Great news as the UK backs transparency

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Moves to ensure Africa’s resource curse becomes a blessing gained a significant boost this weekend with the UK government signalling its support for transparency legislation at the EU level.

According to the Guardian the UK chancellor, George Osborne, told his fellow G20 finance ministers in Paris that the coalition government was keen to support an effort by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to support transparency legislation in the EU. Osborne is quoted as saying:

“As we enter a new decade when the resources of Africa are going to be heavily developed, I strongly believe it’s in everyone’s interests that mining companies and others operate to the highest standards. That’s the way to ensure some of the world’s poorest benefit from the wealth that lies in the ground beneath them.”

Too often African countries rich in natural resources have been plagued by instability, corruption and huge inequality.  The first step to stop this is transparency – we need all companies to disclose exactly how much they pay governments for the right to extract natural resources, as well as other information on their finances.

Thankfully momentum has been building to get this information made public. The United States has already passed a law requiring its companies to publish what they pay, and now messages of support are coming from France and the UK.

The UK Chancellor’s announcement was strongly welcomed by The Publish What You Pay coalition. Faith Nwadishi of Publish What You Pay Nigeria said:

“These transparency laws will give us the hard data we need to demand investment in services like health and education from our governments, rather than seeing the revenues from our valuable natural resources lost to corruption and mismanagement.”

More than 3000 ONE members in the UK have already signed our petition asking George Osborne to support such legislation and this news is a positive step forward. But more still needs to be done.

Attention now also turns to the UK Parliament, where MPs will soon be voting on a “10 minute rule bill” on the issue by the MP for Glasgow Central, Anas Sarwar.

By attending the debate MPs can help to build momentum in 2 ways: by showing George Osborne there is widespread interest and support for this issue, and by increasing the chances of Mr Sarwar’s motion becoming a formal bill that is tabled for MPs to vote on and pass into law.

If you live in the UK please take action now and ask your MP to attend.

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