This morning's plenary session was opened by H.E. Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, Deputy Prime Minster and Minster of Energy and Industry, State of Qatar. His Excellency stated Qatar's belief that promoting transparency in the extractives industry is of paramount importance in ensuring that natural resources wealth is translated into economic and social development for resource-rich countries. He assured the session of Qatar's strong support for the EITI.
President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, made it clear during her opening statement that the EITI has helped to move Liberia away from the corruption and misallocation of natural resources that helped to fuel decades of civil war in her country. Of her administration which took power in January 2006, she said "we knew we inherited dysfunctional institutions that had become criminalised and operated in an atmosphere of impunity". As a result, her government made fighting corruption a top priority and the EITI has been a key step in this challenge. In a sign of Liberia's excellent progress in implementing the EITI, the Liberia EITI (LEITI) published its first EITI report in February 2009 and President Johnson Sirleaf was pleased to say that the publishing of payments from companies to the government was the "first time in Liberia's history" this had ever happened.
Perhaps most importantly, President Johnson Sirleaf stated that the most important element of a successful EITI programme is the dedication and political will of implementing governments. Without this, no EITI programme will be able to succeed.
In talking about the EITI in his opening statement, George Soros made clear his belief that the countries implementing the EITI would have a competitive advantage over those outside the initiative in attracting greater investment in a global economy that has become highly risk-averse. The high standards of accounting and reporting inherent in the EITI are attractive to investors seeking to minimise risk by ensuring greater openness and a more level playing field in the business environment. These sentiments were also clear in the statement from Royal Dutch Shell CEO, Jeroen van der Veer, who emphasised how the improved business environment created in EITI implementing countries provides greater security and confidence for producer companies. Through establishing clear payments and reporting systems, as well as promoting social inclusion and development, companies see the immediate benefits for a more stable operating environment.
All speakers highlighted the integral part that civil society plays in making the EITI possible and successful. EITI Chairman, Peter Eigen, emphasised the importance of protecting and respecting civil society in its efforts to combat corruption and hold governments and companies to account. President Johnson Sirleaf made clear that civil society has an important role to play in parallel to the government and also a responsibility to engage in the process in a constructive manner.