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EITI 'supporting states' - support means money, not presumed moral superiority

Yesterday, at the first day of the EITI Board's 2-day meeting in Oslo, there was a stand-out moment. 

It wasn't the worthy discussion of the validation schedule, or the meticulously prepared papers, or the sensible outreach work. It wasn't even the intelligent introduction to the new EITI beta website, which looks set to become a very handy resource for everyone. 

The stand-out moment came while the secretariat was patiently explaining the budget shortfall. The official pointed out that only 10 of the 17 'supporting' nations have paid their dues and even then many have paid only the bare minimum. Nigerian minister Zanaib Ahmed immediately pointed out that if 'supporting' countries actually supported then there would be no funding crisis. 

Perhaps the minister was simply being arithmetical, but to watch her in action is to observe a rare mind employed in pursuit of what for her nation is a mission of historical proportions. There was more to her comment.

When the EITI began, it was an initiative 'developed' states encouraged 'developing economies' to join. It would reduce risk for companies, increase tax revenue and give citizens a clearer view of what's going on with their national assets. Now, however, the most experienced countries within the EITI are those developing nations. And their commitment is proven beyond doubt by the attendance of ministers and senior officials from those states. 

To be fair on some supporting countries, like the US, France, the UK and Germany, they are also now signing up to the EITI and provide considerable assistance to the EITI secretariat. This is in recognition of the fact that the EITI can only work as a partnership of equals. In addition, the US and France both send senior diplomats to meetings. The Scandinavian states provide a former prime minister as chair and, like the UK, fund the EITI fairly generously. Supporting companies all provide extensive support, too.

However, amongst those 'supporting' states failing to pay their way, there are some horror stories. How else to describe a country which shows its 'support' by sending along a junior official to occupy a top table place it has failed to pay for? What kind of mindset containing what sort of value assumptions does that convey?

The EITI has a significant structural weakness it must address. It is run and dominated by the developed economies but it's the developing economies who are now far more expert in the real demands of EITI validation. Clearly, the latter need much more say over the leadership and direction of the EITI. For now, however, the EITI should eschew anything which looks like old, developed states claiming moral leadership over young, developing ones. 

Support means money and resources, not presumed moral superiority. The EITI must interrogate 'supporters' who do not support. Perhaps some sob-stories will be valid. But in a lot of cases, they won't. These latter countries should either pay up or step away from the Board. 

So, Belgium and the others, why not stop embarrassing your officials and do the right thing?

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