Mongolia-Germany G7 Fast Track Partnership to promote EITI holds inaugural conference in Ulaanbaatar.
Former Board members Julie McDowell and Baiba Rubesa share their observations from a conference on the EITI held in Mongolia last month. They were charged with the challenging task of providing a global framework for understanding the benefits of transparency and accountability for the countries participating in the conference and sharing the benefit of their experience in serving on the EITI International Board. They were invited to deliver keynote addresses and serve as facilitators for specific multi-stakeholder workshops attended by all country participants.
Despite very cold temperatures a warm welcome greeted participants arriving in Ulaanbaatar on 18 November 2014 for the inaugural conference of the Mongolian-German G7 Fast Track Partnership (FTP) to promote the EITI in the country and to interested parties in Asia.
Setting the stage
The aim of the G7 partnership is to provide a regional platform for dialogue and cooperation on EITI related issues. The inaugural conference, organised by GIZ (German Organisation for International Cooperation), in cooperation with the Mongolian government and supported by the Canadian and UK embassies, marked the starting point of a learning network among participating countries and stakeholder groups.
Participants were welcomed by the Chief of Staff of the President of Mongolia, Mr Putsag Tsagaan, and the Vice Minister of the Mongolian Ministry of Mining and Energy, HE O. Erdenebulgan. Delegations from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (EITI member) and Vietnam joined representatives from the Mongolian government, civil society and the private sector for workshops to discuss common experiences and the potential for EITI to serve as a framework for greater transparency and accountability.
Countries face similar challenges
Group workshops provided participants with the opportunity to discuss how EITI can create shared value through multi-stakeholder processes, what EITI can do for good financial governance and how EITI can help the business sector with international trade and investment.
While the five countries represented are all at different stages of resource development, common themes emerged from the workshops.
- For governments, there are challenges in producing consistent data on extractive industry revenues and production levels across different national departments and between national and regional agencies.
- Challenges for civil society include the lack of sustainable resources and an enabling environment for civil society participation in EITI.
- Private sector companies noted that when they produce information on payments they make to governments, stakeholders often view the amounts as too low and there seems to be a lack of information about their contributions to social programs and local economies.
It is striking to observe that EITI countries continue to grapple with similar issues:
- Reporting well, on time, with relevant data, neither underreporting nor overdoing,
- Ensuring that all companies working in the country participate
- Ensuring consistent financing for national secretariats
- Honouring civil society’s role in the EITI process
- Seeking to discover the best means of communication to local communities to ensure that they feel fairly treated when the extractive industry is a significant contributor to the national economy.
In Mongolia, finding gaps spurs improvement
Mongolia achieved EITI compliant status in 2010 and has produced increasingly comprehensive EITI reports. Mr. Shah Tsolmon, Coordinator of Mongolia’s EITI Secretariat, described the expanded coverage achieved by the most recent EITI report and some of the gaps identified as a result of the data collection process. Mr. Tsolmon noted that gaps and discrepancies revealed in the EITI reports had been a positive development because they stimulated ideas for improving the quality of reporting. He encouraged others not to be afraid of finding discrepancies because they can lead to the identification of opportunities to upgrade and enhance data quality. In different conference sessions EITI Mongolia’s stakeholders repeatedly discussed the different logistics and communication challenges with their newest endeavour: sub-national reporting and community engagement.
Bringing actors together to improve understanding of good governance
In our presentations we pointed out how the EITI Standard, as revised in 2013, is based on a decade of experience in responding to these challenges. We suggested further regional meetings to develop a greater understanding of how the EITI can be used to encourage transparency and accountability that leads to positive developments in understanding the revenue flows from extractive industries, improving the use of these revenue flows to support social progress and economic development, and supporting civil society in its interactions with government.
We were delighted to see the interest and enthusiasm for EITI expressed by participants at the conference and the desire for further dialogue and cooperation. It is envisioned that the next stages of the Mongolian-German G7 FTP will offer such opportunities and lead to increased participation in the EITI in Southeast Asia.