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G8: UK includes extractive transparency in its presidency priorities

On assuming the Presidency of the G8 on 1 January 2013, the UK listed its priorities here together with an accompanying letter from David Cameron to his fellow G8 leaders. We have written about some of the themes in a blog here which include promising words on the tax justice agenda and globalising mandatory payment disclosure regulations for the extractive industries worldwide. However, we were pleased to see a new commitment by the Prime Minister to undertake an "urgent review of the UK position" on implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative given that the US is the only G8 country to have decided to implement the EITI.

Oil lobby suffers blow in battle against US transparency rules

The API’s bid to overturn Dodd-Frank 1504 (also known as the Cardin-Lugar amendment) in a lawsuit against the SEC is looking increasingly weak. Following the SEC’s refusal to grant a stay of the rule while the lawsuit develops, a growing number of groups have joined the fray in support of the rule.

In December 2012, Senators Ben Cardin and Richard Lugar joined the lawsuit in order to defend the provision. They had originally introduced the amendment, which obliges US listed extractive companies to publish their payments to the governments where they operate, into the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010. On 10 January 2013 it was the US State Department’s turn to enter the debate, backing the rule in their assertion that it would “directly advance [the US’] foreign interests”.

This echoes previous statements made by the US State Department, as well as the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has publicly supported the amendment on more than one occasion. The latest of these was while speaking at a conference  at Georgetown University (DC) last October, when she highlighted the US’ role in anti-corruption, stating that:  “through the Cardin-Lugar amendment, the United States is now the first country in the world to require that our extractive industries companies disclose any payments they make to any government worldwide, an important step in the fight against corruption".

The SEC filed its own brief defending its rules on 2 January saying “petitioners, ultimately unhappy with Congress's determination to compel the public disclosure of the payment information, now advance a series of meritless challenges".

The urgency of resource transparency

A recent piece in Foreign Policy, The Myth of Africa's Rise, did a neat job of disassembling – and questioning – the burgeoning ‘Africa Rising’ narrative. It focused on the fact that many of the articles feeding into this narrative have been based on growing GDP and other factors, while omitting manufacturing data, which Rowden – the author of the article -  sees as central to painting a more accurate picture of development.

The focus on GDP growth as testimony to development links to several other points. Others have already cogently discussed some of the problems with too strong a focus on GDP, and the debate on which indicators best reflect growth is a rich one.

Rather, the point we’ve raised – in vague ways over coffee - is that while the GDP of many countries in Africa may be booming, in certain ways their absolute wealth – and wealth in resources – is diminishing…

Read the rest of the blog online

Civil society to IASB: “we’re users of financial information too”

The International Accounts Standards Boards will be hosting a public discussion forum later this month to debate the current disclosures in financial reporting and how the International Financial Reporting Standards – which dictate these disclosures, can be improved. 

The IASB sets the accounting rules for a large part of the world, including the European Union, South Africa, Hong Kong and France.

Financial disclosures are a key way through which civil society can obtain information on the revenue flows from the extractive sector. Accounting standards could oblige companies to publish their profits, sales, reserves and other financial information for extractive projects. In other words, they are an important mechanism in the campaign to get extractive companies to publish what they pay. As such, the IASB has been a natural campaign target for PWYP. PWYP has contributed to various consultations the IASB held and coordinated – with Tax Justice Network and other members – a public campaign in 2010.

However, a sticking point has been that the IASB sees the beneficiaries of this information, the ‘legitimate users of financial information’, if you will, as a very small group solely comprised of investors. Leaving aside the fact that investors have called for increased financial disclosure from extractive companies,  it is remiss to ignore civil society as users of financial information. Just this month, the Tax Justice Network, the Jubilee Debt Campaign and Justica Ambiental (Friends of the Earth Mozambique) used financial information as the basis for their report which showed the Mozambique government was losing out considerably on a smelter project.

Civil society representatives – from Publish What You Pay and Christian Aid – will be there on 28th January to participate in the debate and tell the IASB that CSOs are, in fact, legitimate users of financial information and that their views need to be taken into account. Given that the US and soon European governments are regulating on this issue, it is time for the IASB to catch up with global developments on financial disclosure.

