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In brief

EITI Board Meeting in Lusaka

The 21st EITI board meeting in Lusaka, held from 25–26 October, was always going to be an interesting one. Not only did critical decisions concerning the future of the initiative need to be taken, but this would be the first meeting since the American Petroleum Institute’s attack on US transparency legislation. Despite a sometimes tense atmosphere, steps were  taken towards establishing a more rigorous EITI standard.

Only weeks before the meeting, the API had filed a lawsuit against the SEC in a bid to overturn transparency legislation in the US (Dodd-Frank 1504). Many of the same companies which are members of the API also sit on the EITI board, where they contribute to decisions supposed to increase transparency in the extractive sector. The hypocrisy between taking part in a transparency initiative on the one hand while simultaneously attacking transparency on the other has long been highlighted by civil society. 

Hypocrisy aside, the risk at this meeting was also that the quality of the decisions concerning EITI’s future might be undermined – after all, if companies committed to blocking transparency take part, how can the end result be optimum? PWYP USA highlighted this risk in their statement to EITI companies.

That risk has not yet materialised, as those opposing a more rigorous EITI standard found themselves very isolated. As a result, board members made policy decisions signalling some significant improvements to the standard, broadening it to:

  • Long overdue, finally reporting by individual company and revenue stream will be required
  • Statutory transfers of extractive revenues from central to regional or local governments
  • Transactions between state-owned companies and governments
  • Disclosure of licenses and license holders including the possibility of identifying the beneficial ownership of each license 
  • Social payments, such as corporate social responsibility obligations, that are required by contract

The issues of contract transparency and project-by-project reporting are still on the table. However, with project by project reporting law in the US, and soon to be law in the EU, it will make sense for the EITI to harmonise with these laws. Contract transparency has significantly increased over the past few years, with more and more governments willing to publish contracts.

The new EITI standard is due to be launched at the next EITI Global Conference in Sydney in May 2013. PWYP will continue to push for a robust and relevant EITI standard in the run up to Sydney and crucially at the next EITI board meeting which is due to be held in Oslo in February 2013. PWYP and its members have strived to introduce strong evidence-based arguments  into the discussions. In the spirit of transparency, we have also been very open about our position. Beyond the formal board discussions, we encourage other stakeholders to make their views public in order to ensure a healthy debate around what the future of the EITI should look like.

Harnessing Natural Resources for Africa’s Development

On 22 – 25th October, the Eighth Africa Development Forum took place in Ethiopia. A biannual event organised by the Economic Commission for Africa (with support from the African Union and African Development Bank), this year’s theme focussed on how Africa can harness its natural resources.

For three days, participants debated many issues surrounding natural resources and their potential impact for development. The event concluded with the adoption of a consensus statement, which affirmed commitment to various transparency and accountability mechanisms, including the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative and the Africa Mining Vision.

In his opening speech, Dr. Carlos Lopes, the UN Under-Secretary and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) voiced his support for the EU and US legislations for transparency in the extractive sector.

“Internationally, we welcome the Dodd Frank Act and similar efforts by the European Union Commission to adopt legislation requiring publicly traded and private EU companies to disclose payments to governments made in exchange for oil, gas, mineral and forest resources. These actions need to move from paper to reality,”

PWYP's Second MENA Workshop

As part of the MENA national and regional strategy planning and capacity building, PWYP will be holding its second MENA workshop in Beirut on the 1st and 2nd of December 2012.

The workshop, which follows the first MENA workshop that was held in Amsterdam on the 16th of September, 2012, will gather 25 participants from coalitions in Yemen and Iraq and activist CSOs from outreach countries, namely Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Lebanon to determine strategic priorities on the national level (after global meeting input as far as coalition countries are concerned), identify capacity-building needs (e.g. advocacy strategy at national level, EITI skill-building, innovative use of knowledge sharing), and last but not least, generate national level strategic action plans.

Striking Poverty - contract transparency

  • How can contract transparency contribute to more effective natural resource management? 
  • What are some of the innovative ways with which we can get people to engage with contracts?
  • Where has contract transparency worked?
  • Crowd-sourcing a contract negotiation- is that possible?

Exploring these questions – and more – are four panellists in an online discussion hosted by Striking Poverty. Marinke van Riet, Publish What You Pay’s International Director, is one of these panellists. In order to read the debate, and indeed contribute with your own comments and questions, visit the striking poverty website.

Towards a fairer deal for Niger?

In a communiqué on 24 October 2012, the Niger government stated that it felt its partnership with French nuclear energy giant AREVA was unbalanced, with the country not getting a fair deal for its resources. Niamey justified its opinion by pointing out that only 5% of the country’s budget comes from uranium, despite Niger being the world’s third largest uranium producer.

Ever since AREVA gained a monopoly over Niger’s uranium days before independence, its relationship with the country has been fraught.  The company – rightly or wrongly – is often felt to be an extension of the French government. Despite renegotiations of contracts, many in Niger suspect the relationship between the two remains imbalanced. The recent delay in launching the uranium mining site of Imoumaren – which would make Niger the world’s second largest uranium mining country – has done nothing to ease resentment.

This is the first time that the Niger government has been so public in highlighting the disparity in its relationship with AREVA. The statement by the government follows a public conference organised by PWYP Niger, where the PWYP coordinator, Ali Idrissa, highlighted the inequality of the Niger-AREVA relationship and called on the government, to be more firm vis-à-vis AREVA.

Whether AREVA’s contracts with Niger will be renegotiated remains to be seen. What is certain, however, is that citizens (and it would seem, the government too) is no longer content for Niger to get anything less than its fair share for its resources.

Launch of Oil Contracts version 1 - out now!

Zara Rahman, from Open Oil, tells us about their book sprint on how to read oil contracts.

We are proud to announce that the first book about oil contracts for non-experts, "Oil Contracts - How to Read and Understand them" - is out now!

Download the pdf here

It was written in a five-day booksprint by a group of corporate lawyers, government negotiators and development specialists.

Please excuse typing and formatting errors- they will be corrected in coming weeks. For now though, we wanted to share with you our first version of this living document.
What now? We are looking for organisations or people who want to work with us to take this forward. This includes:

  • Translation - Arabic, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish ideally. 
  • Training courses- we would like to run low-cost, localised training courses with the book as a basis. The first step for this is building a training curriculum, for which we are looking for funding.
  • Country-specific books - would you like to see a book focused on your country's oil contracts? We can take material from this first, generic book and then build it out to be specifically based on the contracts available from one country or specific region.
  • Joining forces with contract monitoring or contract transparency movements- how would you like to see the book used?

Your comments on the book are most welcome.  As you'll notice when you read it, different people's voices can be heard in the book, each chapter of which was written and rewritten multiple times to produce this rich body of material.

We hope you enjoy it!