'Beneficial ownership is an emerging global norm and a priority for governments tackling corruption'

Tonu works as the Lead on Thematic Engagement at the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Secretariat. She works with OGP staff, Steering Committee and partners to ensure that the 99 countries and localities that are OGP members can use the platform to deliver on reforms in priority thematic issues like anti-corruption and priority sectors such as the extractive industries.

We spoke with Tonu on the sidelines of EITI’s gathering of key partner organisations, dedicated to discussing priorities for strengthening extractive industry governance, held in Oslo in September 2018.

What do you do and is there a project you are currently working on that you're particularly excited about?

I manage a cross-team effort to ensure that the OGP platform can be used to deliver more ambitious reforms on priority areas like the extractives industry, anti-corruption, and issues that directly link to citizens’ lives like public service delivery. So OGP is not about transparency as an end in and of itself, but a means to enable greater accountability and responsiveness in government. We are seeing some critical reforms in OGP that need to be scaled as global norms such as public registers of beneficial ownership, opening up the procurement process to public scrutiny. Increasing spaces for inclusion of citizens voices, among others.

I lead on strengthening partnerships on these topics - the ‘P’ in OGP. The more citizens and organisations are working together to push for reform, the more likely they are to succeed. I also help connect reformers at the country level to peers and experts who can support implementation. To this end, we have the recently-launched OGP multi-donor trust fund, housed at the World Bank, with support currently from Governments of Canada, France, and the UK. One of the objectives of the Trust Fund is to support cross-country learning on OGP’s thematic priorities. This will provide the resources to effectively support cross-country peer-learning.

What I’m always excited about in this role is strengthening partnerships with organisations like the EITI. OGP just signed an MoU to formalise our long-standing and mutually beneficial partnership with the EITI, so as to better coordinate support and action on shared priorities.

How is the EITI’s work and data relevant to your work?

A lot of OGP countries have made commitments on the extractives sector as part of their larger anti-corruption agenda - in fact 40% of OGP’s national and local members have specific commitments related to transparency in the extractives industries. Several OGP members have used the OGP platform to join the EITI or fulfil EITI requirements including Germany, Indonesia, Nigeria, Philippines, Ukraine and several others. Moving forwards, EITI and OGP could coordinate more on providing civil society and governments with the knowledge, resources and partnerships to more effectively implement their commitments.

What are the policy areas the EITI should prioritise in the run up to next year's Global Conference?

First, beneficial ownership transparency -  it’s an emerging global norm and a priority for governments tackling corruption and not just in the extractives sector. 16 countries in OGP have made commitments related to beneficial ownership, including implementing their EITI roadmaps and developing beneficial owernship registers. These include Ghana, Nigeria, UK and Ukraine. With more targeted implementation of the EITI 2020 beneficial ownership roadmaps there is the opportunity for the extractives sector to set the benchmark for other sectors. The EITI Global Conference next year is a good opportunity to have conversations on how to coordinate better across agencies, how to tackle technical challenges around data and how to work more effectively with civil society on implementation.

Second, anti-corruption issues related to the extractive industries - I really like what I heard at the EITI partners’ retreat about placing greater emphasis on framing extractives-related reforms as part of the larger anti-corruption agenda countries are looking to tackle.

Third, shrinking civic space - which is something that civil society not just in the EITI community, but equally in the OGP community and beyond are grappling with. In the extractives sector, activists get a lot of push-back from vested interests and we as a community need to have a more action-oriented dialogue on civic space, identifying policy and other approaches to tackle civic space challenges.