Addressing the challenges of EITI mainstreaming: observations from the Democratic Republic of Congo

As the extractives sector embraces increasing transparency, stakeholders face new challenges related to data proliferation, fragmentation, dispersion, and quality control. Overcoming these challenges is more important than ever to ensure efficiency and strengthen existing systems, avoid duplication, manage expectations, support evidence-based decision-making and build stakeholder trust.

In collaboration with the EITI, UNEP and the World Bank are currently piloting MAP-X (Mapping and Assessing the Performance of Extractive Industries), an innovative information management and stakeholder engagement platform, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).

MAP-X aims to support EITI mainstreaming by embedding transparency in government systems, improving stakeholder access to financial information from EITI Reports and, where possible, relating the information to socio-economic and environmental performance indicators. This post summarises ways in which the EITI mainstreaming agenda can be implemented at country level and presents initial lessons learnt in the DR Congo.

Video demonstration of MAP-X

Why mainstreaming matters

For the 51 implementing countries, adherence to EITI Requirements has significantly contributed to improved governance by providing access to reliable information about company-government payments, disclosures on beneficial ownership, contracts and a range of related information critical to increasing transparency in the natural resources sector. In addition, the EITI governance model has created important national and international platforms for multi-stakeholder dialogue and information sharing to support EITI implementation.

However, additional enabling measures are necessary to maximize the value of EITI data and use it for evidence-based decision-making. Communities increasingly demand that information on payments and revenues is linked to the socio-economic and environmental footprint of the sector. At the same time, governments and companies grapple with integrating different layers of information into their planning processes and establishing reporting systems in a transparent manner.

To address these challenges, the EITI Standard, updated in 2016, took another major step forward by promoting the mainstreaming of EITI transparency principles across government and private sector reporting. The new standard now makes transparency an integral part and routine feature of financial management systems. EITI Requirement 4.9c allows for routine disclosure of reliable information about the sector in a timely manner and in a format that is accessible and interoperable. Instead of being confined to annual reports, extractive industry transparency thereby becomes a core component of how the sector is managed across all relevant ministries and local authorities. The mainstreaming agenda is complemented by additional new requirements including: disclosures of information related to social expenditures and the impact of the extractive sector on the economy (requirement 6); promoting greater accessibility and creating greater impact of published data (requirement 7); and the adoption of an open data policy (requirement 7.1.c).

This raises a central question: in the evolving transparency landscape, how can the range of additional information be seamlessly integrated, authenticated, visualised and made available in various useful formats to help inform stakeholder dialogue, decision making and performance monitoring of the sector?

Data dilemmas and possible solutions: introducing the MAP-X platform

To help address this question, the World Bank and UNEP were mandated by the g7+ group of conflict-affected states to build MAP-X, an information management and stakeholder engagement platform for the extractives sector. The open platform aggregates and authenticates multiple data streams on the financial, social and environmental impacts of extractive projects at site, district or national level, and publishes this information in a spatial data infrastructure.

MAP-X enables multi-party data sharing and provides access to a range of datasets held by the government, private sector operators, academia, development partners and local communities in a single location. It helps stakeholders identify potentially conflictual information to enable data rectification and reconciliation processes. The range of data can be integrated and visualized on the map to understand the performance and development outcomes linked to the extractives sector. This is critically important for strategic land-use planning, identification of risks and boundary overlaps, inter-ministerial coordination and participatory performance monitoring.

MAP-X is being designed to provide stakeholders with access to the “best available data” on an unbiased platform that includes a transparent authentication process for each layer. Impartial data authentication is important as it helps build trust in the information. Prior to publication on MAP-X, each dataset is scored against a series of data quality thresholds and criteria as part of the data integrity assessment. The assessment focuses on four important parameters: reliability, accessibility, openness and sustainability (see figure 1). For each parameter, MAP-X displays key thresholds and an overall score on a continuum (low, medium, high, very high).  MAP-X then tracks the quality of each dataset over time to monitor quality and facilitate improvements.  

