Looking back, looking ahead

As an EITI practitioner for the past four years with in-depth experience in six implementing countries, the closing of the fifth global conference is a time to reflect for a moment on the bigger picture of where the initiative is headed.  The fifth conference builds on the “coming-of-age” feeling from Doha two years ago.  One phrase which a delegate used yesterday to describe EITI which has stuck in my head is “planetary thinking”.  In a way, it really captures what is happening to EITI right now, as the 1000 delegates from over 80 countries can also attest.

We live in changing times and a context where such planetary thinking is ever more urgently required.  Peak oil is a reality in some parts of the globe (such as where I am from, the UK).  For a variety of reasons - political instability, futures trading, reduced output- the price of a barrel has pushed above US$100 once again.  To some, it seems increasingly unlikely the price will drop significantly.  At the same time, new discoveries of oil, gas and minerals are being announced every day, particularly in Africa and Asia. The pressure is on to ensure these new prospects move from exploration to production phase as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the global financial crisis, more stringent regulations on companies have been put in place.  At the conference, there was much mention of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act in the United States and speculation on what impact it may have on companies, governments and the lives of citizens around the world.  There was also repeated reference to the UK and France’s enthusiasm for similar transparency legislation to be passed in Europe.

It remains to be seen how effectively the different initiatives and legal mechanisms will interconnect to ensure a global transparency regime and a level playing field.  Certainly, one gets a sense from the companies that were represented at the conference that full disclosure and transparency has to be the way forward.  Again, implementing governments at many times during the past two days reiterated their commitment to deepen and strengthen EITI along the extractive value chain in their countries, to ensure transparency becomes a tool for accountability and ultimately, for development.

With eleven compliant countries among the 35 implementing countries, I’m sure I speak for many others involved in EITI that we wish to congratulate Peter Eigen for his tireless efforts to ensure the initiative now has such magnificent buy-in and momentum.  At the same time, we are equally excited about the contribution the new Chair, Clare Short, will bring to the planetary thinking that remains ahead of us.

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.