sharing in governance of extractive industries
By Gay Ordenes
Mainstreaming is the future of EITI
The EITI Board made a groundbreaking decision today that will change how EITI implementation will look like in the coming years.
The Board agreed to make systematic disclosures of extractives data through government and company systems the default expectation from countries. This means that instead of producing annual EITI Reports that typically cover fiscal periods that are behind by two years, countries are now expected to disclose the same data through government and company websites, annual reports or other means of reporting that they are already using. This approach recognizes the need to ease the administrative and financial burden encountered by countries when they publish lengthy EITI reports—an exercise that some stakeholders find repetitive (and expensive) because agencies and companies are already disclosing the same data elsewhere. This decision further recognizes the importance of timely data and the need to give stakeholders more time to focus on impact rather than on data collections and report publication.
In taking this decision, the Board discussed the role that multi-stakeholder groups will play when countries move to systematic disclosures. While everyone recognizes that MSGs can focus more on data analysis and formulating recommendations, there is also a concern that this will marginalize their role. For many, this apprehension was considered to be more apparent than real. As the experience of Norway would show, there are other platforms for discussion that CSOs can engage in beyond the MSG.
Interestingly, it became evident during the discussions that systematic disclosures are not limited to countries with advanced systems such as Germany and Norway. Kazakhstan and Senegal are also doing systematic disclosures in some form, proving that this is already work in progress in several EITI countries. CSO representative Ana Carolina Gonzales said that systematic disclosures should be seen as a process rather than as an arrival point.
Countries are expected to transition to systematic disclosures within the next three to five years but this period could be adjusted depending on the country’s context. While it is anticipated that there will be challenges relating to the uneven capacity of countries to go down this route, EITI Chair Fredik Reinfeldt explained that this decision is precise in its direction but flexible in its application.
While the details for systematic disclosure still need to be fleshed out, it is apt to say that the decision made by the Board today shifts the future implementation of the EITI.
After 21 Validations, the EITI Board is increasingly seeing the consequences of applying the safeguard requirements. It may be recalled that in December 2016, the Board reviewed the application of this requirement and agreed that automatic suspension will be imposed when there are restrictions on civic space. Two countries have been suspended since, with these two countries deciding to withdraw from the EITI. These developments inevitably threw into question the wisdom of automatic suspension as penalty. The Board extensively discussed this issue today, in response to feedback from stakeholders who find the penalty of suspension to be counterproductive for countries where EITI is the only platform that provides a safe space for civil society to express its views. One possible approach that was raised was to allow the Board to exercise discretion on whether to suspend a country or not.
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