Apr 11th, 2013 10:57 AM UTC
By Joseph Powell
This post was originally published on Trust Law.
The fight against corruption is messy, unpredictable and often dangerous. In developing countries it has historically been most acute in countries with large deposits of oil, gas and minerals, and involves the diversion of huge sums of money that could otherwise be spent on poverty eradication.
That’s why this week’s agreement in Brussels for all 27 European Union member states to require extractive companies to publish the payments they make to governments is potentially such a game-changer. Transparency of this kind releases information that will make it harder for natural resource wealth to be lost to corruption or captured solely by elites.
The European decision follows a similar US law which passed in 2010 and came into force last year. It is to the credit of policy-makers on both sides of the Atlantic that the laws match each other in many respects, including requiring reporting to be on a project-by-project basis and for publication of all payments over EURO 100,000/$100,000 respectively. Both sets of lawmakers also rejected industry pressure for an exemption for reporting in the most autocratic countries where secrecy laws might be passed in the future, deciding these were precisely the places where greater transparency is needed most. This is the new global standard for legally binding transparency in the extractive industries.
Now attention should turn to two key issues: globalising the standard even further; and putting in place a plan for ensuring all the forthcoming data is used for accountability purposes.
The G8 focus on natural resource governance presents an opportunity to make progress on both. First, the G8 countries not covered by Dodd-Frank 1504 or the EU Accounting Directive should commit to passing their own equivalent measures by the end of the year. Canada, home to over 2000 extractive industry companies and the largest non-African investor in mining in Africa, is a natural priority. Mining groups and civil society are currently working together to make a recommendation to government in the coming months for how this might work in practice. As co-chairs of the G20 anti-corruption working group Canada is also well placed to win support from other major players in the sector, including Australia, South Africa, Brazil and China.
The G8 can also help mobilise financial support to help the end-users of extractives data hold governments to account. These include parliamentary committees, supreme audit institutions, media, international organisations and local civil society. A new multi-donor ‘Follow the Money’ fund could be set up to support this. There must also be international vigilance to support the activists on the frontline of campaigns against corruption, such as the Publish What You Pay coalition member recently arrested in Gabon.
The momentum in favour of transparency and openness in the extractive industries is remarkable. It is testament to the organisation and commitment of the activists involved, and to the bravery of political leaders who persevered and stuck to their principles in the face of fierce lobbying. This is deservedly a moment for celebration but it would be a mistake to become complacent. The battles to make this transparency standard truly global, and ensure the data delivers the improvement in people’s lives that all sides want to see, will be just as tough. Europe struck an important blow in the fight against corruption last night. Now we must make sure it is not the last.
Apr 10th, 2013 6:34 PM UTC
By Eloise Todd
We did it. After months of our hard campaigning, last night European leaders reached a deal that requires oil, gas, mining, and logging companies to publish the payments they make to governments.
Previously, these payments were made in secret, fuelling corruption; but this victory will help promote accountability. Now citizens will be better able to ensure that the money generated in resource-rich countries is used for vital services like schools, roads and hospitals.
This deal is a historic milestone in the fight against corruption and your actions made all the difference.
More than 162 000 petition signatures; more than 8000 postcards and countless handwritten letters and tweets all made sure our voices couldn’t be ignored.
Help us spread the word that change is possible by shouting about this incredible news.
As Bono said, “Europe’s leaders have stepped up and delivered a gamechanging breakthrough tonight. Transparency is one of the best vaccines against corruption, and now citizens the world over will know what their country’s resources are really worth. I’m delighted for the activists that have campaigned so hard for this to happen and applaud the bravery of politicians who stood up to fierce lobbying and got the deal done.”
And it wouldn’t have happened without you. Thank you again.
Mar 25th, 2013 12:06 PM UTC
By Guest Blogger
“A cat has a lot in common with a politician. When it’s hungry it’ll come and rub up against you, and then the rest of the day it just sits there”. – Michael Soi
Michael Soi is a Nairobi based artist whose pieces provide a personal reflection and satirical commentary on contemporary social, economic and political trends in Kenya. ONE’s Hannah Elansary got the chance to talk to Michael about his art.
