The former EITI chair Rt Hon Clare Short reflects on some of the events at the recent EITI conference in Lima
What really happened in Lima over the civil society elections to the EITI International Board?
There have been all sorts of tall stories put about on the tensions over the elections to the civil society seats on the new international EITI Board which was elected in Lima in February 2016. As the outgoing chair I think it important that an accurate account of what took place is made available, so that those who like to be informed about developments in the EITI have a chance to understand what all the fuss was about.
The EITI Articles of Association lay down that the EITI Board should be elected at a members meeting which must be held every three years. The three constituencies represented on the board – governments, companies and civil society - are invited to nominate for the available seats and the members meeting to elect from the nominees; though all are required by the Articles to seek consensus. At every members meeting up to Lima, each constituency has nominated for the exact number of available seats and the members meeting has therefore simply endorsed the nominations.
In the run-up to Lima the HQ of the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) coalition organised a nomination process and nominated 10 people, five as board members and five as alternates. But then another organisation said that it did not believe that PWYP should control the civil society voice and they also nominated to one seat. Thus there were 11 nominations for 10 seats and all hell broke loose.
My response was not to involve myself in the issue as I had to chair the members meeting and stay above the fray. But I did ask myself why it would be such a dreadful thing to have an election. Some in the PWYP coalition started to throw around accusations about the secretariat suggesting that it had acted improperly in listing the 11 nominations. I therefore circulated to the board our legal advice which was that it was for the members meeting and no other body to decide if nominations were valid. The Articles clearly lay down that the constituencies should nominate but do not say how the constituencies are defined.
Then in preparation for the members meeting I took legal advice. I was informed that my duty was to conduct the meeting and to try to seek consensus. I therefore approached those responsible for the 11th nomination and ask them to consider withdrawing it. I said I thought it unlikely they would get many votes and that my duty was to seek consensus. I said that if they did this I would invite them and PWYP to briefly explain their differences to the meeting so that the issue of how the constituencies are defined could be considered before the next members meeting (the outgoing board had already agreed to recommend to the new board that this issue should be reviewed). PWYP had threatened to boycott the members meeting if the 11th nomination was not withdrawn. They were informed that the 11th nomination would be withdrawn but nevertheless organised a demonstration outside the meeting.
The meeting proceeded according to the agenda which was adopted by the members present. The elections of the chair and country and company representatives proceeded without contest. During these proceedings a representative of PWYP challenged the procedure because not all the civil society representatives were present. I said they were entitled to join the meeting and I hope they would join the meeting and I hoped she would use her influence to persuade them to do so.
When it came to the civil society election, I explained that the 11th nomination has been withdrawn and invited their representative to explain their view. I then invited PWYP to do so but they did not take up the opportunity. After this PWYP sent in a message to say that they wished to join the meeting but it would take time for them to register. I said that as we had almost finished I thought it right that we should conclude the meeting.
This is the story. PWYP decided not to join the meeting. They were invited to do so a number of times. Their nominees were uncontested and elected to the new board. I draw two conclusions. Firstly, I firmly reject any suggestion that the Secretariat or I interfered in the civil society selection process. The Secretariat followed the opinion of our legal counsel, the chair of the Governance Committee, and myself as the chair of the board when it conveyed all nominations received. Indeed, not to accept a nomination would have been to interfere. Secondly, the key question for the future is who defines the constituency entitled to nominate civil society representatives to the board. This will be reviewed by the new board.