Kiev Board meeting day 2: More openness, not more rules

Day 4: The 31st meeting of the EITI Board ends in Kiev, Ukraine.

The second day of the meeting in Kiev resulted in decisions on governance and refining requirements but a number of issues need final approval.

Progress on agreeing an improved Standard

For the past 2.5 years countries as diverse as Norway, Peru and Zambia, have been implementing the EITI Standard. Each country has tailored the EITI implementation to their needs. The Standard has led to the Republic of the Congo disclosing details about oil sales and the Philippines digging into subnational revenue use, among other achievements across the 49 EITI countries. Putting the Standard into practice has also revealed that some provisions need to be refined and clarified.

In Kiev, the Board agreed on a number of refinements to the EITI Standard to be proposed to the Members’ Meeting taking place in February. The purpose was to clarify EITI Requirements, with a particular focus on encouraging and recognising efforts to promote routine disclosures by companies and government agency.

Sam Bartlett, EITI’s Technical Director said to the Board: “This puts a greater focus on open data rather that EITI Reports published in large, inaccessible pdf files. But when we started, this information was not routinely available and these online platforms didn’t exist. The changes proposed will help facilitate this transformation”. A number of countries are using online systems to make data available in a timely and accessible manner. The EITI aims to support this trend while recognising that each country moves at its own pace. As EITI Chair Clare Short said, the target is to create more openness, not more rules.

Disclosing who owns the companies

One of the topics on the table was whether to recommend or to require beneficial ownership disclosure. Eleven countries have published the beneficial owners of their oil, gas and mining companies as part of a pilot project that was launched following the adoption of the Standard. The Board is considering whether these disclosures should be made a requirement for all EITI countries. Constituencies are unanimous about the importance of making public who owns and controls companies, but there are different views on how quickly countries can be expected to achieve full disclosure.

While most implementing countries are going beyond the EITI Standard in one way or another, meeting the full set of EITI Requirements is not easy for any of them. The country context determines the nature of both the challenges and achievements. The Board’s discussions on beneficial ownership disclosure and on revising the Validation system both sought to find a balance between permitting sufficient time for countries to adjust to the requirements and ensuring that progress with improving the governance of natural resources does not have the chance to stagnate.

Almost wrapped up

Overall, some important changes have been agreed in principle, with the final language to be agreed in the coming weeks.  Board committees and working groups will continue their work on further recommendations from a recent governance review, additional refinements to the EITI Requirements, and the detailed procedures for validation. The decisions of the Board will be recorded in the minutes of the meeting, which will be published online once approved.