The opening plenary session of the 2011 EITI Conference in Paris featured Richard Boucher, the Deputy Secretary General, OECD, Her Excellency Roza Otunbayeva, President of the Kyrgyz Republic, Christophe de Margerie, CEO, Total, Peter Voser, CEO, Shell, Bishop Louis Portella-Mbuyu, President, National Bishops Conference of Congo-Brazzaville and Simon Taylor, the founding Director of Global Witness. The highlights from the presentations were as follows.
Peter Voser stressed the importance of EITI for Shell, and stated that EITI is not simply an investor-pleasing exercise. He suggested that EITI is important because it can help to bring about positive change in host communities. The Shell CEO then gave the examples of Iraq and Nigeria as cases where EITI has begun to make a tangible difference. He went on to argue that ultimately, through EITI, we see that transparency is not an end in itself, in contrast to the Dodd-Frank legislation in the US. For Voser, government ownership must be placed at the heart of EITI, in order for the lives of ordinary people to be positively impacted. Companies and civil society can only support a process which must be driven by government.
Her Excellency Roza Otunbayeva, President of the Kyrgyz Republic, informed the audience that EITI has become an integral part of the national development strategy in her country since 2009. She told the gathering that EITI is now in fact going to be extended to the energy sector, with six of largest energy companies in the Kygyrz Republic who will be audited.
In his presentation, Bishop Portella-Mbuyu called for a more humanitarian and grounded approach to EITI. He expressed hope that the initiative will spread and deepen, and connect with its ethical and metaphysical foundations.
Simon Taylor, the founder of Global Witness, discussed the increasing need for a joined-up approach to transparency in the age of an emerging global reporting framework. He also cautioned those assembled that there is a real challenge for civil society in EITI, given that in some implementing countries civil society cannot engage fully with EITI without fear of arrest? He ended by suggesting that transparency under EITI should now be extended to contracts and licensing in order to continue to be meaningful to a broad range of stakeholders.
Jeremy Weate is a senior EITI consultant currently based in Abuja, Nigeria. He has led Validation missions to Mongolia, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Tanzania, and worked on EITI implementations in Nigeria and Afghanistan.