When did you start painting ?
I began creating art from my childhood because my dad is also an artist. I took it seriously after high school when I went to art school and graduated in 1996 and officially began my career as an artist.
What is the biggest inspiration for you work?
My biggest inspiration is the city of Nairobi
Painting revealing Nairobi night life. Photo credit: edcrossfineart.com
Who is your audience?
My audience is mostly the people of Kenya and anyone who has lived in Kenya long enough to understand the dynamics of the society. I want them to look at the man in the mirror.
Why is it personally important for you to paint about corruption and other struggles?
I do work that revolves around corruption because it is a big problem in Kenya, which seems to have interfered with the development of this country. Impunity is how government deals with this issue making it very difficult- I dwell on issues that a lot of artists will choose not to address.
Why do you think people refer to your work as controversial?
Because I touch on issues that they do and don’t want put out there. I talk about corruption and commercial sex work. Kenyan society is one that loves to bury its head in the sand.
Do you listen to any music while you work?
Yes! I listen to Manu Chao. I love his music and what it represents. I listen to a lot of weird music!
What is the goal of your artwork?
To create a visual diary where in the next 15 to 20 years, young people will look at my work and see where Kenyan society has come from.
Michael is currently working on a new series of paintings called I Love Nairobi. His work has been selected for group and solo exhibitions in Africa, Europe, the UK and the US, so look for his art at a gallery near you. Or find out more on Michael’s Facebook page.
Feb 19th, 2013 11:59 AM UTC
By Alan Hudson
The horsemeat scandal shows how hard it can be for people to keep track of what goes into the food that they put on their plate.
Faced with a complex web of transactions, it’s hard for people to make sense of what’s going on. This is a big deal – people should be able to know what they’re eating.
In developing countries there is a different kind of secrecy that’s worse. Far worse. In four out of five countries covered by the Open Budget Survey, governments don’t provide their citizens with enough information to make sense of their national budget.
The problem is particularly pronounced in countries that have an abundance of natural resources such as oil, gas and minerals. This means that people can’t see how their resources are being used – whether they’re being wisely invested in health, agriculture and education, or whether they’re being siphoned off to the accounts of corrupt leaders. This needs to stop.
ONE campaigns for more transparency in the fight against global poverty, so that people in developing countries can hold their governments to account and take control of their lives in a future beyond aid.
Follow the meat. Follow the money. Demand transparency.
Feb 8th, 2013 6:54 PM UTC
By Joseph Powell
There is big news today on both sides of the Atlantic for campaigners – including ONE – in the Publish What You Pay coalition for transparency in oil, gas and mining. The major Norwegian oil company Statoil has withheld their support from last-ditch attempts to overturn the new US rules on transparency, and a former Shell executive has declared his support for similar laws in Europe.
At ONE, we’ve been pushing for laws in the US and Europe that would lead to the publication of all payments from extractive companies to every government where they do business, on a project-by-project basis. This will help empower citizens in resource-rich but poor African countries with the information they need to hold their leaders accountable for money coming in. However, some of the largest oil companies have chosen to fight these efforts, including through a lawsuit filed by the US industry body – the American Petroleum Institute (API) – against rules that implement the “Cardin-Lugar” amendment to the 2010 Wall Street Reform Act.
Today our partners Global Witness have published a letter from Statoil, a major New York Stock Exchange-listed Norwegian oil company, indicating they do not support industry attempts to overturn these rules. They said: “Statoil has not supported the lawsuit initiated by API; in fact, Statoil has explicitly withheld support for the litigation. As you know, we have not taken an active stand regarding the lawsuit, but chose to communicate our view on the new rule to the SEC, internally in the API and in other relevant fora.” Statoil’s decision deserves considerable praise and we are encouraging ONE members to tweet them a well done message using their handle @statoilasa. We are now calling on other companies to similarly distance themselves from the pro-secrecy API lawsuit, and cease attempts to weaken the proposed European transparency law.
