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Dear Eric,

I am pleased to comment on your blog as follows:

1.  I was at the Sydney May 2013 EITI Global Conference when the new standard was launched. There was a huge number of delegates and it was obvious to everyone I heard present or talked to there that the new standard was vastly different - both massively more complex and multifaceted - than the old, proven, well understood but limited one. The new one was largely an unknown quantity then, but clearly a different beast.

2. Countries should not be surprised what has happened with the new standard, given Sydney. But two years is not that long to react and adapt.  So, I strongly welcome the validation piloting as pragmatic and sensible.

3. The EITI community needs to understand why its concept of a. civil society and b. its promotion of the fundamental relevance of EITI itself seem to resonate in countries like Malawi but almost completely falls flat in countries like the UK. This goes to the heart of the question: what actually is "civil society"?; if a broad consensus could be achieved on that, then that would be a solid set of foundations for discussions on EITI  thereafter. Studying Hegel at Edinburgh Uni I learnt a very simple formulation: civil society = everyone outwith the State.  But that takes no account of the trinitarian basis of EITI, one that includes a separate pillar of the Private Sector (PS). Where the PS starts and stops, and hence the remaining space for civil society, is unclear... not least as a majority of workers are PS workers and this is equally true if the extractives sector as for leisure and tourism, say. So, is a majority of what I would normally consider "civil society" actually somehow in the PS "camp" when it comes to the EITI?  If so, a reduced and tightly drawn NGO field could help explain why the remaining few voices share so much in common.

4. Your reference to the final paragraph of that WB blog is thus spot on - EITI is at a crossroads.  In my view, the best way it can "future-proof" itself would be to adopt a more expansive definition of civil society and allow more people, and more contrasting voices, into that tent.

Well done, again, with your post here.  I found it informative and thought-provoking, even if the "Game of Thrones" reference left me completely bewildered.  It's a video game of some sort, right?

Thanks, Daniel. GoT isn't a video game yet, although I imagine someone might bring one out soon. If you Google Oberyn Martell Gregor Clegaine they you'll see what I mean about what civil society looked like at the end of Berne. It's gory, though!

Interesting about Sydney. I've heard that some of the countries feel they got 'jumped' by civil society and didn't realise how tough the criteria they'd agreed was. When the realised just how tough, they assumed civil society would be commonsensical about the application. They hadn't accounted for grandstanding nor the way civil society inside the EITI has become an NGO in its own right this year and needs to attract funding and so forth through radical behaviour. This seems to be the general view. I really hope LIma, the next conference in Feb 2016, will reverse this trend since it can only damage the EITI. 

I spent roughly ten years working on or around the EITI, up until May 2013, including three years as a Board Member or Alternate, and I don’t think that this critique does justice to the complicated internal politics of the EITI and the role that CSOs play in it.

Pushing the envelope and introducing new ideas has been central to the role of CSOs since the start of the EITI which was, at its inception, a governmental and industry response to civil society campaigning. The question of “what’s constructively possible, and even desirable” has always been a matter of negotiation between the various interests, each of which holds out for its own preferences before eventually coming to a compromise.  That holding-out is what one often sees at Board meetings and all the interests in the room do it, not just the CSOs. They’re just more visible. While many different people and institutions have made the EITI what it is, it's quite possible that it would have long since subsided into irrelevance like some other initiatives of the early 2000s if CSOs hadn't constantly agitated for higher standards and more ambition.

 As for the question of Validation, the debate between those who want a broader, softer and more inclusive approach to the application of the EITI rules and those who would prefer a sharper, narrower standard has been a hardy perennial since 2003: it will probably continue for as long as the EITI exists.  The pattern is usually that the EITI sets a requirement with a deadline, some countries fall short and there’s a tense, argumentative period on the Board about what to about it, which usually ends in a last-minute compromise that maintains the requirement by extending the deadline.  

It is often hard to find out why a country has missed a deadline. In some cases, it is clear that the requirements were genuinely more complicated to implement, in the context of that country, than the government could have known in advance. In other cases I’ve heard total nonsense talked on the Board about the hardships faced by some government in meeting a deadline, when some of us had been briefed in private that the real reason was a civil servant failing to get the paperwork done in time or a crucial document sitting neglected for months on a minister’s desk (both actual cases). In the case of the current standard, I don't claim to know what the reasons are for some countries falling behind, so I don't want to make any judgements. But I do know that the general risk of the initiative subsiding into a warm puddle of consensus, without shape or energy, is always there.

To my mind a more pertinent question than the grind of Board meetings is the question of whether the EITI is making more of a difference in the real world now than it was in 2011. Then, an independent review found that it was making very little difference to the governance of natural resources. I’d like to think that the answer now would be “Yes” but the only way to know for sure is to commission another review.

Diarmid, you make some excellent points below, and in a very constructive manner. Clearly the EITI is a very relevant and critically important transparency initiative and its rigour has meant that it has properly avoided the type of criticisms sometimes levelled at, for instance, the Kimbereley Process. The EITI is huge news and has massive profile in countries that are new to it (Malawi is a prime example - and one I know reasonably well), and more longstanding countries of the initiative, such as Ghana. Eric's blog ha clearly set off a lively debate on the efficacy of CSOs' relationship to the EITI, and I think that can only be very helpful.

Hi Daniel,

I'm going to play Devil's Advocate here and suggest that we don't actually know how important the EITI is in real terms. It attracts a lot of attention (including a namecheck at the recent Financing for Development conference in Ethiopia) and a lot of governments and other institutions want to be associated with it. But the only way to find out what it does in the real world is to have someone like Scanteam take another comprehensive look at it. Not right now, perhaps, but between the next EITI conference and the one after, by which time the Standard will have bedded in.

Best wishes,


Thanks, Diarmid. I guess I'd simply say that I'm referring to what I see as a current problem, not something which existed in your time at Global Witness pre-2013 Standard. I've seen a lot of negotiations, though, and I was shocked by Berne - as were the professional diplomats present. The new standard has created a new ecology for the NGOs involved, I think, and they haven't responded well for now. That might change - I can't say. I would say, though, that I can't see how a standard which excluded difficult states who are doing their best would be of much value to anyone. It's worth reading Jonas Moberg and Eddie Rich's wee book; "Beyond Governance". For now, the governments and companies look more progressive than the NGOs.