Figure 1: MAP-X implementation of the data integrity framework. Here depicted the composite score obtained by one of the data layers in DR Congo

In addition to using MAP-X as an information management solution, MAP-X implementing partners also provide capacity building support to help stakeholders co-design ways to improve the uptake of data within dialogue, decision-making and performance monitoring processes. Through structured facilitation, stakeholders decide independently which data layers are important, what questions they seek to address with the information, and what parameters they want to monitor using MAP-X. UNEP and the World Bank enable the process, provide the platform and back its impartiality, but stakeholders govern, populate and use MAP-X according to their specific needs.

Mainstreaming EITI data with other contextual information in DR Congo

By consolidating and providing open access to impartial and authoritative data, MAP-X can support EITI mainstreaming in a number of ways. Currently, a MAP-X pilot is being implemented in DR Congo through the EITI Multi-stakeholder group (MSG), with support from the UN-World Bank Conflict and Fragility Trust Fund.

The objectives of this pilot are fourfold:

  1. Host EITI reports and related company-level, site-specific data in order to provide users with project-level information dashboards and performance monitoring tools.
  2. Help EITI stakeholders visualize and contextualize information about impacts of the extractives to improve understanding and informed decision-making.
  3. Facilitate the mainstreaming of EITI data with other national datasets by aggregating and integrating all key layers into a single platform using a spatial data infrastructure.
  4. Provide independent authentication and quality monitoring of all national datasets through the implementation of the MAP-X data integrity framework.

While still in the early stages, a number of lessons are beginning to emerge after the first year of implementation:

  1. What do the numbers mean? - bringing financial data to life

In DR Congo, MAP-X helps bring the EITI reporting data to life by visualizing payments at the site level by concession or company. It dynamically streams live data from the national mining cadastre and matches this with EITI payment data in order to visualize in a heat map the total volumes of payments being made across the country. The financial heat map can then be compared to other key socio-economic indicators such as changes in employment or poverty rates to determine if regions that are generating the highest financial returns from mining are also subject to higher levels of employment and lower poverty (see Figure 2). MAP-X could help trigger further stakeholder dialogue to investigate the reasons for any apparent disconnect. EITI and related data become more memorable, persuasive and engaging, when it is embedded in maps, visuals and impact narratives, which is especially important for long-term sustainability planning and participatory decision-making.

Figure 2: MAP-X can livestream data, such as the national mining cadastre, and integrate corresponding EITI reporting data to generate heat maps. Users can either query individual concessions or add additional layers to investigate linkages between extractives and social development. In the example above, the map shows how high concessions payments contrast with high poverty rates in Eastern DR Congo. Visualizing correlations such as this can help identify potential sources of social conflicts, inform risk assessments and support community development planning for example. (note: the example is for demonstration purposes only and does not show final authenticated data).

  1. The range and variety of the data: relationships matter and take time to develop

The key supporting information needed to help contextualize EITI reporting data ranges from social indicators such as employment and poverty rates, health related indicators, education rates and conflict occurrence to environmental indicators such as air and water quality, protected areas and biodiversity.  In DR Congo, MAP-X has aggregated over 22 different contextual layers. These datasets vary greatly regarding their quality, format and update frequency. Some of these datasets are also not dynamically accessible or fully open, or come with non-commercial use restrictions. For MAP-X to achieve any long term sustainability, relationships must be built with each of the individual data providers. This is a time-intensive process that involves building confidence in the idea that an open-data platform will add value to their work by creating efficiencies in the planning process for example.  

