Europe proposes new transparency law to fight corruption

The campaign for transparency in the oil, gas, mining and forestry industries was given a big boost today with the publication of European Commission proposals for a new law guaranteeing all company payments to governments will be published. This means Europe will soon have matched (and in some places gone beyond) the landmark transparency amendment by Senators Cardin and Lugar which was passed as part of Dodd-Frank last July. ONE activists played their part in passing that law with calls to Congress -– and now it is going global!

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Oil rig in Rwanda

This country-by-country and project-by-project reporting will give citizens the information they need to hold their leaders and companies accountable. ONE and the Publish What You Pay coalition have been working hard for this change and have warmly welcomed the proposed law.
ONE’s co-founder Bono had this to say on the move:

“This is a serious step forward by Barroso and Barnier, who have thrown their weight behind the fight by the citizens of poor countries to ensure their natural resource wealth turns into actual wealth for the people – and doesn’t line the pockets of dodgy dictators or distant exploiters. The next step is when the great activist himself, Bill Gates Jnr, presents the case for these legally binding measures to the world leaders of the G20, along with other historic proposals on financing the fight against poverty.”

Our Brussels Director Eloise Todd explains what needs to happen next to get the proposed law onto the statute books:

“President Barroso and Commissioner Barnier have shown real leadership. It is now the responsibility of the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to ensure that these proposals are implemented in full, which we trust will happen given the strong support from the French, British and the European Parliament. In some areas we will look to the Council and Parliament to tighten up the regulation, for example in removing the exemption for countries that would rather keep information secret. It is also essential that the provisions on project-level disclosure are strengthened. The murky deals between extractive companies and despots must become a thing of the past. The EU and its companies will now have to decide which side of history they want to be on.”

The issue of extractive industry transparency is crucial for development prospects in Africa. Huge flows of money are coming into the continent for natural resources ($246 billion in 2009) and yet far too much of it is not being spent on reducing poverty and strengthening public services. Transparency over individual projects gives citizens and activists the information they need to hold their governments accountable for money coming in.

The move by Europe complements ONE’s campaign for section 1504 of the US Dodd-Frank Act, which ensures all US-listed extractive industry companies will shortly be publishing their payments to governments. We are now moving towards a global standard of mandatory transparency, which was endorsed by the G8 and we hope to see progress on at the G20 next week.