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Photo by lachicaphoto from Flickr, available under a creative commons license

If you say ‘Iraq’ to someone, the images that immediately spring to their mind might be of war, corruption scandals, oil and the desert. But what of the women who are fearlessly campaigning for a just use of oil revenues? What of the activists working with government and companies to establish a good governance of natural resources? What of the data that is emerging around the Iraq’s extractive sector and the academics producing yet more knowledge about the impact of oil revenues?

The connotations surrounding Iraq have always been mired in myth and misconception. This week, we wanted to dispel some of these, so we’ve put the spotlight on Iraq to highlight some of the work being done by campaigners.

Iraq is one of the world’s richest countries in oil – but this richness, while drawing the unwanted attentions of foreign interventions, has yet to truly benefit its citizens. Genuine progress has been made towards better governance, but a myriad of challenges remain. Here, we here from experts, activists, activist-experts about the challenges and opportunities Iraqi faces in its bid to turn its resources into a blessing rather than a curse.

An opportunity to have my voice heard - Iraq, EITI and women's participation

Iraqi women play a crucial role in promoting the good governance of their natural resources. Perhaps naturally so -  after all, how can governance be good if half of the population is excluded? Yet Iraqi women in this sector face many challenges in their work. Here, Ibtisam Al Shammary, a lawyer and member of PWYP’s affiliated coalition in Iraq, tells us about her experiences as a member of the EITI multi-stakeholder council.

Read the piece in full here.

If we, as women, are not aware of the revenues coming from oil, or the process surrounding its governance, then how can we manage our expectations when it comes to our own finances?

Iraqi women feel that they need to be more involved in the natural resource sector because the revenues that filter back into the society directly affect our own budgets and life. It is crucial that we understand how and where and by whom these revenues are managed.

Yet currently, despite women’s active involvement in the field of extractive industry transparency, we do not have access to the same platform as men.

Very few women are allowed to hold managerial positions in ministries crucial to the governance of our natural resources, such as the ministries of oil or of finance.

On the other hand, being on the multi-stakeholder group of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative has allowed me to feel a sense of equal treatment. I have the opportunity to express my concerns equally and to experience being in a decision making position. The women on the Multi-Stakeholder Group are not there as window-dressing or to make up the numbers. We are the most active participants in discussions and make legitimate and professional demands which are listened to by the other members.

Women have been involved in many activities relating to transparency…

… read the rest of the piece on our website.

Three years of EITI in Iraq

Photo by lachicaphoto from Flickr, available under a creative commons license

Three years ago, Iraq joined the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative. In implementing this standard, the Iraqi government must publish all the payments it receives from oil companies. The oil companies operating in Iraq must in their turn publish the payments they make. These figures are reconciled in reports and offer to the Iraqi public, for the very first time, concrete data about what they get for their natural resources.

So what has been the impact of three years of EITI in the country? Has it been successful? What more could be done for Iraqis to be able to use this data to hold their government to account?

Read this piece by Eddie Rich, Deputy Head of the EITI Secretariat, to find some of the answers to these questions...

Iraq is by far the largest EITI implementing country in terms of oil and gas reserves. Iraq has about over 140 billion barrels of proven oil reserves and 3,158 BCM of gas reserves in 2011 (3.3% of OPEC total gas reserves), making the country the fourth-largest oil reserves in the world (9.6% of the world’s total reserves), and the country with the largest oil reserves to implement the EITI to date (Source: OPEC 2013 Annual Statistical Bulletin).

You don’t have to be a student of history to know that this oil wealth has hardly been a blessing. It funded an oppressive regime and several wars. Even today, it is a major point of contention, especially between Baghdad and the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan which began exporting crude oil in 2012. The EITI won’t solve these issues, but having all parties agree the facts on the ground is an excellent basis for a constructive debate about how to manage the sector.

Given that, it was certainly encouraging that Iraq was declared EITI compliant on an auspicious date: the 12th day of the 12th month of 2012.

On 31st December 2013, Iraq published its third EITI report. This one covers 2011. It tells Iraqis how much oil was produced and how much of it was exported and how much that sold for. When this accounts for 97% of government revenue these are surely the first figures msot Iraqi citizens would wish to know about the sector.

