EITI Board meets in Mexico (Day 1)

Snapshot of the topics under discussion during day 1 of the EITI Board Meeting in Mexico City.

The EITI Board is meeting today and tomorrow in Mexico City. A number of side meetings are also taking place. Here are some highlights from the discussions. This should in no way be seen as minutes of the various meetings, but simply a snapshot of the many interesting conversations.

DRC: Times are a-changin'?

The Board comes together tomorrow to discuss whether the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Guinea are compliant with the EITI Requirements. Today, we had a related discussion: how has the EITI made an impact in the DRC?

A delegation led by Celestin Vunabundi, Minister of Planning and Chair of the DRC EITI multi-stakeholder group, told the inspiring story of how the EITI has changed the culture in the sector from just extracting minerals to responsible management of the revenues for the benefit of the citizens of the DRC. This includes making sure that the government gets its due and that these revenues are adequately managed.

Companies and government agencies have been systematically scrutinised, often for the first time. All contracts have been made available to the public and discussion on complex contractual agreements, including controversial barters, are taking place. It is no longer a taboo to discuss beneficial ownership, the flesh and bone owners of companies and whether they are politically connected. Parliament and media are discussing this issue openly. In a word, whilst significant challenges remain in the sector, trust has been built through the process.

Minister Vunabandi noted that the EITI "is changing the system of governance in the DRC, not only in the extractive sector, but throughout other sectors as well".

 “EITI has created a culture of accountability in our country”, he added.

Read more: Shedding light on tax collecting agencies’ practices in the DRC

Mexico on the move

In our host country, Mexico, the government is making good progress with considerable reforms in the energy sector. Dr Lourdes Melgar, Deputy Secretary of Energy for Hydrocarbons, gave a presentation on the wide-ranging reforms of the oil and energy sector. These reforms seek to bring more efficiency to the sector by inviting private investment and operation, and strengthening regulatory oversight, in what has thus far been a fully state-owned process. She also outlined the process for stabilisation and a national oil fund. The government is exploring the benefits of implementing the EITI as part of these reforms.

Dr Melgar’s presentation was a good follow-up to Monday’s workshop “Good governance in the extractive industries”, co-hosted by the Government of Mexico and the EITI. Around one hundred participants from the Mexican government, civil society and visiting organisations, including countries in the region, discussed questions like: What is the best way of ensuring transparency in state-owned enterprises? How can a natural resource fund best be construed to ensure that it serves its purpose? What examples of good practice exist to ensure the good governance of the sector?

Assessing how to measure progress

The Board’s afternoon session today was largely devoted to implementation and discussing how we can create a system for better assessing or ‘validating’ countries against the EITI Standard. Liberia, Solomon Islands and Tanzania had published EITI Reports in the last couple of days. A total of 28 annual activity reports documenting progress and impact of national implementation processes in 2013 had been submitted in the last few weeks. On Validation, the Standard seeks to move away from a tick-box approach to incentivising countries to use the Standard to make an impact and to shape it to national needs. This means that the Validation process must be refined. The Board engaged in a number of ways of doing this from looking at how to assess impact to whether to bring in validators with different skills to whether ‘Compliant’ is the right term for passing Validation.

Read more: Platform for progress

All in all, the meetings so far have reflected how the EITI is evolving and looks to the future for a more meaningful, relevant and used instrument to promote good governance of natural resources.

As Minister Vunabundi said, "the contribution of the EITI is not so much what it has done in the past, as what it can do in the future”.

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