In a new article for The Guardian, Alan Detheridge, a former executive with the oil company Shell, also pushes back against attempts to kill or weaken the new transparency rules in the US and Europe. He writes: “Oil companies, including Shell, are trying to convince European governments to weaken the proposed reporting by pushing for exemptions and opposing project-level reporting. These same companies are also members of the American Petroleum Institute, which is going to court to try to overturn the US legislation passed in 2010 and thereby turn back the clock on transparency. I hope that European governments will resist this pressure and stand up for transparency. The European rules should require reporting in all countries, and for every project, with no exemptions.”
These two interventions build on the support of former BP Chief Executive Lord John Browne who wrote in the Financial Times in April 2012 that the European “law could transform the lives of millions of people in some of the world’s poorest countries. But it will only work if it requires companies to disclose all the important details of their payments.”
Governments, NGOs and extractive industry companies should now unite around the new global standard – mandatory disclosure in every country on a project-level basis – and ensure that this transparency momentum leads to improvements in people’s lives in some of the poorest parts of the world.
Take an extra step for the fight for transparency and tell the UN High Level Panel to make sure that our next global plan to end extreme poverty is open, transparent and represents the world’s poorest.
Jan 18th, 2013 3:00 PM UTC
By Katherine Lay
Say that your country is blessed with natural resources. Oil, gas, minerals – it has it all. The future looks good. But deep down you worry that the bonanza could turn into a bust – maybe you live in Africa and have seen how windfalls have been wasted before. How do you know that’s not going to happen now? Are there any tell-tale signs of sound management of “commodity wealth”?
Marcelo Giugale, the World Bank’s Director of Economic Policy and Poverty Reduction Programs for Africa, recently asked these questions and, in response, offers us a combination of measures that every government should have in place to help citizens get a good deal from their resources.
We’ve looked at four of these measures and how they’re playing out in Africa.
First Measure: Governments publish their extractives contracts
Extractive resources are public assets and decisions about their use should be subject to public oversight. But many African governments are keeping their oil, gas and mining contracts firmly under wraps. This is a problem because confidential contracts prevent citizens from holding political and corporate leaders to account for the deals they’ve struck. Closed contracts may contain unreasonable tax breaks, terms that contravene national legislation or clauses that allow companies to ignore changes in national law. By contrast open contracts help maximize gains for citizens, and are a deterrent to self-serving actions on the part of government leaders. They also increase investment stability for companies by securing balanced deals from the outset.
Contrary to warnings that contract disclosure turns investors away, the countries that have elected to go the transparency route have watched investor interest in their resources grow. After Liberia and Nigeria signed up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) – a voluntary global standard that promotes revenue transparency and open extractives governance – their credit ratings improved and foreign investment increased. Both countries have passed national EITI laws that make independently audited reporting of resource revenue payments and receipts legally binding. Sierra Leone, with its devastating history of mineral wars, is now publishing all its mining contracts online. Guinea’s new mining code mandates the same. Ghana has made its most important petroleum agreements publicly available and has established a Public Interest and Accountability Committee made up of government, corporate and civil society representatives to oversee oil revenue flows. It is also an EITI member, with a national EITI law in the legislative pipeline. Zambia’s parliament is set to enact its EITI law this year. In fact, the majority of member countries of the EITI are African (22 of 37 members), although some key extractives producers – notably South Africa – have yet to sign up.
Second Measure: Rent from the exploitation of extractive resources is saved for bad times and for future generations
Massive offshore oil and gas discoveries in East Africa, from Tanzania to Mozambique, are catapulting countries in the region into global energy players, and will bring in billions in windfall revenues that could transform entire economies. Planned investments exceed the current GDP of some host countries. Barely a month goes by without new discoveries of extractive resources across the continent. These provide unprecedented opportunities for countries to tackle poverty and to ensure more prosperous futures for their citizens. But for this to happen, a substantial share of revenues need to be invested in assets, with a sense of responsibility to future generations, rather than used for immediate consumption. Too many countries have made the mistake of depleting their resources, allowing revenues to disappear through unsustainable spending and consumption, and finding their coffers quickly exhausted.
