Mar 25th, 2013 7:23 PM UTC
By Nachilala Nkombo
As the current Millennium Development Goals meet their goal-line in 2015, it’s more important than ever to ensure the world’s poorest people have a say in the development of the next set of goals to eradicate extreme poverty.
Working with more than 20 NGO, faith and private sector partners across Africa, together with some of the continents best-known celebrities including Hugh Masekela, D’banj, Benni McCarthy and Chris Katongo, we are urging people to join the fight against extreme poverty and send their views on what issues matter most to them.
And as the UN High Level Panel meets this week in Bali, we have published our preliminary findings based on the early stages of the campaign.
Our interim results show that more than 130,000 citizens have offered valid responses in the three target countries.
You can download the findings here.
Check out the ONE blog in the coming weeks for more news on the campaign, which runs until the end of April.
Mar 21st, 2013 2:57 PM UTC
By Alan Hudson
Wherever there’s a dodgy deal, a Phantom Firm is likely lurking in the shadows.
Phantom Firms are what enabled Teodorin Obiang, the son of the President of Equatorial Guinea, to launder more than $100 million into the USA. This financed a playboy lifestyle of fast cars, a $30 million mansion, a $38.5 million gulfstream jet, and various pieces of Michael Jackson memorabilia, including a diamond-encrusted glove from the Bad Tour. Meanwhile, back home in the oil-rich west African state, more than 1 in 7 children under the age of five were dying from a preventable disease.
Phantom Firms are anonymous shell companies that are set up to hide the identity of the people who control them. In addition to facilitating the financing of terrorism, they enable drug-runners, human traffickers, money-launderers, arms traffickers, corrupt politicians and dodgy businessmen to enjoy the fruits of their crimes without being found out. They are the lynchpin of the global underground economy which harms us all. And, the activities that they conceal rob African countries of the resources that they need to invest in health, agriculture, infrastructure and poverty reduction.
Global Financial Integrity estimates that in 2010 African countries lost more ($51 billion) through illicit financial flows that are moved out of Africa illegally than they received in aid ($43 billion). As well as robbing countries of their resources, illicit financial flows foster corruption and damage the prospects for investment and growth. Phantom Firms undermine the fight against poverty and undermine the competitiveness of responsible businesses that have no need to hide their dealings behind a veil of secrecy and that see the wisdom of strengthening, not damaging, the environment in which they do business.
To take another example, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Phantom Firms enabled someone – someone with the power to rig the system – to buy mining licenses at a fraction of their value, before then selling them on at their full value. This robbed the country of more than $5 billion. For more examples of the use of Phantom Firms see “Rigged: The scramble for Africa’s oil, gas and minerals”, by Global Witness.
Under the UK’s leadership, the 2013 G8 has a real opportunity to fight Phantom Firms. If the G8 members – the UK, the US, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and Canada – signalled their commitment to require the public disclosure of information about who owns and controls companies and trusts, this would be a crucial blow against Phantom Firms and a HUGE win for poverty reduction in Africa. If this were followed up by changes to European laws on money laundering, and to laws in other countries, including the US, this would be a MASSIVE win.
The signs are good, with Prime Minister David Cameron talking up the importance of “shining a light on company ownership” at Davos in January and encouraging signs from other G8 countries. There is also a growing coalition, backing the call for an end to Phantom Firms. This includes not only leading civil society organisations and the Publish What You Pay network of 650 grassroots organisations, but also a growing number of law enforcement agencies, business organisations and firms, including companies in the oil, gas and mining, and banking sectors.
We at ONE will be making our voices heard, asking that the G8 commit to making information public about who owns and controls firms.
By tackling Phantom Firms, and requiring that information is made public, the G8 can help citizens in Africa and elsewhere to lift the veil of secrecy, to follow the money and to make sure that much-needed resources are invested in poverty reduction rather than siphoned off in dodgy deals.
