Day 2: Discussing the key issues for the EITI over the next few years.
Today’s main discussion found the Board and other stakeholders coming together to map out the future of the EITI over the next three to five years. The EITI Standard in May 2013 was a major step forward in terms of strengthening the EITI’s relevance and potential to contribute to improved governance in the extractive industries. But inevitably, certain issues were left unaddressed or have emerged as countries have begun implementing the EITI Standard.
The EITI could do more to ensure that transparent extractives reporting is embedded in government and company reporting systems, that implementation is less burdensome while at the same time ensuring that the EITI delivers relevant and useful information that informs public debate and builds trust. As Nigeria EITI Executive Secretary, Zainab Ahmed, noted: “We need to make sure that reports actually address and speak to the reforms that are required in the sector”.
A recent review of quality and timeliness of the first EITI Reports under the Standard recommended some refinements in the Standard and in the assessment of implementation, including a review of the validation process. Governance of the EITI international and at the national level had been established at a time when there were a handful of implementing countries and none were compliant with the Standard. Now there are 48 implementing countries and it is time to review if we have the right governance structures in place. Finally, technical and financial assistance could be improved to better support implementation.
In a lively and important discussion, the Board identified these challenges and sketched a way forward. It did not at this stage seek to outline solutions. Work on developing specific solutions and recommendations will now go on with an aim to come to the next Board meeting in Berne in late October with specific recommendations.
Country statuses: Liberia and Tajikistan
The Board also considered the requests from Liberia and Tajikistan to extend their reporting deadlines for their upcoming reports. Whilst Ebola was seen as a justified reason for Liberia to receive an extension to their deadline for the 2012/13 report of six months and a mirroring six month delay in their validation (now to begin at the start of 2016), Tajikistan’s extension request was not accepted and the country has been suspended until the 2012 report is published.
The status of Afghanistan and Azerbaijan is to be discussed tomorrow.
Informing public debate
Meanwhile, over in Kinshasa, the communications officers of 11 francophone African countries discussed the filtering and visualising of information to creating stories and developing messages. How to develop broader communication strategies and innovate within the EITI process was also discussed.
“We can’t make accountability happen, but the EITI can create the conditions where it can flourish.”
Brandishing the first page of a local newspaper, Kimségninga from Burkina-Faso explained how a missing signature bonus that had not been transferred to state coffers was exposed through EITI reporting. This made headline news in Ouagadougou. When discussing how to create messages, the participants became increasingly animated, sharing different perceptions of what a story is, how to establish it from EITI Reports and giving concrete examples of stories that made the news. Participants were challenged to address some of the following questions:
- How was the EITI relevant to headline-grabbing news items recently?
- Why should a citizen based in the countryside care about a particular story?
- How does information disclosed through EITI compare to figures from other sources?
The “human bingo” session certainly got participants to mingle, trying to figure out who was behind specific communications actions and inspiring them to use each other’s ideas. “You’re the ones who included street theatre in your communications, aren’t you?” “No, we sing to express these ideas, it’s far more convincing!” The sessions proved highly interactive, with problems identified including: reaching the illiterate; difficulties in understanding the large numbers involved in the extractive industries; the need to make messages relevant to audiences; and bridging the information gap between implementing countries in the region. Togo for instance mentioned how children acted in street theatre pieces to relay messages to illiterate segments of the population.
Niger emphasised how difficult it was for a layperson to understand what 1 million CFA francs meant, but that he or she could certainly comprehend how many days pay that would cover. Jean-François’s presentation on Senegal’s approach emphasised how communicating the EITI starts well ahead of publication of the first Report. He also spoke of the importance of segmenting one’s audience to reach specific targets.
The question of how to bridge the educational divide helped participants understand the value of standardised data in summary data templates. Communications officers found creative ways to present the data through infographics, data visualisations, cartoons, geographic mapping of infrastructure and resources… The session ended with breakout groups assessing each other’s communications strategies.
Tantely from Madagascar ended the session with a presentation on how she creates stories, examples of stories that have successfully broken in Madagascar and how to avoid the risk of information overload: filter an EITI Report into something digestible!