Transparent autocracies: The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and civil society in authoritarian states
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The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is a public-private partnership that aims to set a global standard in resource management. The EITI has a unique format that requires an active civil society to be part of the resource management process. At the moment, 51 resource-rich countries implement the initiative, including many non-democracies. Building up on the literatures on the resource curse, democratization, norm diffusion and compliance, this paper addresses a critical question: Can the EITI be truly successful in incorporating civil society groups into the decision making process in non-democratic countries? Based on case studies of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, it argues that while on paper civil society groups are part of the national multi-stakeholder process, in practice independent NGOs are finding it more and more difficult to exercise their monitoring and whistleblowing capacities due to political, technical, financial and bureaucratic constraints. In addition, the statistical analysis shows that EITI membership is not correlated with better civil and associational rights in authoritarian countries. These results confirm that despite the initial euphoria regarding civil society participation in the EITI, NGOs remain the weakest link in majority of EITI-implementing states.
• Investigated the unusual phenomenon of transparent autocracies.
• The EITI requires civil society to be part of the initiative.
• Yet, civil society participation in the EITI is not satisfactory.
• Governments undermine the work of NGOs by co-optation and oppression.
• Civil and associational rights do not improve after EITI membership.