Historically, the natural resources of the poorest countries have often been plundered. The few have expropriated the many, and the present has expropriated the future. Harnessing natural resources for the sustained benefit of ordinary citizens requires that an entire chain of decisions, from the discovery process through to the use of revenues, be got right not just once but repeatedly.
The EITI was the right point in this chain to break the cycle of plunder. By building a coalition of stakeholders around transparency in revenues it has achieved a lot. Most importantly, it built the foundation for informed societies which is probably the key remedy to plunder. But other parts of the chain also need to be addressed. Both citizens and governments in resource-rich countries need better to understand the sometimes complex issues involved in natural resources.
The Natural Resource Charter with the website www.naturalresourcecharter.org is an independent initiative under the governance of ex-President Ernesto Zedillo, and supported by a technical team under the auspices of Nobel Laureate Michael Spence. It is intended to complement EITI in spelling out the entire decision chain by which natural assets can become a blessing instead of a curse.
Paul Collier is professor at Oxford University and the author of The Bottom Billion and Wars, Guns and Conflict.