A tool for improving living conditions of poor populations

Jean Claude Katende writes about EITI's past and future challenges.

In 2002, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) was launched on the initiative of former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

It brings public institutions, extractive industries and civil society to the same table in order to supply information to the general public regarding extractive industry revenues. As such, EITI has become a highly innovative standard for transparency.

EITI: an initiative that created high hopes

The launch of EITI created high hopes, especially among civil society organizations. This was because the initiative enables them to have access to a significant body of data, and to take part in the debate on managing revenues arising from the extractive industries.

Despite the progress achieved, implementation of EITI has not led to an improvement in the living conditions of populations in resource-rich countries.

While EITI Reports allow access to information regarding oil, gas and mining revenues, they have not led to a positive influence on the daily lives of citizens.

During the distribution of the 2008-2009 EITI Report for the Democratic Republic of Congo in Kinshasa, a civil society actor said to me: "Mr Katende, give your figures a human face as well. I mean, try to discover what impact the figures of your report have had on the lives of the Congolese populations. Otherwise, the situation of the populations before EITI is no different from that after EITI."

Here, it is appropriate to recall the message sent by Ms Clare Short, Chair of the EITI Board, to members of Publish What You Pay (PWYP) meeting in Amsterdam to mark the network's tenth anniversary. She said: "I congratulate everyone that has been involved in Publish What You Pay. You have put the spotlight on one of the greatest development challenges. You have also contributed to change, through the EITI as well as your other efforts. But there is a long way to go before natural resource riches bring benefits and development to all, especially the poor."

The road that both EITI and PWYP must take is the one that sees poor populations benefiting from their natural resources.

Impact and future of EITI

In order to fulfil the hopes that it raised, EITI should look to its future. Above all, it should consider the question of its direct impact on the lives of poor populations.  EITI should become a tool that contributes to improving the living conditions of local populations in resource-rich countries.

In order to guarantee a lasting future, EITI must work on two important priorities, as follows.

Validation of the process in implementing countries

Validation is largely based on evaluating the implementation of 20 requirements in respect of the EITI Principles and Criteria. As such, it does not address the question of the impact of EITI on the lives of populations. This is why there is a need to create another mechanism which would be used to evaluate the impact of EITI on populations' living conditions.

Evaluating the impact of EITI on the lives of poor populations

This mechanism would serve to evaluate the various changes brought about in a country on account of EITI implementation. Such changes may be positioned at various levels.

At legal framework level (legislation)

Constitutional amendments, and new laws passed in order to bring about the changes required by EITI implementation, will be considered.

At the level of taxation The impact of EITI will be considered in terms of maximizing revenues received by State agencies, and of improving the documentation of payments received from the extractive industries by State agencies.

At national budget level

Here, evaluation would consist of seeing whether the increase in the revenues arising from the extractive industries has led the Government to invest those revenues in priority sectors for local populations. These would include building roads, schools and hospitals, with free provision of primary care and free ARV for people with HIV, as well as access to drinking water and electricity.

This evaluation of the impact of EITI will require the EITI Board to recruit experts from civil society, under the supervision of the EITI International Secretariat, to undertake the task and report back to it.  

In conclusion, it must be said that EITI has already made huge progress in establishing itself as an internationally recognized standard in the field of revenue transparency. The task remains of becoming a tool for improving the living conditions of populations in resource-rich countries. This is what is required for people to be able to make EITI their "own business".