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News in brief

  • PWYP International would like to welcome our new PWYP Ghana coordinator, Akua Appiah-Akuramaa! To get to know a little more about her, why don’t you read a blog she wrote about Ghana’s golden opportunities?
  • The EITI International Board is meeting this week – we’ll have more on the outcomes in our next newsletter.
  • Mining revenues for the Central African Republic doubled, according to the latest EITI report.
  • The Guardian interviews our International Director, Marinke van Riet, on idealism, realism and the tricks to making a coalition work

Citizens’ groups call for oil companies to drop anti-transparency lawsuit

LONDON, February 25, 2013 — Ahead of Tuesday’s international board meeting of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Oslo, civil society organisations urge oil companies to drop a lawsuit that aims to overturn US transparency laws.

The suit, brought by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and others against the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), aims to strike down a landmark U.S. sunshine law that requires oil, gas and mining companies to publish payments they make to governments to end secrecy in oil deals. The law, passed in 2010 as Section 1504 of the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, was crafted to complement and expand the coverage of the EITI. SEC adopted implementing regulations in August 2012.

Oil industry board members of the EITI, such as Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell, are backing a lawsuit aimed at abolishing the transparency measures required by the U.S. law while being simultaneously engaged in privileged negotiations on ways to advance the EITI transparency measures.

“The API is threatening to strike down a vital mechanism for improving transparency, reducing corruption, mobilising revenue for development and transforming the lives of millions of people living in poverty. Support for this lawsuit threatens EITI progress, and is wholly incompatible with corporate commitments made through the EITI,” said Marinke van Riet, International Director of Publish What You Pay. “Publish What You Pay continues to call for all oil, gas and mining companies that are members of the API to disassociate from the suit."

...please click here to read the rest of the press release

France – Advocacy & Lessons Learned

Last week, we asked our Facebook followers what kind of items they would like to see in the newsletter. One person responded they’d like to see more on:

‘Models of civil society advocacy from different part of the world and lessons learned on what works and what doesn't.’

This week, we’ve focussed on our coalition in France – which has been working with other members in Europe in order to change legislation at the EU level.

A quick background note – coalitions in Europe have been pushing for the EU to adopt regulation which would oblige all EU listed (and large non-listed) extractive companies to publish the payments they make to governments in the countries where they operate. More specifically, since October 2011 PWYP members have been working on the EU transparency & accounting directives, which includes amendments to that end.

-  The power of a united civil society voice & the importance of North-South collaboration

A message has most impact when it comes from a united front, including countries not only in Europe but elsewhere in the world. PWYP activists – Ali from Niger, Christian and Brice from Congo B and Aminata from Mali – carried out a lobby tour in Paris, meeting with representatives from the ministries of finance and development as well as TOTAL.  A month after their visit, French President François Hollande made very strong statements of support for the new rules in his visits to Dakar and Kinshasa. PWYP Ghana member Steve Manteaw made a powerful intervention in the European Parliament, as he outlined what impact change at the EU level would have for communities in his country.

- Never back down in a fight

.. even when you are set against the lobbying powers of big oil (and mining). Extractive companies – and their lobbyists - have been doing their best to water down the rules at the EU level. Yet so far, their attempts have proven futile. Recently, the Netherlands came out and publicly stated they were no longer in support of exemptions in the EU rules. This move was welcomed by all those who love transparency, although Dutch company Shell might have been a little disappointed, given their unfortunate championing of dangerous loopholes.

- Big voices help spread the message

.. it’s also important not to underestimate the help that a powerful voice can give you. Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to Europe had a strong impact on Hollande’s support. 

Next week – Australia!

With thanks to Félix Delhomme from PWYP France for this information.

If you have any topics you would like to see in feature in the newsletter, please email apowell@publishwhatyoupay.org 

Photograph by Robert Doisneau, taken from Photobucket

Photo Competition!

Although they say a picture is worth a thousand words, we’ve sometimes struggled to find images which encapsulate our campaign.

How do we illustrate what it is like to work on natural resource governance? To see the devastating consequences of an opaque system, or the benefits which transparency could bring?

