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sharing in governance of extractive industries

How Africans are taking control of their own EITI

Tanzania Extractive Industry Civil Society (TEICS)'s Bubelwa Kaiza writes here at Goxi about an attempt by powerful, rich International NGOs to wrest control of the EITI initiative in Tanzania from dedicated local CSOs. 

This is the latest episode in a new story about Africans determined to assert their will over their own civil society agendas, rather than having to priorities and policies dictated by headquarters staff in London and elsewhere in the North.

 

The particulars of this case, and the general issues which sit behind them, are both of great importance today. 

Kaiza and his colleagues at TEICS, who each represents local CSOs ranging from trade unions to disabled community representatives to local activists, provide the civil society representation at the Tanzanian EITI Multistakeholder Group (MSG). At the beginning of the present MSG period, they served under the umbrella of the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) campaign. With the new EITI Standard, that campaign came to an end and a small number of staff decided to set up a not-for-profit company in London called Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Ltd.

 

This tiny London company today claims the right to ‘direct’ and ‘lead’ PWYP coalitons across the world; it does this largely by influencing funding decisions of large INGOs. Yet iPWYP accepts no liability or responsibility for local CSOs. It’s a wholly unworkable situation, not least because the coalitions themselves have no legal existence.

Many Africans, and people elsewhere in the world, feel strongly that with the PWYP campaign having morphed into a small London-based NGO, it it's time for local CSOs across the world to decide for themselves their own priorities and representatives.

 

African NGOs are mainly focussed upon ensuring that local communities get a good deal in terms of jobs, training and economic development from environmentally conscious extractive industries. Whereas PWYP Ltd, in its new guise, is increasingly critical of the extraction of fossil fuels per se. This seems designed to grow that small compans popularity in the North and, indeed, in South America. Of course, sometimes these two sets of imperatives can work together – but sometimes not. The important thing is that it’s Africans, and people in other developing regions, who get to decide when they do and when they don't.

 

In Tanzania, Kaiza and his colleagues created the wholly autonomous Tanzanian EICS. Sadly, Publish What You Pay Ltd, working with and through the facilities of its powerful, Washington-based International NGO NRGI, seems determined to use money and influence to create local proxy organisations in order to take control of the civil society part of TEITI. The period in office of the present TEITI MSG ends on 31 May. This aggressive action on the part of rich Northern NGOs – seeking to dominate a EITIs using relative wealth and power, rather than respecting genuine African CSOs aleady in place, is manifestly unhealthy. And it seems designed to fail. 

 

The simple fact is that everything is changing now within the EITI family. And that's surely a good thing. Civil society organisations in developing economies are demanding autonomy. They have their own imperatives, their own committed professionals. They welcome assistance from well-meaning and rich funders in the North; but they demand respect. Those Northern funders – staffed almost wholly by white professionals in London, Washington and elsewhere - can no longer demand to control civil society across the world. If they do insist upon control, then their time is up. 

 

The EITI is a fine initiative; it needs to expand to bring in many countries who will benefit from membership. Civil society in developing economies largely support this trend, while London-based staffers often oppose it and wish to make it ever-harder for developing countries to join or even remain. So it is very much time for developing economies to have their voice heard across all three constituencies. Perhaps this can be a theme of the international Board meeting in Kazakhstan in October?

 

For now, it’s to be hoped that this weeks’ Board Meeting in Oslo will reflect on how the voice of developing economies can become the dominant one – rather that one patronised – within the whole EITI initiative.

 

Change mustn’t stop at civil society, of course. Every single company representative on the International Board is a white, European American or Australian executive. Are there no black or brown people in the extractive or investment industries? There’s even a gap on the Board at the moment – why not fill it with an African investor? Surely there's one African working somewhere within the extractive and investment industries, somewhere? Seriously, though, it's ridiculous. To be fair, executives presently on the board understand this and have expressed the wish that the next board will be more diverse. Let's see if the EITI follows through. 

 

On the government-side, it’s striking that developing countries often send ministers and very high-grade public servants to EITI meetings; while the ministers of Northern countries are sometimes largely uninvolved and send junior officials along. For anyone reading this while attending the Board meeting in Oslo – look  around. See if you can spot any patterns….

 

When Germany decided to start along the road of joining the EITI, it decided not simply to accept its modest place as a new candidate and learn from the experienced full members amongst developing economies, but to assess the effectiveness of the whole EITI! That country appointed a group civil servants and two dozen ‘experts’ to carry out this task; all of them white and most drawn from non-members of the EITI. Africans? Central Asians? South Americans? No experts there, apparently. Again, simply ridiculous. Perhaps the German government can think again about that now? Maybe the minister will get involved there and see how ridiculous Germany's been made to look?

 

For this week, however, it’s to be hoped that the EITI Board will encourage powerful western NGOs to find a way of helping Tanzanian CSOs which doesn’t involve using financial muscle to barge them out of the way in order to put in place others who are prepared to follow orders in return for cash.

 

We at EICS led the way in ensuring that all civil society organisations can sign up directly to the EITI Association rather than having to go through PWYP Ltd. We also worked with Tanzania EICS and a number of other African colleague organisations to ensure that all civil society organisations, not just PWYP Ltd, can nominate Board members. That's being followed now by a full governance review conducted by the EITI Board itself, which is very good news indeed. We provide free advice and consultancy to civil society organisations in developing economies wishing to organise themselves nationally and regionally without being forced to accept an agenda dictated from London and Washington. Meanwhile, regional non-PWYP coalitions are free to call themselves EICS - it's intended as a free, generic term which simply says what it does on the box - or not as they wish. Do contact us at civilextractives@gmail.com if you feel we can be of any help.

 

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