Although there are mixed views on whether current African producers – even those with relatively strong governance records – are investing revenues adequately or distributing them equitably, there is no doubt that issues of rent beneficiation and the importance of long-term saving is now high on the African radar. Governments are recognizing that beating the resource curse requires prudent fiscal policies with long-term expenditure frameworks that prioritize investment in human capital and infrastructure.
Sovereign wealth funds can help countries smooth the volatility of resource-driven revenues by lowering the effect of boom and bust cycles resulting from fluctuating commodity prices. They can also help a country diversify its wealth. The continent is currently witnessing a scramble for sovereign funds, reflecting a healthy interest by African governments in saving for future generations and in buffering their economies against financial shocks. As long as these funds are transparently managed and well-structured, they can help keep a country’s economic trajectory firmly on the upswing. Botswana’s long-standing Pula Fund, financed for the most part by diamond revenues, has been a strong source of growth for a country that was one of Africa’s poorest in the 1970s and now finances the university education of over 90% of its students. As oil revenue starts to flow into Ghana’s coffers from newly discovered offshore reserves, the government is eager to reap the profits and pressure to spend is high. But the rapid development of the oil industry and the associated challenges for the government have made it critical to assure investors that a framework is in place to save oil money when energy prices are high. In response, Ghana launched its sovereign wealth fund last year. Africa now accounts for 14 sovereign wealth funds – Angola, Botswana, Nigeria, Libya and Algeria have them in place, and Tanzania will soon follow.
Third Measure: Governments pay off their debt
Debt dynamics have been driving global economic change over the last decade, not least in Africa. Overall, the benefits of debt relief and sustainable debt management are persisting. African governments are servicing their debt and borrowing responsibly. Debt stock ratios – which fell dramatically with debt relief – have risen only slightly since, and “debt-distress” risk ratings prepared by the World Bank and the IMF have improved markedly. The number of African countries rated as high-risk has halved since 2006 (from 18 to 9) and low-risk ratings are becoming the norm (from 5 to 13). Nigeria, South Africa, Namibia, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana and Zambia are all issuing sovereign bonds on international markets and getting high levels of international investor interest as bond buyers seek higher yields than in the US and less default risk than in some Asian economies. Last year, Senegal issued its second sovereign bond, breaking new ground by successfully concluding a joint bond issue and exchange.
But risks remain high, especially for fragile states. Some emerging African economies have exceeded the globally acceptable benchmark of a no higher than 30% debt to GDP ratio, over which debt burdens become over-bearing. The IMF has warned that the build-up of public debt levels in South Africa since the global financial crisis is now a constraint on the government’s fiscal space as additional debt accumulation will likely raise funding costs. South Africa’s debt to GDP ratio for 2012-13 is 40%. Ghana’s ratio stands at 41%. Nigeria‘s ratio of 18% is relatively low, but, in contrast to South Africa and Ghana, a large portion of this debt has been used to plug holes in its budget rather than on capital projects. Kenya continues to be one of Africa’s debt success stories: in 2003, the debt ratio stood at 60%, declining to 40% by 2008 through prudent fiscal policies, economic reforms and sound budget management. Its debt currently stands at 45%, but is on track to return to 40% by 2014.
Fourth Measure: An audit of the government’s budget execution is done on time and made available to the public
The budget audit closes the accountability loop by giving an authoritative account of whether the government’s reporting of how it raised taxes and spent public funds during the budget year is accurate and whether it has complied with financial management laws and regulations. Budget audits are a key deterrent to corruption as they provide a means for public scrutiny during budget evaluation phases and, when published, promote a sense of trust in elected representatives.
