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.