Mar 11th, 2013 10:54 AM UTC
By Guest Blogger
Our guest blogger today is musician and ONE member Slap Dee, who helped to launch the You Choose campaign in Zambia this week.
In 2000, leaders from 189 nations signed on to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of eight targets designed to significantly reduce global poverty and disease by 2015. In Zambia, we have made some progress since then, child mortality has reduced and more children are in school. Guys, we still need to do more. We are one of the few countries where poverty levels have increased!
We should all be concerned that 8 million Zambians are said to be poor, mothers in Zambia die in huge numbers giving birth and many of our brothers and sisters still don’t have access to clean water.
The picture is similar in 19 African countries. But we can change this if we act together under ONE’s You Choose campaign. One person’s voice may go unheard, but if we stand together, political leaders can’t ignore us! For me, that’s why I am part of it. The campaign is supported by ONE’s partners and artists such as Christopher Katongo, Mary Magambo, Hugh Masekela, HHP, Dbanj and myself.
We are asking Africans from all walks of life to tell our government and the United Nations what issues matter most to you and what the new MDGs should focus on after 2015. You can do this by sending a FREE text message or online.
We launched this campaign in Zambia this week at the new government complex with over 80 guests including government representatives, students, MPs, financial institutions, donors and many civil society organisations. Since the first country launch in South Africa a few weeks ago, over 100,000 people have joined the campaign.
I have already got my granny and her friends texting. Their voices will be shared with our government and the UN for action. So get texting now and tell our government what we need for us to excel as individuals and as a nation.
In Zambia: Pick up your mobile and text VOICE to 234, and then submit your key issue. Texts are FREE and operational on Airtel and CelZ only.
In South Africa: Text your key issue FREE to 30667
In Malawi: Text your key issue FREE to 57111
Everywhere else: Take part online
Feb 7th, 2013 11:54 AM UTC
By Lauren Pfeifer
M-D-G: These three letters are going to be at the tip of our tongues for the next few weeks as the UN High-Level Panel (HLP) plans out the next round of development goals. But before you get lost in a sea of acronyms, we want to take a step back and answer some of the frequently asked questions about our campaign to get the HLP to propose development goals that are transparent, accountable and that represent the views of the people.
First things first: Who is the HLP?
The High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the post-2015 Development Agenda is a group of 27 people selected by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to advise on the development framework that comes after the MDG deadline in 2015. The panel has three co-chairs: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom. The HLP will submit a report of their recommendations to the Secretary General this May.
OK, remind me what the MDGs are again?
The original Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are based largely on the International Development Targets, developed by donor nations through the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in the mid-90s. The targets were developed by technical experts from OECD member countries to help rally support around continuing aid programs to developing countries. This was their original purpose, and there was little input from citizens or governments in developing countries. Despite that, the world stood behind the MDGs, and the goals produced unprecedented progress thanks to the mobilization of resources and the focus on development outcomes.
So what is MDG 2.0?
MDG 2.0 is the term we are using for the next set of development goals for 2015 to 2030. The High-Level Panel is in the process of putting together the report they’ll submit to the UN Secretary General in May – their recommendations for what MDG 2.0 should look like. We want voices of citizens to be part of that process.
Why does MDG 2.0 need the voice of the people?
While many of the main concerns of the world’s poorest people may have been addressed in the MDGs, our analysis of regional surveys shows that some key concerns were missing; in the past 12 years, it’s gotten easier to take those concerns into account. So this time, instead of looking back after the MDG 2.0 plans have been finalized to see what they missed, we’re asking the High-Level Panel to open the process and incorporate feedback before targets are finalized and the path for the next 15-20 years has been paved.
Why is “open data” so important to MDG 2.0? And can you give me an example of “open data”?