The Open Budget Survey rates South Africa one of the world’s top performers, both on audit reporting and broader budget transparency. The government gives citizens a full picture of its plans for taxing and spending, publishing all key budget documents and an understandable citizen-friendly version of the official budget. Budget audits are published on time and online. The country’s budget framework creates disincentives for misappropriation of public funds and formalizes the participation of citizens in the budgeting process, developing a sense of ownership of outcomes through collective decision-making and helping ensure that expenditures are better directed towards pro-poor programs.
Uganda and Ghana – East and West Africa’s top performers – are also producing and publishing comprehensive audit reports, although their timeliness is problematic. Liberia’s audit institutions have been exceptionally active in promoting budget accountability, publishing audit reports on time and issuing press releases to signal their submission to parliament. The audits are discussed with citizens in public hearings and open forums all over the country, and are made available in schools and public libraries. Liberia’s legislature has also enacted a Public Finance Management Law that lays down the budget system to be followed by the government, and approved a law that limits the amount of funds the executive can transfer from one administrative unit to another at its own discretion. But Liberia’s story is not common. An ongoing problem across the continent is the limited time given to parliaments to look over budget proposals and audits, and limited powers to amend or challenge them.
Strong accountability institutions – parliaments, audit institutions, civil society organizations and the media – are essential to maintaining a connection between citizens and the public purse, and to ensuring that resource revenues are invested in social sectors that help secure better development outcomes. A broken connection enables diversion of public revenue from the policies they’re intended to finance and the services they’re supposed to deliver. This diversion, whether through misappropriation, embezzlement or plain inefficiencies, thrives when transparency and accountability are weak.
On a positive note, we’re seeing an emerging trend in Africa toward the adoption of practices that make it easier for citizens to follow public money and track spending results. South Africa, Ghana, Liberia, Tanzania and Kenya are all members of the new Open Government Partnership – a multilateral global initiative to promote compliance with open governance standards – and they’re showing commitment to strengthening their systems and opening up their practices to public oversight. But many African governments are still resistant to this trend. Whether they can remain so, in the face of citizen pressure to reform and in the wake of mass protests against corruption and the persistent lack of economic opportunities, is the question. As owners of their countries’ extractive resources, citizens are demanding their rights to profit from them. Public information and government accountability for what resources are available, how they’re spent and what results they achieve are the best guarantee that a country’s resource wealth will translate into lasting benefits for its citizens.
Dec 18th, 2012 10:49 AM UTC
By ONE Partners
What can we do to fight corruption? One of the most frequently asked question Transparency International got when we published the Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 last week.
The question is especially pertinent in Africa, which only has five countries in the top 50 countries on the index, where lower scores indicate a greater perception of public sector corruption in 176 countries. 90% of African countries on the index score less than 50 out of 100, with Botswana in 30th place showing what can be achieved in the fight against corruption, and Somalia in last place warning what happens if you don’t.
Corruption is a daily burden in Uganda, which ranked 130th out of 176 countries, and has recently faced a major aid scandal. The situation is particularly tense in the health sector. Our research has shown that less than half of staff were available at health facilities. The absence of health specialists inevitably exposes people to paying bribes if they want preferential treatment.
Indeed, 24 per cent of health providers we surveyed acknowledged that taking informal payments in exchange for services is common. 44 per cent reported that service users sometimes offer gifts to health workers. (Our colleagues in Zimbabwe face a similar challenge: nurses once fined women for screaming during labour).
The situation is aggravated by the lack of transparency and accountability, making it harder for citizens to tackle the problem. None of the lower level health facilities we looked at had complete financial records, and most facilities did not have updated drug stock registers.
In 2010 we set out to address corruption problems in healthcare and farming by rolling out several development pacts in central Uganda, similar to those tried by our colleagues in India.
We told communities to pick their own development agenda, then asked local politicians to commit to fulfilling that agenda. People were able to pick the issues that matter to them, and clearly described what they expect their leaders to deliver.
Some of the leaders refused, some signed up. Not surprisingly, more of the latter were re-elected than the former.
Photo: A regional politician signs a pact.
After the pacts were signed, citizens set up committees to monitor progress. Politicians and officials now often give the committees access to their offices to get information.
