

The workshop addressed Tunisian journalists…

Read the rest of the blog online.

Transparency will only deliver if citizens have the space to campaign

From Marinke van Riet, International Director of Publish What You Pay 

This blog has been adapted from a speech I gave last week at the Potsdam Spring Dialogues on regional integration in natural resource governance in Africa, where I was asked to reflect on some of the key current issues for the Publish What You Pay coalition and what the lessons learned where over the last decade.

In late April, the prime time Africabletelevision talkshow A votre avis (In Your Opinion) asked the men and women in the streets of Libreville, Kinshasa, Bamako, and Niamey, how the natural resources in their countries were managed.  Most of the interviewees said that natural resources belong to the people, but that exploitation has benefited the few at the top and a few international companies, rather than the many at the bottom who so often bear the environmental and social burden.

In December and March, hundreds of concerned Nigerien citizens marched through the streets of Niamey to demand that the country’s Mining Code, in force since 2006, be applied to the renegotiations of AREVA’s new contract with the Niger government. Areva has benefitted from a 75-year fiscal stabilisation clause which has offered it a low price for uranium and a range of tax exemptions. In 2010 mining in Niger contributed only 5% to the GDP while making up 70% of exports.  

These are just two stories that show how, in a relatively short timeframe, natural resource governance and in particular, revenue transparency, have become topics of discussion for citizens worldwide. When citizens were once arrested and intimidated for discussing their natural resources, today people in many countries can debate openly – and indeed question – their government’s management of natural resources. The men and women in the streets of Libreville, Kinshasa, Conakry, Niamey and Freetown believe – and expect -  that their natural resources could be better managed to benefit the many rather than the few. As Christian Mounzeo, the first PWYP coordinator in Africa, so eloquently put it, “Thanks to Publish What You Pay revenue transparency has been taking out of the ghetto and...” 

How else can citizens lift the veil of secrecy? Read the rest of the blog online.

An update from our friends over at RWI-NRC

Here is an extract of the latest letter by Daniel Kaufmann, President of the Revenue Watch Institute – Natural Resource Charter.

“Dear friends and colleagues,

Since I wrote to you in February, we've seen exciting progress on a number of fronts at the Revenue Watch Institute – Natural Resource Charter (RWI-NRC, soon to be renamed following our recent merger). Let me share with you selected highlights.

At the core of our analytical framework is the Natural Resource Charter, a set of integrated policy principles emerging from research and best practice, aimed at advancing governance and management of natural resources. In the coming months, we will publish an expanded and revised version of the charter, providing details on each precept, as well as technical guidance, country case studies and a resource library with which stakeholders can more deeply engage. We will also hold the 2014 Natural Resource Charter conference in June in Oxford. Keep an eye on our website for more details later this month.

In April we launched a new natural resource fund report and website, which I previewed in my last message. We shared the report with key audiences in New York and Washington, DC, as well as in Accra, where this work has ignited debate over revenue management..."

Find out more about what RWI-NRC are up to by clicking here!