Manchester based campaigners from anti-poverty groups ONE and Tearfund met with North West Labour MEP Arlene McCarthy on Friday to ask her to keep up the pressure on big oil companies. Ms McCarthy has a crucial role to play in the creation of a new law that would put an end to the secrecy that allows unscrupulous leaders to siphon-off the profits from oil, gas and mining contracts. If spent well, these profits could lift millions of people out of poverty.
In recent months major oil and gas companies have been lobbying hard to water down the proposed legislation. Ms McCarthy, as a member of the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee which is responsible for agreeing the European Parliament’s position, has a key role to help ensure that these attempts are unsuccessful.
The proposed law, currently being debated by European leaders, would force oil, gas and mining companies to publish the payments they make to governments of poor countries in return for their natural resources allowing citizens to hold their leaders to account for the way the revenues from natural resources’ are spent.
Campaigners from ONE and Tearfund presented Ms McCarthy with a petition of over 135,000 signatures calling on European leaders to stand up to corporate lobbying against the proposed laws.
ONE member Naomi Davey said:
“I’m proud to live in a region where our MEPs, like Arlene McCarthy, are working to ensure that these laws are strong enough to do the job. Transparency is essential in order to root out corruption and help people get themselves out of poverty. We must not waste this opportunity to help millions around the world get a better deal from their country’s natural resources.”
Tearfund member Mike Chesterton said:
“£3,000 a second is lost to corruption Africa alone. We want to see laws that will unearth the truth on this corruption and ensure companies publish what they pay to the governments for oil, gas and precious minerals. We want to urge Arlene McCarthy and Sajjad Karim to help poorer communities benefit from the wealth beneath their feet.”
After meeting with the campaigners Arlene McCarthy MEP said:
“ONE and Tearfund are playing a vital role in the campaign for new European laws which would require greater transparency by oil, gas, mining and logging companies.
“As the Parliament’s draftsperson on the Transparency Directive I am committed to taking up ONE and Tearfund’s concerns in this legislation and I am pleased to see so many people in my own region supporting the campaign.
“Project-by-project reporting, a key element of their campaign, will give local communities a clearer picture of how much revenue is generated from these companies activities near their communities. This in turn will help them in demanding from their governments an equitable share of the funds to mitigate the negative impact these activities can have on their area. The UK Government has aligned itself with the big international companies position of Government level report which will be totally meaningless for local communities in holding their Governments to account.”
Joe Powell, UK Policy and Advocacy Manager at ONE said:
“Transparency is central to good governance; people must be able to hold their governments to account. Revenues from natural resources should be spent on vital services like schools, health clinics and roads that help ordinary citizens in poor countries, not going into the pockets of a few corrupt leaders. The secrecy surrounding oil and mining payments is a trillion dollar scandal that is denying millions the chance to escape poverty.”
The European Commission has proposed an EU-wide transparency law to shed light on the payments oil, gas and mining companies make to the governments where they operate. This would empower citizens with the information they need to hold their leaders accountable for money received. In 2010 Africa’s natural resources were worth $333 billion.
Arlene McCarthy is Shadow Rapporteur on the Legal Affairs Committee for the Socialist and Democrats bloc in the European Parliament. As such she can suggest and vote on amendments to the committee’s highly influential report on the proposed legislation.
Sajjad Karim is a Conservative MEP for the North West. He is also a member of the Legal Affairs Committee.
The move by Europe is in line with the US Dodd-Frank Act which sets out that allUSlisted extractive industry companies should publish their payments to governments. This month will see the final rules implementing Dodd-Frank published in theUnited States.
ONE is a global advocacy and campaigning organization backed by more than 3 million people from around the world dedicated to fighting extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. For more information please visit www.ONE.org
Tearfund is a Christian relief and development agency building a global network of local churches to help eradicate poverty. Tearfund is a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee. For more information please visit http://www.tearfund.org/