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Reflections from the EITI Board meeting

This week the international EITI Board, which was appointed at the EITI Global Conference back in May, met in Abidjan.

The Board decided that Cameroon and Kazakhstan were EITI Compliant and accepted Senegal and Ukraine’s candidature applications. Thus there are now 25 compliant countries and altogether 41 countries implementing the EITI.

The Board’s Implementation Committee, led by our chair Clare Short, informed the Board of the intention to soon submit a proposal establishing a working group on civil society participation. The background was that there had been relatively frequently expressed concerns about whether civil society representatives were able to play their free and active role in the implementation of the EITI. The need to ensure that the EITI has rules that are fair across all implementing countries was also emphasised. The Governance Committee, led by Alan McLean from Shell, reported about its intention to soon suggest that the Board commissions a governance review of the EITI itself. This was not in response to any particular concerns, rather part of efforts to ensure that things are in order and that the EITI machinery is fit for purpose as the Secretariat, as well as the EITI as a whole, continues to expand. A number of Board members also expressed an interest for some more longer-term planning. The EITI International Secretariat workplans and budgets will for example from now cover the next 1-3 years, rather than as previously only one year.

It was a different meeting from many of the other 24 Board meetings in that a strong focus was placed on learning and discussing implementation. Before the formal proceedings started, the Board and quite a considerable group of observers held a session discussing contract practices. It was facilitated by experts from Shell and Johnny West from Open Oil. Senator Gbehzohngar Findley from Liberia, Carine Smith Ihenacho from Statoil, Norway, and Michel Okoko from the Republic of Congo introduced contract practices in their respective countries. The thread was picked up after the Board meeting, when EITI representatives from a number of countries in the region including Cote d’ Ivoire itself and Cameroon, Republic of Congo and Togo made brief presentations on how they are planning to implement the EITI Standard. There were a number of discussions about specific new requirements and innovations. For example, the Nigeria EITI presented its work on oil salesLiberia on its report on the award of contracts in the extractive sector which found that less than 10% had been awarded in line with correct procedures; and Chad and Cameroon on their efforts to cover transit payments related to their shared oil pipeline. The International Secretariat briefly presented a few other elements – workplans, beneficial ownership, new reporting procedures, transition and training arrangements. These presentations were all much appreciated. People representing sometimes vastly different interests enjoyed learning together.

For the first time, Board delegations and other stakeholders visited the DR CongoGhana, and Nigeria, prior to the Board meeting, to learn about and stimulate implementation, and to learn about the challenges of in-country implementation. A delegation visited Guinea immediately following the meeting. The discussions in each country included the multi-stakeholder group’s plans for 2014 and integration of the new EITI Standard into their workplans. Part of the Board meeting in Abidjan was used for the delegations to share experiences with the whole Board. In DRC, the focus was on how the process could address the apparent low return that the central government is receiving when clearly a lot of payments are being made by companies. In Nigeria, NEITI has become a powerful political body investigating major problems in the systems - the running of the national oil company, the transfer of money to the states, oil theft and sabotage, etc. - but challenges still remain in turning these investigations into policy reforms. In Ghana, there have been many innovations, such as the first subnational payments and also company production costs, yet there is still a way to go in making these efforts meaningful from a public policy perspective.

Read about the EITI board delegation's meeting with Nigeria's President Jonathan: "Billions at stake as Nigeria seeks more accountability"

Alongside the Board meeting, a three day training workshop took place with 42 participants from 14 French-speaking implementing countries. The focus was on preparing for the implementation of the new EITI Standard and on communicating the EITI Reports. Publish What You Pay, the Revenue Watch Institute, the World Bank and past and current Board members all contributed. Participants were keen to pick up the challenge to define their objectives – why the EITI – without using words such as ‘transparency’, ‘good governance’, or ‘EITI’, and to update their workplans on the basis of these objectives. These workplans will be shared amongst the implementing countries soon, with the aim of a light touch peer review.

The Management Committee of the World Bank’s EITI Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) also met. It provided donors present (Australia, Canada, Germany, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) to reflect on the Board meeting and consider future plans to support EITI implementation. The World Bank has collaborative agreements with most of the 41 EITI implementing countries and it was a good opportunity to consider what kind of support is required in the coming years, to ensure that countries have the capacity they need to implement the new EITI Standard. There have been calls for the MDTF to not only support civil society more, but also work more closely with the private sector. It was therefore great to see Guillermo Garcia from ExxonMobil take part in the discussions. 

On leaving Abidjan, Harald Tollan from Norway concluded: “While it is difficult to measure and quantify the impact of the EITI in terms of reduced corruption, the stories from the countries represented clearly demonstrated that corruption is being tackled. I was particularly encouraged to hear how the EITI in the DRC is bringing transparency to the major Chinese US $3 billion agreement and how the discrepancies in the EITI reports in countries like Liberia and Nigeria are being investigated”.

Cote d'Ivoire’s Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan also met with a small EITI delegation led by Clare. He reaffirmed his strong support for the implementation of the EITI. The visit was widely covered in national media. On saying goodbye, Ndri Koffi told me that it had been a hugely important visit for the EITI in Cote d Ivoire and as he put it: “The EITI is in the draft mining and new hydrocarbon laws, and is now firmly with the government”.

All in all, I think we were reminded of several points:

  • The EITI is starting to have a wider impact on informing public debate and policy.
  • It is a coalition that is increasingly providing a platform for reformers around the world.
  • It is quite a remarkable coalition, together engaged in innovative governance for transparency leading to accountability.
  • Our achievements so far should not obscure the fact that there are daunting challenges facing most implementing countries as we continue to strive for the type of change that will result in real improvements in governance and in people’s lives.

Great thanks to EITI National Coordinator Ndri Koffi and his team for hosting us all,

Jonas and team