The MDGs set eight goals (which include 21 indicators) but in many cases the data isn’t available to measure how we’re doing, or how inputs are producing results. MDG 1 – arguably the most important of the eight – focuses on extreme poverty. Target 1.A is to halve the number of people living on less than $1 a day. This is the indicator that tracks extreme poverty around the world, and for 40 (nearly 1/3 of) developing countries, we don’t have enough data to know whether Target 1.A has been met.
The data we do have is constantly being revised and retracted, even 20 years later. To give you a better idea, in the past three years, the baseline data for poverty in 83% of developing countries has changed. How can countries meet targets when someone keeps moving the goalposts?
The poverty data we DO have is old – up to five years old. Data on hunger is four years old, and the majority of the numbers on gender equality, education and HIV/AIDS are three years old. So in addition to an open, transparent and accountable process for deciding the next set of MDGs, ONE* is asking for open, timely reporting on what is spent in pursuit of the goals, and what progress is made, and support to establish and keep up open data platforms so we all know where the goalposts are, and what we have to do to get there.
Great. Where do I come in?
The UN has put together a world-class panel of representatives from around the world to meet this very important challenge. We think they will agree when we tell them that citizens can’t be left out of these discussions, but they need to hear from you that you care – that the goals they set for the next decade or longer take into account the voices of people from around the world, especially those who will benefit most from a renewed push to eliminate extreme poverty.
We need to send our message long before the ink is dry on the High-Level Panel’s recommendations for the next development goals, so we need you now. We need your voice before the High-Level Panel next meets in Bali, Indonesia in March. Help us send the message that the next set of goals should be open for development.
Last question: What can I do to help right now?
*Along with these other partners: The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), Development Initiatives, Fundar (Mexico), Global Witness, Global Movement for Budget Transparency, Accountability and Participation, Integrity Action, International Budget Partnership, Luta Hamutuk Institute (Timor Leste), Publish What You Fund, Publish What You Pay, Revenue Watch Institute, Transparency International, and W3C (Brazil).
Jan 23rd, 2013 3:59 PM UTC
By Lauren Pfeifer
Today, the International Budget Partnership (IBP) – ONE’s key partner for efforts to promote open and transparent budgets in developing countries – released their 2012 Open Budget Survey. The 2012 Survey assesses 100 countries on 125 questions; 95 about the availability to the public of documents related to the budget cycle, and 30 about how citizens may participate in their country’s budget process. The Survey was carried out in 2006, 2008 and 2010, but has evolved over time. This year, IBP has partnered with the Open Knowledge Foundation on a Data Explorer, where you can see maps and rankings of Open Budget Index scores, sort questions by topic, or look at how the rankings have changed over time. Check out the data – the results may surprise you!
Click the infographic to make it larger
Participation in Focus
New for this year’s Survey is a series of questions on participation, something which IBP and ONE agree is essential if budget transparency is to pay dividends in terms of accountability and improved development results. The average score for the 100 countries surveyed in the 2012 survey is just 19 out of 100 on the 30 questions that measure participation. We’re excited that IBP is focusing on improving participation, and about the innovative ways the survey shows countries are getting citizens involved – including South Korea’s finance ministry field trips, Trinidad and Tobago’s public forums, and New Zealand’s tax hotlines – which allow citizens to report tax evasion or fraud anonymously. Sharing these stories helps to show that not all participatory budget processes have to look the same.
The Open Budget Index
The Survey includes the 2012 Open Budget Index, where countries are ranked on a scale of 0 to 100 based on the 95 budget questions. Countries score zero by making no budget documents public, or 100 by being completely transparent and making public all documents.
For 40 countries, data illustrates that progress has been made since 2006; those countries’ average Index scores increased from 47 in 2006 to 57 in 2012. The Index also shows that countries that start from a low baseline of transparency improve faster than those whose scores are nearer the middle of the ranking. Similarly, it’s even harder for countries that score well to improve significantly. Since the 2010 Index, countries that had been the least transparent, with scores of 40 or less, improved from 19 in 2010 to 26 in 2012, a 36 percent increase. Otherwise, however, progress was limited between 2010 and 2012.
