Last week was an important one here in Washington for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international group that countries can join to promote accountability in the management of payments countries receive from oil, gas, and mining activities. While the United States has long supported the EITI as a donor, we have committed to joining the initiative as an implementing member and taking on the same obligations to boost transparency as other countries around the globe (USEITI). This step by the United States is a strong sign of the growing momentum towards greater transparency and accountability apparent in the world today.
The team of U.S. government, civil society, and company representatives that is charged with implementing USEITI met last week and discussed these developments with Clare Short, Chair of the international EITI Board (and former UK Development Minister).
I have the great pleasure of serving with Clare on the international EITI Board, where we worked hard to develop a set of changes in the EITI rules to enable the Initiative to have a greater impact benefiting citizens of the 39 member countries. It was not easy for the Board to agree on these changes and there were many strongly held points of view. After months of work and debate, we succeeded and the resulting consensus sets out a strong sense of what EITI should stand for and how to put in place systems to boost the government transparency and accountability that EITI seeks to promote.
In June, President Obama and all the G8 Leaders strongly supported this work. Their Lough Erne Summit statement references the EITI eleven times, which is a remarkable sign not only of how truly widely supported the EITI has become, but also of the growing awareness of the connection between sound governance, the ability of countries to attract capital, and economic prosperity. Several of our G8 partners – the UK, France, Germany, and Italy – are following the United States’ example by committing to implement or pilot the EITI at home. Other countries that have recently committed, including Colombia and Papua New Guinea, will also be looking to our domestic USEITI process for lessons learned.
So it is in this context that it was truly special to have Clare join us to see the USEITI process in action. Just as the international EITI Board discussed EITI’s goals at an international level, the USEITI representatives are working through what meaning EITI will have inside the United States. This group representing various American stakeholders is showing the Initiative’s goals are important and applicable to countries that already consider themselves quite transparent.
The work here underlines that EITI is about much more than just meeting the Initiative’s core requirement to publish reports matching company payments to government receipts. The USEITI discussions are highlighting that it is about bringing diverse groups together to identify what additional information the partners can make available to be even more transparent, and how to communicate accurate and timely information to the public about how the government is managing our oil, gas, and mining resources. In many cases it is even about pulling together and putting into context information that is already available, in order to help the average citizen hold their government accountable for responsible extractive sector management. And it will be important in many countries around in the world in seeing that the development of their natural resources benefits their people.