Political momentum increased yesterday for a new transparency law in Europe that would help citizens in poor, but resource-rich, countries. The European Parliament endorsed plans for 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, and would help governments negotiate fairer deals with extractive industry companies. In both these ways efficiency of public finance would improve, and more resources could be allocated to vital development projects.
ONE is a strong supporter of this type of transparency, and is part of the Publish What You Pay coalition which includes over 600 civil society organisations from around the world. For example we worked with Ugandan activists earlier in the year to deliver the message that the UK can help them make sure their new-found oil wealth is not wasted. Over the last few days Publish What You Pay has been asking people on Twitter what they would do with greater control of their #oilmoney. Education, healthcare and environmental projects were listed as priorities.
Moves towards legally binding measure in the EU will help with this. Jean Claude Katende of Publish What You Pay in the Democratic Republic of Congo argues: “We want to see the European Union adopt rules which are as ambitious as possible. Payment information will help us hold our leaders to account, but other information on profits, sales, production levels and reserves would enable us to judge whether DRC is getting a fair deal for the exploitation of its mineral resources.”
Last July the US passed a law that will soon mean all oil, gas and mining companies listed in America will have to publish their payments at the level of individual projects on an annual basis. Europe will soon propose a similar law. We need both jurisdictions to move swiftly to implementing these laws so that activists in Africa get the revenue information they need as soon as possible.
The end goal of better accountability in this area of public finances is to ensure resources are invested well, including in health and education, so that poor countries’ reduce poverty and progress towards middle-income status.