We’d love to have your point of view, so – with the World Bank and Revenue Watch Institutes – we’re holding a photo competition on Goxi.

Taking part is simple – just submit photos which you think best illustrate your work on the governance of extractive industries/natural resources, or on the opportunities/problems with extractive industry governance.

Opening dates are from 11 march – 14 april, the top ten will be announced on April 25th and final winners on the 30th. Prize includes photography equipment.

You need to be a member of Goxi to participate. Essentially, Goxi is facebook for people who work on this issue, it is free to sign up.

Guinea – on the way to fairer deals and better contracts?

As part of the current review of Guinea’s mining contracts, the government launched a website which discloses its contracts with mining companies. The site includes summaries of the contracts’ terms in to make it accessible to more people, including non-experts. This initiative was supported by the Revenue Watch Institute, the World Bank Institute, Colombia University and local civil society.  

The website, as well as hosting contracts, provides information and updates on the Technical Committee for the Review of Contracts, who has been charged with reviewing Guinea’s contracts.  Any new contracts, or contracts which have been amended, will be uploaded to the site.  

President Alpha Condé, elected in 2010, has been promising to reform Guinea’s mining sector and contracts. In 2011 a new mining code was adopted, which called for the review and publication of extractive contracts. The government states that several of Guinea’s mining contracts, signed under the military junta rule, were decided in ‘murky’ circumstances.

Guinea is rich in natural resources and a leading exporter of Bauxite, the ore from which aluminium is derived. Despite its mineral wealth, more than half of the population live below the poverty line. The online publication of these contracts hopefully point towards a better future, where all Guineans will benefit from their natural resources.

Investors in support of Canada’s Resource Transparency Working Group

A group of Canadian Investors – representing over C$ 362 billion in assets under management – has come out in support for Canada’s Resource Revenue Transparency Working Group. Transparency of payments, they stated, would provide important information with which investors can assess risk, as well as contribute to good governance and sustainable development which benefits both investors and companies.

The working group – originally launched in October 2012 – is a multi-stakeholder initiative which aims to establish a Canadian framework for mandatory disclosure of extractive company payments to governments. Its members include Publish What You Pay Canada, the Mining Association of Canada, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada and the Revenue Watch Institute.

Africa Steering Committee meets in Niamey

PWYP’s Africa Steering Committee met in Niamey last week to hammer out some decisions on the future of the coalition on the continent. The meeting was hosted by PWYP Niger/ROTAB.
Among the several outcomes, the draft Africa Charter was adopted. It will be circulated to national coalitions, amended and formally adopted at the next Africa Conference.

Regarding PWYP’s protection strategy mechanism, which has been activated on more than one occasion to ensure the safety of our activists, the risk barometer is to be fine-tuned with more direction as to how to assess each criterion.

PWYP had also organised a public day, where government officials, civil society and journalists met to debate the management of Niger's natural resources. Our International Director, Marinke van Riet, blogged about this event.(See below)


Of Ministers, Madame la Directrice and Mechouis

It is very unusual as civil society to meet two ministers in one week; but then again Niger is an unusual country. Unusual in the positive sense as last week illustrated when the Africa Steering Committee, along with two members from the Global Steering Committee gathered in Niamey for a great series of events.

Thanks in part to the excellent campaigning work of ROTAB PWYP Niger, natural resource transparency (particularly revenue and contract transparency) has been enshrined in a new constitution which was adopted in 2010. However, this doesn’t mean that civil society has been resting on its laurels; on the contrary thanks to a campaign that started in October with a public conference organised by ROTAB, the President recently announced his desire to renegotiate contracts with Areva, the French uranium company. In a meeting with the Africa Steering Committee and the Minister of Justice, Marou Amadou reinforced their desire to do so.

In addition to an internal meeting where the Africa Steering Committee advanced on the governance standards elaborated in Vision 20/20, ROTAB organised an open day. Company representatives from Areva, donors such as the French Embassy and European Union, government officials and local civil society gathered to share the experiences from across the continent and beyond.

… read the rest of the blog