What we’ve learned from validating fourteen countries

It’s been an intensive year, with many lessons learned. Here, we share our key insights with the larger EITI community.

 

To validate means generally to substantiate, to verify accuracy and reliability.

In the context of the EITI, Validation refers to the independent assessment and verification of compliance by a country with the provisions of the EITI Standard. It is an essential part of the EITI process that aims “to hold countries to the same global standard by identifying impacts of EITI implementation, promoting dialogue, addressing stakeholder concerns, and safeguarding the integrity of the EITI.” (2016 EITI Standard)

Our Validation Team at Sustainable Development Strategies Group (SDSG) has been privileged to be a part of this process, first, under the 2011 EITI Rules, when we directly carried out document review, stakeholder consultations, and development of the Validation Report for EITI-Guatemala, and most recently, as the first Independent Validator under the 2016 EITI Standard and Validation Guide.

A new procedure – greater consistency

Unlike the previous process, where the Validator was selected by the country pursuant to its policies and procurement rules, the new Validation process is more streamlined.

It requires, as the first phase, data collection, stakeholder consultations, and an Initial Assessment carried out by the EITI International Secretariat. The new process facilitates greater consistency in the review of EITI implementation. Given this additional key role of the Secretariat, it is critical to ensure continuing support for its capacity to monitor and evaluate implementation and to develop the Initial Assessments.

The second phase of Validation requires comprehensive review and quality assurance of the Initial Assessment by an independent Validator selected through a standard procurement process. The Validation Report is submitted to the EITI Board through the Validation Committee and in the third phase of Validation, the EITI Board makes the determination of country compliance with the EITI Standard.

Upholding a consistent approach across diverse country circumstances: a key challenge

This first Validation under the 2016 EITI Standard covered a diverse group of 14 countries(*) from Asia, Latin America, Africa, and Europe. The countries included a number of pioneers – countries long involved with the EITI, such as Mongolia, Ghana, and Norway – as well as relative newcomers, such as Tajikistan and Solomon Islands.

Over a roughly eight-month period, we reviewed the Initial Assessments of the International Secretariat, validated the EITI processes in these 14 countries, and documented our findings in separate Validation Reports for each country. While our findings generally aligned with those of the International Secretariat, a number of variances occurred – particularly in the determination of whether progress in implementing the different provisions was “satisfactory” or “meaningful.”

We then undertook a comprehensive review across these countries and developed our Synthesis Report that focuses on cross-cutting themes, significant observations and variances, notable accomplishments, and areas of improvement. We provide in the Synthesis Report recommendations that aim to further improve consistency in the interpretation and application of EITI provisions; strengthen engagement of multi-stakeholder groups (MSGs) in the Validation process; and broaden engagement beyond those already involved in EITI and to areas beyond capital cities – particularly to areas most impacted by resource development.

Need to engage stakeholders more – both during Validation and implementation

A key theme in the Synthesis Report is the need for expanded stakeholder consultations. Stakeholder consultations are essential to the accuracy and credibility of information gathered not only during Validation, but throughout EITI implementation. In fact, the need for strengthened engagement among MSG members as well as with wider constituencies of industry and civil society was often noted by stakeholders during the Validation process.

Over half of reviewed countries need to improve stakeholder engagement and EITI governance

We found that the 14 countries showed meaningful progress or beyond in over two-thirds of the requirements applicable to them; however, at least half of the countries demonstrated less than satisfactory progress on MSG oversight provisions regarding stakeholder engagement and governance (1.1 through 1.5).

Only five countries were found to have made satisfactory progress on these provisions (Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Peru, and São Tomé and Príncipe), which is significant given that these oversight provisions constitute the foundation of transparency and multi-stakeholder engagement on which all the disclosure requirements depend.

Reporting has improved, but there is not enough focus on impact assessment

While there remains in some instances a lack of, and even resistance to, full disclosure and transparency, there is ample evidence of improved disclosure practices across the different countries. In general, they have demonstrated a commitment to sustained and timely reporting, some with notable innovations to expand EITI coverage to other sectors or other revenue streams. Peru, for example, has piloted sub-national EITI implementation in the regions of Moquegua and Piura, while Liberia, Mauritania, and Mongolia have designated sub-national EITI councils or focal points.

At the same time, there has been comparatively less focus on the analysis and consultative processes necessary for work planning and impact assessment, at times resulting in uneven implementation of EITI.

In general, however, commitment by governments, companies, and civil society organizations (CSOs) to implement EITI remains strong. The key challenges are to sustain engagement, address financial and technical constraints, and facilitate smooth transitions in membership – particularly through political and other changes – to ensure continuity in implementation and transfer of knowledge.

Civil society most impacted by capacity constraints

All stakeholder groups experience capacity constraints to varying degrees, however these constraints impact CSOs the most and limit their ability to engage more effectively, especially in areas located further from capital cities, and those with low levels of literacy, language barriers, limited access to the internet and other media, or political constraints on free speech. In these circumstances, the importance and value of maintaining a credible multi-stakeholder platform such as the EITI, and a platform with the capacity to work at regional and local levels, cannot be overstated.

EITI contributes to public debate, can spur reforms

There is, in fact, broad consensus by a wide range of stakeholders in most of the countries covered by this Validation process that EITI has contributed to increased public awareness, knowledge, and debate of extractive sector issues; more rigorous reporting and disclosure of payments and revenues; and improved governance of the sector. In many cases, EITI implementation has also led to the development of legal or regulatory reforms.

EITI provides space for genuine engagement

One of EITI’s most important contributions is helping to provide a forum, through the MSG, where stakeholders from government, industry, and civil society are ensured seats at the proverbial table, with the vision that each voice matters and is heard. This is especially important for countries with a history of conflict and mistrust – EITI can provide an institutional mechanism for constructive multi-stakeholder dialogue, respect, and relationship-building on the national and subnational levels, especially with local communities most impacted by extractive industries.

In a world where facts are sometimes disregarded and where differences – rather than commonalities – among countries and peoples are too often emphasized, EITI remains a valuable opportunity for genuine, multi-stakeholder engagement to gather objective and reliable data in the pursuit of transparency and good governance of the extractives sector.

 

M. Cecilia G. Dalupan, Kristi Disney Bruckner and Charles Bruce wrote this blog.

*The fourteen countries validated by SDSG are Azerbaijan (no longer a member), Ghana, Kyrgyz Republic, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Mongolia, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, São Tomé and Príncipe, Solomon Islands, Tajikistan, and Timor-Leste.

You can find the Validation reports of the countries on the pages "Validation documentation". All results of Validation, including link to the full Board decision can be accessed here: https://eiti.org/document/validation-schedule

You can access SDSG’s findings of the 2016 Validations here: https://eiti.org/document/synthesis-report-on-2016-eiti-validations