The result was relentless community pressure for better services. The committees personally counted drugs as they were being delivered. The list of drugs received is posted on notice boards. More staff have been hired, more mosquito nets delivered and more people are visiting the health centre. Parents have learnt to monitor budgets, and are now tracking school budgets too.
The people from my village are happy because they can receive all the basic drugs prescribed to them by the physician at no cost and drug shortages have become history in the health centre – A member of the Kyebe sub-county community
Another priority was government funding for subsistence farmers. The government provide funds to support farmers. Under the scheme, local authorities are supposed to use funds from the state to buy seeds and equipment for local subsistence farmers. The problem is they often buy sub-standard seeds and machinery and keep the difference.
We held review committees attended by both local politicians and government representatives. In the past, politicians had always blamed the other for failings. But when they were all in the same room, it suddenly became harder to duck responsibility.
Photo: Transparency International and community members witness the pact signing
We have managed to give farmers more control over the process. The criteria for selecting farmers who receive support was made simpler and more open. More farmers joined the government support programme, having been made aware of their rights and the selection process was made more open.
Our work continues.
In the north of the country, we are now helping citizens report problems in health care by sending SMS text messages. For example, they warned that malaria nets are not being distributed despite the fact that a health centre that recently received a delivery from central government. Read more on this here.
Oct 26th, 2012 4:15 PM UTC
By Michael Healy
Yesterday ONE met with Business Minister Jo Swinson to deliver a petition of 161,918 people calling on the Prime Minister and other European leaders to pass strong laws that will help citizens spot corruption and ensure the money paid to governments is used to lift millions of people out of poverty.
The European Committee of Permanent Representatives is meeting to discuss this issue today ahead of formal ‘trialogue’ negotiations between member states and the European Union beginning next month.
Earlier this month, following a meeting with ONE’s co-founder Bono, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg pledged his support for the legislation and urged the European Union to match the tough rules set in the US by the Securities and Exchange Commission in August.
Business Minister, Jo Swinson said:
“We have a unique opportunity to introduce changes that will help combat corruption in the world’s resource-rich countries, boosting economic growth and improving the lives of millions of people. I passionately support EU action to dramatically increase transparency in the payments that extractives companies make to foreign governments, and I will be pushing the EU to adopt a reporting regime that reflects the new rules agreed in the USA.
“The UK Government is working constructively with industry, the NGOs, and with others across Europe to secure agreement on a progressive, robust and workable package. This is an active debate, but we are optimistic that we can achieve the best possible outcome. Europe is close to a historic first step in lifting the lid on financial mismanagement in developing countries, and I want to make sure we take it.”
Adrian Lovett, ONE’s Europe Director, said:
“For African countries this law could be transformative. In the 20 most resource rich African countries, extractive revenues in 2010 were five times larger than aid flows. Africa is has great natural resources, and this law will allow its people to follow the money and help them pull themselves out of poverty.
“We welcome Jo Swinson’s strong support for a European transparency law that really works for citizens in developing countries.
“It is important that this involves project level reporting, a strong definition of project and the removal of anything that could incentivise secrecy laws in autocratic countries. We urge the UK to work with allies in Europe to win support for a law that at least matches the US version.”
Oct 11th, 2012 4:01 PM UTC
By Katherine Sladden
“Sometimes great things happen when nobody’s looking.” That’s what Bono said today after sitting down with the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister and Business Minister to discuss the campaign for an EU-wide law requiring oil, gas and mining companies to publish what they pay to governments around the world. ONE is part of a coalition of over 650 civil society organisations worldwide calling for greater transparency in the sector.
European leaders are currently negotiating the details of the new law and in a statement following the meeting Nick Clegg confirmed the UK government would fight for strict rules that will best enable the world’s poorest people to benefit from their countries’ natural resources. The French Government also said yesterday it supports strong rules.
This is great news for ONE members who have been campaigning for many months on the issue. Over 160,000 European members have signed the petition calling on European leaders to deliver strong laws, and thousands sent personal messages to key MEPs to ensure they recently voted the right way on the European Parliament’s position. This follows a successful campaign by ONE members in the US to pass a similar law.
