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In brief

In 2010 oil sales contributed more than $50 billion to Iraq’s economy, as the latest EITI report reveals.

As the Philippines prepares to become an EITI candidate country, it established  an MSG committee

Global Witness’ press release reveals the latest  on unfolding scandal surrounding Shell and Eni's billion dollar payment for an offshore Nigerian oil licence

Dutch government rejects exemptions for European extractive transparency rules

The Dutch government has announced that it will not support the inclusion of dangerous exemptions in new European legislation which will require oil, gas, mining and logging companies to publish the payments they make to governments around the world.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting on 8 February 2013, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen confirmed that the Dutch government believed granting companies exemptions from reporting was “not desirable”.

“We welcome the position the Dutch government has taken”, said Marinke van Riet, Publish What You Pay (PWYP) International Director. “This legislation is aimed at placing crucial information into the hands of citizens in resource-rich countries to improve accountability, and exemptions in any form would fly in the face of this goal."

“Oil companies have claimed without any credible evidence that there are foreign laws which prohibit disclosure of the payments they make to governments”, said Janine de Vries at Dutch PWYP member Cordaid. “The stance the Dutch government has taken today in support of transparency is hugely welcome.”

“Including exemptions in the EU rules would only incentivise autocratic regimes to pass secrecy laws in order to keep their citizens in the dark”, de Vries continued.

The upcoming legislation which is being introduced through the European Accounting and Transparency Directives builds upon a landmark provision in US law – section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act passed in 2010 – which requires all oil, gas, and mining companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges to publish their payments to all countries and for every project. The US rules implementing Dodd-Frank 1504 do not provide for any exemptions from reporting.

The Dutch cabinet detailed its position in a letter to the Dutch parliament here 

Read the rest of the press release

In an op-ed in the Dutch Financial Times, PWYP co-founder George Soros called on the Netherlands not to support exemptions, declaring that “It would be a great shame if the Netherlands were to bow to this pressure at the expense of citizens who seek empowerment and accountability through these truly historic rules.”

Also defending strong transparency rules was Alan Detheridge, former executive at Shell. Writing in the Guardian, he stated that “Any EU member state that supports exemptions in these rules would undermine the fundamental purpose of the legislation, which is to place information into the hands of those that need it most.”

Statoil publicly disassociate themselves from API lawsuit

Statoil has publicly stated that it will not be part of the lawsuit which the American Petroleum Institute (API) and other industry bodies are waging against transparency legislation in the US. A letter from the Norwegian oil company to Global Witness stated that “Statoil has not supported the lawsuit initiated by API; in fact, Statoil has explicitly withheld support for the litigation”.

The API originally launched their lawsuit against Dodd-Frank 1504 (a provision obliging extractive companies to be more financially transparent) in October 2012. The SEC later rejected the API’s call for a stay of the rule while the lawsuit progresses. Meanwhile, defence for the rule mounted with Senators Lugar and Cardin, who introduced the provision, joining the fray. Earlier this year the US State Department publicly defended the rule, arguing it would “directly advance [the US’] foreign interests”. This historic rule has been in effect since November 2012.

Unlike some other oil companies, Statoil has shown its commitment to transparency in deed as well as word. The company has been publishing its payments on a country-by-country basis since 2007.

Ian Gary of Oxfam America stated that “We are encouraged to see a major oil company with global operations in such places as Angola, China and the United States refusing to support a lawsuit based on unsubstantiated claims”.

PWYP calls on other companies to follow Statoil’s lead and disassociate themselves from the API lawsuit

PWYP UK, PWYP Norway and Global Witness issued a press release on this development

Calvert Investments commended this move in their press release

You can also read Oxfam America’s press release for more information

Azerbaijan: Government Detains Revenue Watch Advisory Board Member

The Revenue Watch Institute has issued this press release, following the arrest of one of its advisory board member’s

NEW YORK, February 7, 2013—Revenue Watch expresses concern over the recent detention of two prominent opposition figures, including Ilgar Mammadov, a member of its advisory board.

On February 4, a court in Baku ordered Mammadov, who has announced plans to run for president, and the deputy head of an opposition political party, to two months pretrial detention for allegedly inciting riots in the northwestern town of Ismayilli in January.

Revenue Watch echoed calls by the Council of Europe and the U.S. State Department, through its embassy in Baku, for fair, transparent examination of the detentions. Human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, criticized the government action, calling for the release of the prisoners and for the government to uphold due process.

In January, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly formally criticized the government’s human rights practices, noting “the combination of the restrictive implementation of freedoms with unfair trials and the undue influence of the executive results in the systemic detention of people who may be considered prisoners of conscience.”

… read the rest of the press release

Niger government to renegotiate contracts with AREVA

Niger’s contracts with uranium company AREVA are to be renegotiated, according to Nigerien president, Mahamadou Issoufou. With Niger’s uranium only contributing 5% to the GDP, Issoufou said it was time for the relationship to be rebalanced. Our coalition in Niger has long campaigned for such a renegotiation. Last October PWYP Niger/ROTAB organised a public conference highlighting the inequality of the Niger/AREVA relationship and calling on the government to take action.

Indeed, although Niger is the world’s fourth largest producer of uranium (and set to soon become the second), 60% of Niger’s population live below the poverty line. In a recent interview , PWYP’s Niger coordinator Ali Idrissa stated that, ‘We cannot understand why Niger is so rich in natural resources, yet at the bottom of the human development index’. He continued ‘We have always denounced the AREVA/Niger contract and asked for it to be renegotiated so that Niger can benefit from its natural resources’.

Niger’s partnership with AREVA – and the division of profits over uranium – has long been criticised as a one-sided affair. The relationship was an unbalanced one from the beginning, with AREVA gaining a monopoly over uranium extraction days before independence. Indeed many see – whether accurately or not - AREVA as an extension of the French government. The blurring of identity between AREVA and French government is reflected in the fact that deals between AREVA and the Nigerien government used to be referred to colloquially as ‘defence deals’ rather than natural resource deals.

In October 2012, the Niger government had publicly announced that its partnership with AREVA was an unbalanced one, tipped strongly in favour of the French energy company. It based its comments on the fact that Niger’s mining revenues only contribute 5% to the economy, despite Niger being an important producer of uranium. Some chose  not to read too much into this statement, seeing it as an exercise in populism. However, judging by Issoufou’s recent declaration, it would seem that the government acting is on its statement.

(See a previous blog – Towards a fairer deal for Niger - for more on the story).

EITI Board Meeting in Oslo to make key decisions on the future of the EITI standard

The 26-27 February 2013 meeting of the EITI Board in Oslo will make important decisions on the future of the transparency initiative. In 2012, the Board considered how to revise its rules in order to improve the quality of EITI reports and their effectiveness in generating extractive sector accountability and good governance. In order to remain a relevant standard, the future EITI needs to require project-by-project reporting (to keep up to speed with US and upcoming EU rules), beneficial ownership of companies (so everyone knows who is behind a company), transparency of contracts (contracts for public resources need to be in the public domain) and sale of in-kind revenues (for some countries like Nigeria, sales from in-kind revenues are a major revenue stream).