  1. No one-size-fits-all: designing for stakeholder needs

In the information age, where ever greater numbers of people have access to an ever growing range of sources, top-down, one-size-fits-all information management strategies are no longer viable. Stakeholders in the extractives sector demand solutions that can adapt to local circumstances, build on existing national or local systems, and provide tools that are specific to the context. In DR Congo, stakeholders have requested a range of news tools and functionalities to be offered by MAP-X. These include the ability to track changes in specific variables and land cover over time (e.g. time slider), the capacity for users to self-define specific areas of interest and to receive email or text updates when any new data points or layers are added to these areas, the option of uploading local data in a secure area (i.e. not publically accessible) and analysing it against MAP-X layers, and ultimately the ability to export maps into images that can be used in reports, for local mediation efforts or for other advocacy.  

  1. A closer look: performance dashboards at site level

The pilot testing in DR Congo has shown that MAP-X has applications at both the national and site-specific levels. Whereas the consolidated contributions of the sector are critically important at the national level for strategic planning and impact monitoring, what matters to local stakeholders is information on local compliance and performance. In short, how is an extractive project impacting and benefiting the community? Given that this range of data can be complex and be derived from multiple sources, one of the most critical functions of MAP-X is the ability to provide an integrated and site-specific performance dashboard (see Figure 3). The dashboard shows key information such as company ownership, share capital, annual production figures, workforce statistics including the proportion of foreign and domestic labour and the concession agreement. The dashboard allows for inclusion of benefit sharing agreements and their respective targets as well as environmental performance indicators such as air and water quality indicators to further increase transparency of individual operations.

Figure 3:  MAP-X will have the capacity to allow users to click on each concession in the map to access a performance dashboard and satellite image.

  1. Identifying overlapping land uses: highlighting the need to rectify national data sets

One of the first applications of the MAP-X platform in DR Congo was to compare existing known concession boundaries with other land uses in order to detect areas of overlap. For example, MAP-X demonstrated a “first” for DR Congo stakeholders by bringing together detailed information on all mining concessions with verified protected area boundaries. A range of overlaps were immediately highlighted by MAP-X prompting a discussion between the Ministry of Mines and the Ministry of Environment on the reasons behind the overlaps. In other words, was this an actual legal overlap, or only an error due to inaccurate or outdated boundary information supplied by one of the data custodians? Either way, it showed that an internal reconciliation process was needed to account for this discrepancy given the illegality of mining in protected areas.   One of the key lessons was the importance of creating the right channels for this information to be acted upon by policy makers (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: Overlap analysis of protected areas and exploration licences (red) in North Eastern DR Congo  (note: the example is for demonstration purposes only and does not show final authenticated data)

  1. Embedding the platform: allowing for integrated national planning

MAP-X is working closely with the EITI MSG and the Ministry of Planning to dynamically link the platform to existing government systems to mainstream transparency and allow for integrated planning. MAP-X does not only serve as a data storytelling platform, tracking and visualizing impacts over time but it can also facilitate modelling and scenario planning. This supports integrated planning across different sectors, improved coordination between different ministries and government agencies and it can also help create a shared future vision across the community of stakeholders.

  1. Ensuring uptake and sustainability: the importance of capacity building

Given the complexity of the challenges MAP-X is seeking to address, stakeholders require targeted and sustained capacity building to ensure that they derive maximum benefit from using the platform. Whereas initial capacity building has taken place with government stakeholders, a long-term training plan will need to be developed to ensure uptake of the platform across key ministries and authorities. In addition, targeted and tailor-made training will be needed at the community level, where the ability to use the platform depends on bandwidth, technical skillsets and literacy, level of trust, engagement processes etc.

  1. Information needs differ: tailoring the interface and outreach products  

The current design of the platform speaks most to stakeholders who already have a good understanding of the sectors and who may require more complex or more granular datasets to be provided by MAP-X (i.e. policy makers, academics, NGOs etc.). In order for other stakeholders, such as local communities to benefit from the information presented on the platform, MAP-X will need to develop targeted outreach products in appropriate formats taking local capacity into account. This will need to include translation into local languages and tailored offline products.