Like the first two reports, it covers the payments from the 34 accredited oil and gas buyers. Iraq is presently the only EITI country to reconcile its full export sales. Given that almost all of these companies are extra-territorial and not subject to Iraqi law, this is an impressive process and shows the way for other countries in which state oil sales make up a considerable amount of total income eg. Nigeria, Indonesia, perhaps in the future, Mexico. The reports also contain details about the signature bonuses from the technical service contracts. The report explains a great deal about the operations of the various state owned companies in the sector – operators and marketers. In 2011 for the first time, the report includes the amounts of crude oil used for internal consumption distributed to refineries, electricity generation directorates and national gas companies. Corporate taxes from extractive companies and signature bonuses from the International Oil Companies are also included.

The semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has a series of production sharing agreements directly with international companies. Due to disputes between the KRG and the central government over the legitimacy of these agreements, KRG revenues are not yet included.

It will be important for both sides to try to work together to identify areas for improvement.

So there is much to celebrate, but no reason to be complacent...

... read the rest of Eddie’s blog on our website.

Iraq’s natural resource management – Expert Q & A

Photo by lachicaphoto from Flickr, available under a creative commons license

What role can transparency play so that Iraqi citizens can benefit from their natural resources? How will improving the knowledge Iraqi citizens have of their extractive sector promote good governance? Can Iraq learn from the examples of other countries?

In this Q & A, we asked Iraqi scholar and petroleum consultant Ahmed Mousa Jiyad for his thoughts on the way forward for transparency and accountability in Iraq.

Read the whole Q & A on our site.

What role can transparency play in ensuring that Iraqi citizens benefit from their natural resources?

This question comprises three components that require careful separation. The first is the “intrinsic” and “instrumental” values of transparency. Having comprehensive, accurate, verifiable and timely disclosed information make transparency itself invaluable “societal asset” thus having intrinsic value. And also transparency is a mean to facilitate realization of many objectives that are directly and indirectly related to various aspects of Human Rights; hence it has such important instrumental attributes.  

Though transparency is very important it nevertheless does not, by itself, provide guarantee or “ensuring” specified outcomes, and this is the second component. It is vital ingredient of an integrated Good, Democratic and Participatory Governance-GDPG, which comprises other components such as Answerability, Impartiality among others. Such GDPG could have real and effective role in “ensuring” specified outcomes.

Finally, benefiting Iraqi citizens from their natural resources is a matter of sound sustainable development planning and implementation. This is more of a much wider macroeconomics and socio-political economy function and resource management, which should incorporate and adhere to both transparency and GDPG principles and good practices. 
The essence of sustainable development is its “right based” through a continued process of “structural diversification” of the national economy both in vertical and horizontal sectural perspectives.   My research in this arena does not indicate that Iraq has achieved development level commensurate with the significant revenue stream that was generated from the export of oil...

… read the rest of the Q & A on our website.

What does the latest EITI report tell us?

Photo by lachicaphoto from Flickr, available under a creative commons license

The latest Iraq EITI report (published December 2013 covering data from 2011) included lots of crucial information about the extractive sector in the country that had hitherto never been published. However, the report also highlighted a worrying trend: that the Kurdish Regional Government was reluctant to share data on oil extraction in its region. Here, our MENA regional coordinator and the head of the coalition in Iraq explore the EITI report and what it revealed about Iraq’s extractive sector. Read the whole piece online.

While the world was busy preparing to say goodbye to 2013, the 2011 Iraqi EITI report was born.

All 132 pages of Iraq’s third EITI report contain data that shed important light on the natural resource management of the country – some of the information in the report had never been previously shared with the public.

As in previous iterations, the report included the reconciliation of oil export revenues, corporate income tax and signature bonuses. It also covered payments made by the government of Iraq as internal service payments to national oil companies and payments made to IOCs for cost recovery and remuneration fees.

Also revealed in the report were the quantities of oil produced in the country and the quantities of oil exported. The latter amounted to US$ 80,796,735,000 in export sales. The Iraqi coalition has been campaigning for these to be published so that civil society can have a meaningful estimate of the total number of revenues that have been pouring into the Iraqi treasury. The Iraqi coalition has become actively involved in monitoring of the Iraqi budget planning and will use EITI data to advocate for these revenues to be used towards sustainable development.

For the first time, the report also included the amount of crude oil consumed internally and supplied to refineries, electricity generation directorates and national gas companies.  The PWYP coalition in Iraq wanted this information included in order to explore why, despite close to 25 % of crude oil production being consumed internally, the country still suffers from poor energy services and power cuts.

Nevertheless, the report had several shortcomings. Several IOCs companies

… read the rest of the article online.