Challenge four: Ensure better participation by implementing governments, companies and citizens

In the fourth of a set of contributions, Clare Short reflects on her time as EITI Chair.

In my last message as I step down from being the EITI Chair, I reflect on what the EITI might consider doing to better achieve its aims in the future.

All who have worked in development or have managed significant reform are aware that lasting and real change depends on a desire from within to do better. Yet there is often a failure in development and international policy to respect this basic truth. From the outside, we can encourage and assist, but we must avoid hectoring and prescribing.

A significant strength of the EITI is the emphasis it puts on the ownership by implementing countries. The reporting and the dynamics in each of the implementing countries are different reflecting local realities. The EITI is a global minimum standard and the international network encourages mutual learning. Countries join of their own volition and use the EITI to drive the reforms that are needed. The EITI model, with governments themselves leading and with the multi-stakeholder groups having a critical role in overseeing implementation, is sound.  

Implementing countries therefore need a strong voice in how the EITI is shaped and governed. They are the ones who know the reality of implementation. In addition, it would be desirable if the Board heard more directly the opinions of companies and citizens from implementing countries.  All constituencies need to work harder to ensure that these voices are properly represented. I am concerned that the desire to exercise power through constituency consensus too often squeezes out the Southern voice. Better representation of the implementing country voice may be difficult but is essential to the future development of the EITI.  It is notable how often the opinions one hears when visiting implementing countries differ from those expressed on the Board. 

A good process leading to good results 

In the run up to the launch of the 2013 Standard, I was impressed with the collaborative and consultative approach in all constituencies.  The changes were largely drawn from the experiences and practice of many of the implementing countries and they showed their peers what was possible.  Strong leadership was shown by the companies who made some bold decisions.  Civil society shone the torch for the direction for many of the progressive changes and, alongside the World Bank and bilaterals, did a lot of research to ensure that the requirements were clear and relevant.  Multiple voices came out from the constituencies – different angles, circumstances and experiences – which enriched and informed the final conclusions. It was a long and often tortuous process. There were many arguments. However, the Board was ultimately able to come together to make some bold steps forward that, I believe, benefit all sides and make both the EITI and global governance of the sector stronger. 

Addressing narrow representation

Since then, we have seen too much narrow representation at the Board level. The implementing country voice has been not been strong enough. The civil society voice has often been dominated by a campaigning few.  The companies could do better in bringing the perspectives of the country offices to the table.  This narrow representation means that we have at the level of the Board sometimes lost sight of country experience. There needs to be a major effort to ensure that the constituencies function better.  

I am delighted that implementing countries will in the future have an extra Board seat – a Board initially designed for 12 implementing countries is no longer appropriate for over 50.  More importantly, I am pleased that implementing countries have set up coordination and communication procedures to ensure that their voice is as strong as that of other constituencies. It will be a challenge for them to reflect the views of the wide range of countries we now have in membership.

I also note some improvements on the civil society side.  The next EITI Board will have more civil society representatives from implementing countries.  Publish What You Pay has been important in the development of the EITI.  The original - much smaller - PWYP can rightly claim credit for the EITI existing at all.  PWYP have coordinated hundreds of civil society organisations and networks to support EITI work and have helped move the agenda forward.  However, there is a need to recognise that as the EITI has grown, there are now many NGOs working on extractive issues that are not part of Publish What You Pay and that the range of voices expressed by PWYP members are not always reflected at the Board.  I am afraid that The Publish What You Pay’s Global Council can no longer define itself as the full civil society constituency.  I hope that in the future, civil society from our implementing countries will collectively design and oversee how civil society should be represented on the EITI Board. I cannot for the life of me see why there can’t be a process of regional nomination from civil society MSG members, and then on line regional voting.  This would produce a much more representative civil society voice on the Board

We are fortunate that the companies on our Board have been represented by senior and dedicated individuals. Many of the companies have served on the Board for a long time. Although this continuity has been very helpful, change will come soon and there is a need to try to ensure that the experience of company representatives working in implementation is brought to the table. My experience from visiting implementing countries is that this local voice is often quite different from that at headquarters.  The views of new and powerful actors such as state-owned companies and trading companies also need to be heard.  And the companies who serve on the Board need to take more seriously the need to comply with the EITI rules they help to impose on others. Indeed the EITI itself needs to consider how this should be enforced. 

A funding crisis

The EITI is facing a funding crisis because as we must all recognise, the sector is under immense pressure. It is obvious that cuts - perhaps drastic ones - in the EITI’s activities will be necessary. But the Board must squarely face this reality.  The mandate of the EITI keeps expanding to new member countries and to new areas such as beneficial ownership. This is not sustainable unless the consequences are accommodated on the revenue side of the EITI.  I wish the incoming Board good luck with its review of funding.

Concluding thought 

I leave with this.  I have enjoyed most of my time with the EITI.  I think that it is now stronger, more useful and more relevant than it was five years ago.  But it remains fragile. The unpleasantness that has developed on the Board in recent months is extremely unfortunate, and the attacks on the secretariat nasty and unwarranted.  It is unsurprising that there are differences on a Board representing such a wide range of interests but the allegations of bad faith are not justified.  I am delighted to hand over to Fredrik Reinfeldt, who has enormous experience in handling coalitions.  I hope that the new Board will make a renewed effort to be a major force for better global governance and improvements in the lives of the billions who live in resource rich countries. We must all constantly remember that this is the purpose of the EITI.