How is Africa Doing?
Among African countries, South Africa leads the way with a score of 90 on the Index. This score is 2nd overall, behind only New Zealand, and ahead of the United Kingdom. Uganda also scores well, with 65, in the “significantly” transparent category. Unfortunately, 14 of the 26 countries in the index that provide “scant or no information” on budget documents are African. However, bad Index scores are relatively cheap and easy to fix. By simply making public budget documents that countries already produce, Index scores would improve significantly. And making those documents public is crucial for citizens in those countries to see how their governments are spending money.
There are seven countries where transparency has improved significantly (by more than 15 points) since 2010: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mozambique, Pakistan and São Tomé e Príncipe. However, in Egypt, Zambia, Sri Lanka and Serbia, scores decreased by more than 15 points since 2010. So while improving budget transparency can be easy in the short term, institutionalizing participatory budget processes is more difficult, but necessary to ensure that progress is maintained and built upon by civil society.
South Africa: Africa’s Star Achiever
South Africa maintained very high levels of budget transparency in the 2012 Index, and while their rank dropped from 1st to 2nd in this year’s Index, their very high level of budget transparency – higher than that of the UK, France, Norway, Sweden and the United States – is very impressive. And the information that the South African government makes available has been used in successful budget advocacy. IBP’s website has multiple cases studies of local organizations using information about the budget to execute effective campaigns. One, by the Treatment Action Campaign, resulted in a National Treatment Plan for HIV/AIDS, putting 1.6 million HIV+ South Africans on ARV treatment. Another campaign focused on improving access of a social security grant to poor children increased access from 2 million in 2001 to nearly 11 million in 2012.
The IBP’s Open Budget Survey and Index are incredibly important to us, and to citizens around the world who need information in order to hold their leaders to account for the money they spend. We commend IBP on another job well done, and look forward to hearing more stories about how transparency is helping civil society around the world make the changes they want. Open Budgets, Transform Lives.
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.
Jan 4th, 2013 12:01 PM UTC
By Katherine Lay
The Secretariat of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) recently announced that it has recovered US$443 million of the $2.6 billion owed to the government as revenue by oil and gas companies.
Audits produced for the period 1999 to 2008 uncovered huge discrepancies in reported payments and receipts. This information spearheaded efforts by the NEITI Secretariat to recover revenue owed by companies to the government – funds that are critical for the country’s socio-economic development.
Nigeria’s leaders have long supported the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)’s transparency standards to promote open and efficient management of the extractive resources sector. Hailing the EITI as a vehicle for greater economic and political stability, former President Obasanjo signed up to the initiative in 2004. This provided a clear signal to investors and international finance institutions that the government is committed to more transparent governance.
The country’s current Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala affirmed that compliance with the EITI lifted Nigeria’s profile in the eyes of investors, and that its improved credit rating led to sizeable increases in foreign direct investment. Recognizing that transparency is beneficial for business in the extractive industries, where investments are capital intensive and dependent on long-term stability to generate returns, Minister Okonjo-Iweala noted that the EITI has helped to mitigate political and reputational risks for companies operating in Nigeria and has generated information necessary for accurate revenue collection by government.
As the first African country to make reporting of payments and receipts legally binding through the NEITI Act, Nigeria has set the “gold standard” for audits under EITI regulations. Its reports investigate the conduct of government and extractive industry practices in greater depth than any other EITI member country has attempted. These audits have assisted efforts to overcome the country’s institutionalized corruption. Before joining the EITI, Nigeria ranked at the bottom of Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI). Every year from 1999 to 2004 – when Nigeria joined EITI – the country ranked last or second-to-last globally. By 2010, the CPI ranked Nigeria 134th out of 178 countries.
