sharing in governance of extractive industries

UK EITI - useful lessons for civil society?

We have the latest meeting of the UK EITI multi-stakeholder group tomorrow (Tuesday) and this comes just as we've issued our first year report. Elsewhere on Goxi, Miles Litvinoff of Publish What You Pay provides a super, detailed description of the administrative process so far. It’s worth flagging here a few quick lessons in respect of civil society activity on the MSG.


First, Extractive Industries Civil Society (EICS) holds 2 out of the 4 civil society places on the MSG, with Publish What You Pay (PWYP) holding the other 2. This reflects the split between, on the one hand, volunteers from all over the UK who represent local areas affected by the extractive sectors: and on the other, the staff of London-headquartered NGOs who direct the efforts of local NGOs in developing economies. Interestingly, PWYP holds only 1 place out of the 4 civil society places on the United States MSG. 


This trend amongst developed economies contrasts with developing economies, where it is often wrongly believed that civil society representatives must be part of PWYP. Recently, EICS successfully argued for and led the process by which civil society organisations across the world joined the EITI Association directly, rather than via PWYP. Now Tanzania EICS has been very active in ensuring that local communities are heard directly in the EITI system, rather than via US or UK led international NGOs. Other African states are doing the same. It’s to be hoped that civil society organisations in countries already signed up to the EITI, and those considering signing up, will now take full advantage of this new choice.


Second, this new trend also reflects quite distinct underlying philosophies. Each worldview is, of course, equally valid. It’s really a matter for people to choose for themselves where they stand.


EICS began at the UK EITI as a response to the need for representation from outside the staff of London’s international NGOs. We believe that well-managed mineral assets provide nations with an important source of investment, skills and jobs, that this will remain the case for many years to come, and that the developing economies should play a greater role in EITI leadership than heretofore. EICS is a term free for civil society organisations across the world to use, however, since it’s simply descriptive. No-one owns the term or seeks to control policies from the centre in any way. This means that messages are dynamic, sometimes in honest disagreement, and properly representative of local people wherever the extractive industries operate. PWYP, on the other hand, represents civil society organisations which choose to follow the line of the powerful and well-organised international NGO headquarters in London and the US. This is less representative of communities but perhaps at present has the benefit of greater coherence and funding.


Because Extractive Industries Civil Society groups are not told what to do by headquarters in London and the US, they’re free to represent local imperatives including jobs, investment, safety and sound environmental operations. PWYP-funded and led organisations tend to reflect the anti-fossil fuel imperatives of their leaders and policy-makers. PWYP is, however, in spite of having no obligation to, or responsibility for, PWYP affiliators, certainly very well connected in respect of funding and can often assist civil society organisatons prepared to accept London-led PWYP leadership and policy.


Third, UK EICS is based upon individual membership. Anyone who doesn’t work in the extractive industries nor in a relevant job in government can join.  We have associated organisations which work with us, but we feel it’s essential that people can join as equal members. PWYP UK, and the network it controls, is characterized by being available only to organisations for full, voting membership. This provides salaried officers with full control over message and policy. In addition, PWYP staff place restrictions on people working in the private sector outside the extractive sectors, and indeed on many people working in the public sector too. EICS in other countries make their own membership rules, of course, as they’re completely independent.


Fourth, and finally for now, EICS strongly supports the UK government (and others) when it stresses the need for the EITI to expand to take in many other nations; and agrees with the EITI Secretariat, governments and private sector when they argue that the EITI – as a tripartite organization – works best through collegiality and partnership. PWYP tends to take a more confrontational, anti-industry and anti-government approach. It must be said, though, that this approach has ensured considerable success for PWYP in the past. There is no doubt that PWYP deserves much credit for the creation of the EITI and perhaps it's therefore understandable that its creators and leaders feel such tactics – such as protests and boycotts at Lima earlier this year, and a proposed boycott at the UK EITI last year - remain valid.


In sum, the UK EITI MSG, and it seems the US EITI MSG too, has accommodated both worldview within civil society and is all the stronger for it. If any reader would like more information about the UK EITI, on how to join the EICS or indeed the EITI Association, or would like help or advice of any sort please don’t hesitate to contact us on civilextractives@gmail.com

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