  1. Going beyond the data: complementary services

While MAP-X is an information management solution as well as a stakeholder engagement platform, these services alone may be insufficient to prevent, mitigate or resolve conflicts in the extractive sector. Stakeholders in DR Congo have expressed a need to complement MAP-X with additional services offered by UNEP, the World Bank or other international actors. These could include data interpretation, dialogue and mediation, independent data quality reviews or additional data collection, where data sets are contested, and support to Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA). Where additional services cannot be directly provided through the platform, MAP-X can support stakeholders in accessing independent expertise to carry out pertinent data analysis, produce customized communication materials, support or establish independent mediation processes, for example.    

Five intermediary steps to embedding EITI reporting in governance systems

The long term objective of mainstreaming EITI reporting in government systems is to enable routine disclosure of detailed and reliable information by the institutions managing the extractive sector. Where strong institutions maybe lacking, countries may consider intermediary steps in mainstreaming EITI reporting in government systems. Based on the World Bank’s and UNEP’s experience in DR Congo, there are five important enabling measures to consider in order to maximize the impact of EITI mainstreaming and to improve the use of the resulting reporting data by all stakeholders, including by the MAP-X platform: 

  1. Disaggregate EITI reporting data to a specific concession, project or area of operation. This is essential for understanding the financial performance of individual extractive projects and monitoring the development impact of the sector at the site level. It also enables geo-spatial mapping of the sector and observing important trends and changes in a specific landscape over time. Disaggregated data can also help showcase the sector’s contribution to local socio-economic development, including progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 
  2. Publish EITI financial data in an open, inter-operable, and machine-readable format so that it can be compared to or integrated with other important contextual data. Ensuring that EITI data can be compared to or integrated with related contextual data, such as social or environmental indicators, supports integrated decision-making and land use planning. It also allows for cumulative effects analysis, and helps improve coordination of government agencies across sectors. Increasingly, local communities are defining a range of indicators to be monitored, beyond financial payments. Social indicators related to poverty, unemployment, health or inequity are important to monitor while environmental indicators can include water consumption, air quality, chemical discharges, and impacts to protected areas or biodiversity.
  3. Ensure quality control and quality assurance for all data sets. Data standards and authentication processes are increasingly needed to give stakeholders assurance on the quality and reliability of individual data layers, to help identify important gaps, and to improve the quality of data over time. Reliable data is an essential ingredient for evidence-based dialogue, participatory decision-making, trust building and greater accountability. Ensuring that all relevant data sets are quality-controlled and available from a single site can also shorten licencing processes and enable the identification of conflicting land uses and operational risks.
  4. Build the capacity of users to visualize, interpret and apply the data within stakeholder engagement processes. While improving stakeholder access to information is an essential outcome, additional steps need to be taken to ensure government agencies, companies, and local communities can act upon improved information in order to inform dialogue, decision making, and participatory performance monitoring processes. Therefore, an equally important investment is building the capacity of stakeholders to effectively understand and use the resulting information to identify key risks and benefits, shape the content of benefit sharing discussions, and hold actors accountable to their contractual commitments. Affected communities will also require targeted outreach strategies and a host of tailored offline products to ensure the information becomes an effective tool for their engagement.
  5. Strengthen the enabling environment at the legislative and policy level.  In order to incentivise and enable greater public access to information on the performance of extractive industries, additional requirements may need to be embedded in the legislative and policy framework which promote transparency, open data and routine disclosures of information related to the financial, socio-economic and environmental performance of extractives projects.

Ultimately, this combination of measures should achieve a double objective: Firstly, it allows for EITI data to be compared, checked against and correlated with key socio-economic and environmental indicators to provide a more complete transparency picture and create an integrated basis for decision-making. Secondly, it contributes to building stakeholder trust and confidence in the sustainable development impact of the sector by providing access to authoritative and comprehensive information on the performance of individual sites and companies.  

More information

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The platform is being developed in partnership with GRID Geneva.

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This post has been co-authored by Inga Petersen (Senior Extractives Advisor, UNEP), David Jensen (Head of Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding, UNEP) and Ousmane Deme (Operations Officer, World Bank)