However, if the NEITI objectives are to translate into visible improvements in the lives of Nigerian citizens, government agencies must make concerted efforts to recover revenue, and to allocate it to areas that need it most. The NEITI Secretariat’s announcement of recovered funds indicates positive commitment to the first part of this process. The amounts are significant: $81 million for the audit period 1999 to 2004, $91 million for 2005, and $208 million for 2006 to 2008. They now need to be allocated efficiently.
In a country that has the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world, and where 52, 000 women die in childbirth each year owing to the absence of healthcare facilities, the recovered amount could fund the construction of 20 new health centers in each of Nigeria’s 774 Local Government Areas. It can provide insecticide-treated bed-nets to 44 300 000 more people, thereby helping to control Nigeria’s malaria pandemic. It can reduce the 42% youth unemployment rate by extending youth employment and social support operations to all states. And it can salvage roads that form key trade networks across the country, including the East-West Road and the Benin-Ore-Sagamu Highway, which are currently death traps.
In its vigilant monitoring of extractive revenue flows, Nigerian civil society has played its part in demanding this recovery of funds. NGOs represented in the NEITI National Stakeholders Working Group have proactively used the NEITI Act and the Freedom of Information Act to encourage more companies and government agencies to disclose information to NEITI auditors. The NEITI process has empowered civil society to ask informed questions and to hold the government to account for the extractives revenue that it manages on behalf of citizens.
Dec 16th, 2012 11:00 AM UTC
By Katherine Lay
3.5 billion people live in resource-rich countries but many are not profiting from these resources. Weak governance is leaving countries “cursed” by conflict and corruption. The Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) was created to help change this. The EITI’s globally developed standard promotes extractives revenue transparency by calling for the full publication and verification of company payments and government revenues from oil, gas and mining.
Tanzania has just reached an extractives transparency milestone. On 12 December, the EITI declared Tanzania compliant with its standard. Tanzania joins 9 other African countries with EITI compliance status. The Tanzanian government is now obliged to produce annual EITI reports that disclose and reconcile all revenues from the extractives sector. Independent audits will indicate payments made to governments by companies and payments received by governments from companies.
A gold miner in Shinyanga, Tanzania
Regular monitoring of government and company performance will beam a spotlight on a sector that is traditionally opaque, opening its operations to the public and empowering citizens and oversight institutions with information about extractives financial flows that will enable them to hold governments and companies to account. Tanzanian citizens, journalists and parliamentarians will be able to play their part in monitoring government and company performance and preventing corruption, misuse of public resources and illicit capital flight. Compliance with the EITI is an essential step towards opening the entire extractives supply chain – from how access to those resources is granted, to monitoring operations, to collecting taxes, to sound macroeconomic management and distribution of revenues, and to spending resources effectively for sustainable growth and poverty reduction.
This milestone is timely. 79% of Tanzania’s population lives below the poverty line. The current commodity price boom represents a unique opportunity for the government to mobilize home-generated wealth from its natural resources to tackle the country’s socio-economic development challenges. Improved transparency in the management of revenue from these resources will be critical to Tanzania’s growth trajectory.
The EITI’s endorsement will also be sending a clear signal to investors that the Tanzanian government is committed to open management of its extractives sector and to making itself more accountable for the use of revenue that it manages on behalf of its citizens. The Tanzanian EITI multi-stakeholder working group of government, civil society and company representatives, which is overseeing the country’s EITI reporting, will continue to help build partnership and trust between different stakeholders, and to give civil society a critical voice in the extractives resource management process.
The EITI and Tanzania’s compliance with its standard is not a cure-all for the massive problems and leakages plaguing the extractives sector. It is, however, an important starting point for progress.
Dec 11th, 2012 5:21 PM UTC
By Lauren Pfeifer
Late last month, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) launched open.undp.org, an open data portal that tracks its projects around the world. In 2011, the UNDP invested $5.8 billion in more than 6,000 development projects in 177 countries and territories. UNDP’s new open data portal illustrates where that money was spent, and what projects it funded. You can sort by country, by donor (the United States or the United Kingdom for example) or by sector.
