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In Brief

Photo by Jon S, available on Flick under a creative commons license

The EU’s not for turning - Big Oil has been doing all it can to fight transparency. Here, Global Witness debunks Big Oil’s flawed arguments and explains how the EU transparency rules 'are set in stone and there is no leeway for any European country to alter them, regardless of decisions made by the SEC.'

There’s nothing pro-Putin about transparency - Publish What You Pay US, Senator Ben Cardin and EITI Chair Clare Short all write to the Wall Street Journal  to explain how Dodd-Frank 1504 will help create a level transparency field for extractive companies and benefit the US. Click here to read Oxfam America’s full version

What is the role of the G20 in infrastructure, tax and energy governance? A joint PWYP-Oxfam Australia article explores ‘how tax and transparency reforms can help achieve G20 growth and development goals.' It highlights the huge cost that illicit financial flows in all industries – particularly the extractive sector - have on developing countries and the importance of a global standard on extractive transparency. As well as proposing a series of recommendations for the G20 the report concludes that, ‘Australia, as a major global extractive industry player and also President of the G20 for 2014, is presented with the perfect opportunity to progress the global movement towards greater harmonisation and the development of a global standard.’

Communicating EITI data - an art rather than a science?

More than 40 PWYP members met in Pointe-Noire, Congo-Brazzaville for the PWYP Central Africa meeting. Among various items on the agenda was how to communicate and use the data from EITI.

1) Our tactics don’t always match our goals

When asked why it was important to disseminate EITI reports and communicate the data contained within, participants offered a range of reasons. For some, communicating the content of EITI reports was seen as a means to generate debate about the management of natural resources and instigate change. For others, it is a means to empower citizens by informing and educating them. But when we compared those goals with current tactics, it became clear that our methods were not suitable, or were not enough, to realise these aims.  Pins and t-shirts raise awareness of EITI as a brand, but do not generate debate. Explaining the process of the initiative itself – rather than recent figures - does not make a citizen more aware of how her natural resources are managed. Finally, simplifying an EITI report may not be enough to make its contents accessible, engaging and understandable to our audiences.

2) Are we advertising rather than communicating?

As we discussed current challenges and weaknesses in the communication of EITI, a pattern emerged - there was a tendency for the communication efforts by coalitions to resemble advertisement for EITI rather than strategic communications for civil society to realise its own goals. Promoting the initiative for the sake of brand awareness is not the job of civil society.  Civil society’s role is to make EITI the best version of itself it can be and raising awareness among citizens of the data revealed by the initiative is one way to do that, but it isn’t civil society’s place to advertise the initiative for its own sake.

3)  Let EITI out of the box – using EITI data for non-EITI related activities

Once an EITI report is published, it is analysed, perhaps simplified and then disseminated. If the report has thrown up discrepancies or questions these will be pursued. A lot of the time, EITI data is used within an EITI context, but does it always have to be that way? In Niger, ROTAB used EITI data to demonstrate how little the government was getting from its partnership with AREVA. The information was used not to adjust the process of EITI or improve next year’s report, but as the basis for a campaign to renegotiate a contract for a fair deal.

Read the rest of the blog for our final two lessons learned, “Don’t forget to pic ‘n’ mix” and “Putting your aims first – EITI as a means, not an end”.

Is Kenya’s new mining code fit for purpose?

Photo by Meena Kadri, available on Flickr under a creative commons license.

Kenya’s 2014 Mining Bill is before the National Assembly – but is it a strong bill, that can promote a transparent and accountable extractive process that can ensure Kenya’s citizens benefit from their burgeoning mining sector?

PWYP member in Kenya, Jamaa Resources, believes the bill needs to be improved and has written to the chairperson of the country’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee with a list of recommendations. They call for the Mining Bill to be put aside and more consultations with stakeholders carried out before it enters into force.

Jamaa Resources criticises the current bill for placing too many powers in the hands of the Cabinet Secretary in charge of mining, who will be able to issue certain licenses and has powers to cancel licenses and permits. The bill also fails to protect communities living in mining zones. Jamaa Resources further calls for the inclusion of contract transparency in the bill and the clarification of the country’s revenue sharing plan.

It is not only civil society that is unhappy with the bill: the Commission on Revenue Allocation has complained that Najib Balala, the Mining Cabinet Secretary, disregarded their proposals for a revenue sharing formula. For their part, Kenyan MPs have proposed amendments to the bill that will cut the powers of the Mining Cabinet Secretary.

For more, read Jamaa Resource’s letter.

AREVA – Niger finally sign uranium contract, but is it a fair deal?

It was almost 100 days overdue, but the Nigerien government and AREVA have finally signed a new contract for the exploitation of uranium. The negotiations, which had been dragging on for 18 months, concerned the ten-year renewal of the agreements over the Somaïr and Cominak mines. PWYP Niger/ROTAB has long argued that Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries, was not getting a fair deal for its uranium. Last October, the Niger government itself stated that it wished to ‘rebalance’ its relationship with AREVA for a more equal partnership. It was an historic opportunity for Niger to finally get a fair deal for its resources, but does this contract represent a turning point, or business as usual? 

The good news is that, according to AREVA and the government’s press release, this contract applies the 2006 mining code to AREVA’s operations. (Although, as Oxfam France points out, it should be par for the course that extractive companies adhere to national laws). Civil society and citizens in Niger had been campaigning and demonstrating for months for the mining code to be respected by AREVA and the government. For several months, AREVA was refusing to budge and insisted that the Mining Code of 2006, which raises its royalties from 5% to 12%, should not apply to its operations. In that sense, this news is cautiously positive. However, it will only be when the contract is published and the details revealed that we will know just how many exemptions and concessions have been granted, and so how much the government really gains from this deal. Already, we know that AREVA has received VAT exemptions worth 10 to 15 million euros a year.

Other elements of the contract include the funding of various projects by AREVA and the indefinite postponement of the Imouraren mine, which had been set to propel Niger to second place in the league of global uranium producers.

There is still a lot to be resolved before we can know whether this deal proves a victory for Niger’s citizens. According to Ali Idrissa, coordinator of PWYP Niger, “At the moment our priority is calling on the Nigerien authorities to publish the contract in accordance with our country's constitution.” Once the contract is published, civil society will be able to ascertain whether the deal truly is fair and hold both AREVA and the government to account for its commitments, so that Nigeriens can finally benefit from their resources.