sharing in governance of extractive industries
The US formally communicated its decision to withdraw from the Extracti... on the 2nd of November. This was hardly surprising and was expected given an earlier decision to remove Section 1504 Dodd Frank Act that would have required mandatory disclosure of project level payment data by extractive companies.
The EITI allows for the public disclosure and reconciliation of payments made by extractive companies and those received by governments. Ordinarily, the US withdrawal should only really draw the ire of US citizens who, as a consequence of this decision, will be deprived access to this public disclosure. However, the US withdrawal has political implications for Africa and the EITI as a whole.
Withdrawing from EITI and doing away with the Section 1504 of Dodd-Frank regrettably sends the message that-in 2017- big oil is still winning. It has been reported that big oil companies such as Chevron and Exxon Mobil have actively campaigned against the SEC rule. It is tragic that they won. It is a classic case of government taking a back seat to big business. It is almost laughable that these companies are represented on the EITI international board.
When African governments refuse to sign up to global multi-stakeholder initiatives such as EITI, they often invoke nationalist rhetoric that these initiatives are foreign imposed. African governments point to the US and other European countries as pushing them to accept these initiatives when they themselves are not subject to the same. By clawing back on EITI and other transparency related reforms, the US effectively makes the position of African governments, that have been obstinate when it comes to recognizing the value of international initiatives, tenable. The withdrawal, in effect, undermines years’ worth of transparency campaign work that has been done by grassroots organizations across Africa and global networks such as Publish What You Pay.
It is duplicitous for the US to exhort African governments, to join and implement the EITI while concurrently withdrawing from the same barely 6 years after joining. That the letter from the Department of Interior talks of national laws preventing the implementation of EITI is disingenuous at best and, at worst, willfully misleading. This ostensibly inhibiting legal framework would surely have been a subject of public debate or at the very least subject to discussion within the multi-stakeholder group (MSG) or the EITI. In any case, the US, is well aware that the EITI allows for adaptation depending on context.
The US states that it will continue to politically and financially support the EITI oblivious to the fact that it politically undermines the initiative through its withdrawal. This reversal of significant public campaign wins (SEC rule on mandatory disclosure and EITI) represents a nadir for US global leadership on transparency and accountability in extractives, perceived or otherwise.
Regrettably, the withdrawal from EITI demonstrates the vulnerability of multi-stakeholder transparency initiatives. An in-country collapse of an initiative such as EITI, is essentially one bad political decision away and can be precipitated by a government withdrawal notwithstanding CSO protestations and continued private sector interest to see the initiative thrive. Tanzania’s recent withdrawal from the Open Government Partnership (... amply demonstrated this.
The emaciation of CSOs in multi-stakeholder initiatives is also stark- our seats at the table are not of equal weighting. Let’s face it. The civil society coalition in the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme’s tripartite arrangement took the difficult decision of boycotting the KPCS Plenary and Inte... to protest the chairpersonship on the United Arab Emirates. This sent a message, an important message but it may very well be argued that CSOs were hardly missed and it was business as usual within the KPCS. The CSO protest against undue process at the 2016 EITI Global Conference in Lima would have also been cause for reflection.
The EITI will hopefully come out stronger despite this inadvertent involuntary wobble- precipitated by the US withdrawal. Navigating a world order characterized by a rise in nationalist fervor may, however, result in the initiative doing more to perfect its diplomacy than perfecting its original ideals. CSOs will have to form a real bulwark against an industry and political assault on the values of EITI.
For Africa, the perennial vulnerability of multi-stakeholder initiatives, means superintendence over the continent’s extractive resources cannot be wholly outsourced to international initiatives. There is, undoubtedly great value in these initiatives but there is ultimately no substitute for strengthening national laws, national institutions and continued mobilization of grassroots campaigning and monitoring.
*The views expressed in this blog post are personal and do not in any way represent the views of any organization.
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