Following the meeting with ONE co-founder Bono, Nick Clegg said:
“For far too long, the world’s poorest people have seen no benefit from the vast natural resources in their own backyards.
“It is time to end the injustice where ordinary people are silent witnesses, left to suffer without basic services, as the profits from their countries’ assets are hidden and plundered by corrupt regimes.
“There need to be strict new rules about how payments to developing countries from the oil, gas and mining industries are recorded. Shining a light on where this money is actually going will help people hold their governments to account over how this money is actually spent.
“The United States Government has raised the bar by publishing tough new rules that will apply to US listed companies. The European Union must now follow suit and the Coalition Government will be pushing for those rules to be matched in Brussels.
Business Minister, Jo Swinson said:
“Millions of people in developing countries languish in poverty while their corrupt governments squander or hide large payments from foreign companies.
“Strong EU action to create a new global standard for transparency in the extractive industry can help these citizens hold their governments to account. I’m determined that the UK will play a leading role within the EU to make the most of this opportunity.”
Nick Clegg also praised ONE members for their continued efforts in the campaign. He said:
“I would like to pay tribute to ONE, to Bono’s energy and leadership and to the thousands of ONE members across the world who have campaigned tirelessly to keep this issue on the agenda.”
“Sometimes great things happen when nobody’s looking. That’s what happened today. Nick Clegg and Jo Swinson have thrown Britain’s weight behind strong EU transparency laws, at least matching the new US legislation. This legislation says – let the daylight in. Transparency is the best vaccine against corruption.”
Sep 25th, 2012 3:48 PM UTC
By Friederike Röder
ONE has been advocating for a long time for the transparency of the petrol, mining and gas sector. Fortunately, we are not alone fighting for more transparency, but we are part of a large civil society coalition, “Publish what you pay” (PWYP), with more than 600 member organisations across the globe from Australia to Zambia. To mark the occasion of PWYP’s 10th anniversary, the coalition has produced a video that showcases the work of one of its national platforms, from Niger in West Africa.
The population in Niger is among the poorest in the world. At the same time, Niger is rich in natural resources, particularly uranium, but also petrol and gold. The video shows that the population living around the mine that generates billions of West African Francs remains as poor as it did before. To make things worse, the gold extraction has dangerous consequences for the environment and for the health of miners, many of which are children.
Niger is part of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) and publishes the payments as reported by the companies and the revenues as recorded in the public accounts. However, the reports are not very detailed, payments for instance can’t be tracked back to specific projects or even specific commodities, the quality of the data is contested and the reports are not published in a very timely manner.
This is why civil society in Niger is closely following what is happening in the US and in Europe. Strong transparency rules for the extractive sector have entered into force recently in the US. Several European companies listed on US stock exchanges will have to implement them as well. However, this does not apply to, for example, French company Areva, which is the world leader on nuclear energy and very present in Niger. Therefore it is so important that Europe also adopts a strong transparency law. These laws will generate more timely and detailed data and increase transparency and hopefully also put additional pressure on governments and multinationals to be more accountable to their citizens. Transparency is not the objective in itself, but the means to a more effective use of public finance for development.
Ali Idrissa, the PWYP coordinator in Niger, was in France two weeks ago to support our efforts and help us support an ambitious EU law. Together with other African platforms, we met representatives from the Treasury, the Development Ministry and the Prime Minister’s office. We also organised a joint press conference. The aim was to show that the fight for transparency and against corruption has support all around the world and that a European law would help citizens in resource-rich countries to hold their governments to account.
Please keep up the fight for a strong EU transparency law that fights corruption by signing our petition.
The International ONE Blog is a daily log of the anti-poverty movement. The site is operated by ONE staff, with guest contributions from ONE volunteers, members and allies.
The content of each post and each comment represents the views of that author and does not necessarily reflect the views of ONE. ONE does not support or oppose any candidate for elected office, and any post expressing support or opposition for a candidate is not endorsed by ONE.