The UNDP developed open.undp.org as part of their commitment to improve their reporting to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), an aid transparency initiative that helps make information about aid spending easier to access and use, on the principle that for aid dollars to do the greatest good, governments need to know where it’s going, and what results it’s achieving. Tracking the money and the progress will help recipient governments plan their own budgets and projects, and tracking results will ensure that we continue to improve projects around the world.
The website is beautiful and useable – with maps and graphs that show where UNDP’s projects are. You can zoom to the country level and see what donor is doing the most there through UNDP. But that’s the pretty part. IATI is a registry of data that is open to the public, where you can download the datasets that underpin UNDP’s new website. There, you can also download the data from the UK’s Department for International Development, and hopefully soon that of American development agencies. The US committed to reporting to IATI at last year’s High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness held in Busan, South Korea.
ONE applauds the UNDP on open.undp.org – as a useful, up-to-date source of data about UNDP’s projects around the world. The UNDP’s commitment to open data ensures that their data can be downloaded and used. And they’re already thinking about how they’ll improve. Beginning in 2013, the UNDP will publish a quarterly update on all ongoing projects. On announcing the website, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said, “We are committed to working in the open, and we will continue improving the quality, quantity, and timeliness of our reporting so that our partners can monitor their investments in fighting poverty, supporting human development, and securing a sustainable future for all.”
Nov 1st, 2012 9:51 AM UTC
By Lauren Pfeifer
Here on the ONE blog, we often share with you our experiences and new ideas heard at development meetings and conferences from around the globe. On 13 November in London, the Open Up! conference will bring together the transparency and open government communities to discuss how technology is changing the relationship between governments and citizens, and how it will enable citizens to hold their leaders to account. And they want YOU to be part of the conversation!
Hosted by the Omidyar Network and the UK Department for International Development, and in association with WIRED magazine, Open Up! will be a powerhouse for policy and tech experts, all looking to find ways to increase participation and accountability through innovative new programmes.
The best bit is that Open Up! organisers, speakers and partners want to hear directly from you. They’re looking for new ideas about how we can use technology to increase citizen participation, improve the relationship between citizens and their leaders, and ultimately increase and ownership of government priorities. Follow #OpenUp12 on Twitter to be the first to know what the conference participants are talking about and to add your ideas.
The UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening MP, will be one of the OpenUp! co-hosts. Other international innovators attending the event include Rakesh Rajani, founder of Twaweza (Swahili for “we can make it happen”), a ten-year initiative to enhance access to information and public accountability in East Africa. Juliana Rotich of Ushahidi (Swahili for “testimony”) will also join the debate. Ushahidi is a web-based reporting system that uses crowdsourced data to map information in a crisis in real-time. Famously deployed in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, Ushahidi has since been used around the world. Gustav Praekelt, managing director and founder of Praekelt Digital, will also be there. Gustav founded the Praekelt Foundation to build open source, scalable mobile technologies and solutions to improve the health and wellbeing of people living in poverty. His programmes have reached more than 50 million people in 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Some impressive and innovative domestic programmes will also be represented. Kepha Ngito is a trustee of Map Kibera, an interactive community information project started in 2009, when a group of young Kiberans decided to put Africa’s second largest urban slum on the map. Kepha was born and raised in Kibera and is involved in other community organizations, including founding the Kibera Community Youth Programme. Jennifer Pahlka is the founder of Code for America, which works with talented web professionals and cities across the USA to promote public service and reboot government.
Some of the programmes may be familiar – we wrote a blog about one of Omidyar’s partners, FrontlineSMS, earlier this year. Innovation is essential to maintain the momentum on opening up governments to their citizens, making sure that there are many more success stories to write about in the future.
You can check out the agenda and speakers on the Open Up! website, and don’t forget – from now until 13 November, you can follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #OpenUp12. If you have an idea about how technology can help open up governments, post a comment below or tweet at #OpenUp12!
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