Nikolai Astrup, the new Norwegian Minister for Development, was speaking at a reception to mark the 39th EITI Board meeting. He started by quoting part of a powerful speech delivered at Davos by Erna Solberg, Norway’s prime minister:
“Corruption and illegal financial flows are linked to the whole range of security threats we face today: climate change, terror, organised crime, cybercrime, to mention a few. We face multiple challenges, not limited by national borders. In many countries inequality increases. That feeds frustration and alienation. Conflicts multiply. Corruption is a common denominator. Corruption is destructive for economic, social, environmental and political development. We need to promote joint action by governments, public sector, business, multilateral organisations and civil society on anti-corruption.”
As Minister Astrup noted, it almost sounded like Prime Minister Solberg was talking about the EITI.
Minister Astrup went on to say that the EITI is an example of the kind of initiative that is needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. He mentioned that good governance is vital for promoting sustainable economic growth and that the EITI has a proven track record of improving the governance of natural resource wealth.
The EITI International Secretariat staff is here in Oslo because the Norwegians are widely recognised as amongst the best when it comes to natural resource management. As Minister Astrup put it, ‘Managing oil and gas resources is no easy task. Our own history has shown what is possible when resources are used to the benefit of a country’s citizens. Openness and accountability and democratic oversight have, of course, also been critical to our success.’
The Norwegian government takes its role and support for resource-rich countries seriously, notably funding its own programme, known as the Norwegian Oil for Development (OFD) programme, through which Norway shares valuable experience and expertise. Five OFD countries – Ghana, Iraq, Mozambique, Myanmar and Tanzania – are also EITI countries, and there has been collaboration between the two programmes in the past. Part of the expertise that Norway is sharing with other resource-rich countries relates to Norway's commitment to be at the forefront of extractive sector transparency by becoming the first country to ‘mainstream’ the EITI. Norway plans to disclose more and more information on norskpetroleum.no. Disclosures on this website include information about taxes and other payments received from oil and gas companies operating on the Norwegian continental shelf. Mainstreaming makes it easier for the public to access the data and for companies and government to make that data available. It’s a 21st century solution to the challenge of informing public debate; the plan is to harness the power of the internet and telecommunications to bring about transparency. Norway has shown this can work and I recommend you take a look at norskpetroleum.no to see for yourself what digital transparency looks like.
Jonas Moberg, Head of the EITI International Secretariat then launched the 2018 Progress Report, which I recommend you read if you are interested in learning more about the EITI’s impact across the 51 countries (or watch the video below).
The 2018 Progress Report is packed with facts, quotes and stories on the EITI’s impact in our 51-member countries. Having visited more than a few EITI countries in the past year, Fredrik Reinfeldt, EITI Chair and former Prime Minister of Sweden, sums up the mission of the EITI as striving ‘for a world where leaks are redundant because information is readily available’ in reference to the Paradise Papers and other leaks that shocked and surprised the world in 2017. Jonas Moberg mentions the strong focus in 2017 on supporting countries that were going through the process of Validation. A global overview of Validation is provided on page 6 and shows how the first 21 countries have fared. The Progress Report also highlights frontier policy issues the EITI is working on, including contract transparency, commodity trading transparency, state owned enterprises transparency and, of course, our groundbreaking work on beneficial ownership transparency.
In 2017, the EITI was called ‘a remarkable global project with a very boring name’ by the New Yorker. This applies equally to the EITI’s new focus on mainstreaming disclosures. In practice, mainstreaming means companies and governments disclosing data on their websites and portals, with EITI Reports increasingly pointing to these sources of information and addressing any gaps in the data. On the surface, it sounds easy; in practice, it will involve using IT systems to embed transparency at the source of company and government reporting systems.
Norway, widely recognised as a leader when it comes to natural- resource management, is once again showing the way and is the first EITI country to formally begin mainstreaming EITI.
Also in attendance the day before the start of the 39th EITI Board Meeting, was a ministerial delegation from Senegal. HE Minister Mansour Elimane Kane, Minister of Petroleum and Energy, is currently in Oslo to discuss the significant progress that Senegal has made under the EITI Standard and to meet with his Norwegian counterparts. Minister Kane spoke of his high hopes and determination to make the Senegalese extractive sector a success and shared news that Senegal is set to become a significant natural gas producer. Senegal signed an inter-governmental cooperation (IAC) deal on Friday with neighbouring Mauritania. The agreement was based on industry best practice for the development of cross-border resources and is based on the landmark 1976 Frigg Treaty between the UK and Norway. The ministerial delegation from Senegal will also be meeting with their Norwegian counterparts while in Oslo, to find out more about the Norwegian oil and gas sector and the management of the Norwegian oil fund.
Fredrik Reinfeldt finished off the evening by noting that the weather (lots of snow and ice) is the reason Norway is doing so well in the Winter Olympics. He pointed out that international sport, as with extractive resource governance, is best when it's multilateral and that the world needs more, not less, cooperation.