If we don't use mercury, the buyers won't buy the gold

Small-scale miners in Niger are not being properly informed as to the noxious effects of the materials - notably mercury - that they are asked to use in gold mining.

View our third – and final – video from Niger.

PWYP Africa condemns defamation campaign led against Marc Ona

PWYP Coordinator Marc Ona has been victim of a defamation campaign. PWYP Africa issued this press release on 25 December 2012. We will be posting up a new release on our site  over the next couple of days as the situation evolves. You can read the rest of the press release here. (French)

The Africa Steering Committee of the Publish What You Pay campaign is outraged and concerned to discover that a defamation campaign has been led against PWYP Coordinator Marc Ona by sources close to the Gabonese regime. This campaign, consisting of groundless accusations and calumnies, is playing out in the media and online. The Cabinet Director for the President of Gabon is also leading a judicial charge against Marc. Marc Ona, as well as being PWYP coordinator of Gabon is member of PWYP’s Global Steering Committee.

This incident is the latest in a series of attacks and threats going against the freedom of expression of civil society members in Gabon. These followed a wave of popular protests, which included activists campaigning for transparency and a responsible management of natural resources in the extractive sector, against the Gabonese government. The freedoms of expression, of association and of assembly – recognised by the Gabonese constitution – are essential for an open debate on the management of the natural resources of the country.

Locally elected representatives and civil society revisit the Guinean mining code

The national Publish What You Pay coalition organised a national workshop on the revised mining code for civil society organizations and locally elected representatives. The workshop was held on 21 and 22 December 2012 at the Palais du Peuple, with financial backing from the Revenue Watch Institute.

Participants in the workshop first analysed the amendments to the mining code that had been adopted in September 2012. The amendments had been made by the technical committee established by the President of the Republic for the purpose of reviewing the fiscal provisions of the mining code. Participants in the workshop noted that many of the proposals made by civil society had been included in the mining code of September 2011, and in the proposed amendments in the draft law on amending the code. Nevertheless, a number of their proposals are still topical issues. These include the payment of duties, taxes and royalties directly to local communities, as well as direct payments to those entitled to compensation due to abandonment of property. Other questions still topical include the issue of not removing the reference to royalties being received on behalf of the local communities involved, and also the issue of local people being excluded from the distribution of export tax on artisanal, industrial and semi-industrial goods using precious and semi-precious stones.

Participants also pointed out that the latest amendments to the mining code do not clearly state that the surface tax is exclusively for the benefit of local communities.

The participants in this workshop also expressed a wish for the Ministries of Mines, of the Interior, and of the Environment to produce implementing provisions for the code. They should do this after consultation with local communities and civil society.

These various proposals of the locally elected representatives and civil society were communicated to the Ministry of Mines, on Wednesday 3 January 2013, by the national Publish What You Pay coalition of Guinea, through its chairperson Mamadou Taran Diallo.

This article was contributed by PWYP Guinea’s Moussa Iboun Conté

PWYP'ers invited to register for the next EITI Global Conference

In Sydney on 23-24 May 2013, stakeholders from civil society, government and extractive companies from across the globe will meet to share how EITI is leading to change in their countries. They will agree how the EITI Standard should evolve to further improve transparency and accountability of revenues from natural resources.

The registration for the Conference is now open. Registration is free of charge, but is not valid until you have received confirmation from the EITI Secretariat. Participants will be able to attend all the plenary sessions, executive sessions, workshops and the EITI National Expo. Since the conference is held in Australia, where travel arrangements and visa procedures require more time, participants are urged to register early.

To learn more about the conference, see the draft programme and register, go to http://eiti.org/sydney2013

In brief

  • The second issue of Voix des Femmes, a newsletter looking at the extractive sector from women’s point of view, came out . (At this stage in French only)
  • According to recent EITI reports, Mozambique’s revenue from the extractive sector has increased by 60%, while in Kyrgyzstan mining revenues are up by 67%.
  • A report by the Tax Justice Network, the Jubilee Debt Campaign and Justica Ambiental (Friends of the Earth Mozambique) has shown that the Mozambique government agreed to a very unfavourable deal for the Mozal smelter project. For every 1$ that the government receives from the project, 21$ leaves the country, ‘in profit or interest to foreign governments and investors.’ You can access the report here or read coverage of it in The Guardian.