Lebanon - on the road to EITI

Lebanese Minister: Ensure right steps are taken, right from beginning.

The Lebanon Petroleum Administration (LPA), the government agency in charge of developing the sector, wants the country to be an example of best practice for governance of the oil and gas industry. The EITI is seen as a key element in this process, as Lebanon prepares to take its first steps towards becoming an oil and gas producing country.

Minister of Energy and Water, HE Arthur Nazarian, put these messages forward last week, at the Lebanon Petroleum Day (LPD) held in Beirut.

Nazarian announced that Lebanon would “work together with the EITI International Secretariat to explore what implementing the EITI will mean for Lebanon” as “a step to ensure having a transparent management system.” The Lebanon Petroleum Day served as “a platform to discuss the progress made in establishing the petroleum sector, explore challenges and discuss the way forward to develop this sector.”

The LPD took place against the backdrop of a series of articles in Lebanese media stressing the importance of Lebanon joining the EITI as a way to ensure good governance of the sector. Given the fractured nature of Lebanese politics, opinion leaders see transparency as a necessary first step towards building citizens’ trust in the budding industry.

Organisations like the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) and other local civil society organizations have also been pushing hard for implementation of the EITI as a tool for managing future revenues.

In order to present the EITI to the broader Lebanese public, the LPD included a session moderated by Jonas Moberg, Head of the EITI International Secretariat. As well as introducing the EITI Standard, Mr. Moberg noted the important steps that Lebanon was taking. Yemen EITI’s National Coordinator, Mohammed Al-Najjar, shared his country’s experiences of using the EITI as a platform to build trust between stakeholders, while Senior Lawyer Tonje Gormley of Arntzen de Besche, a law firm, explained the legal arguments in favour of disclosure of contracts. Finally, Laury Haytayan, Senior Regional Associate for the MENA region at NRGI discussed what it would take for Lebanon to adopt the EITI Standard in practical terms.

With politics currently paralising the licensing process, Lebanon is still a far from receiving revenues from its oil and gas reserves. The Ministry and the LPA want to ensure that once revenues start streaming in, the system will be in place to manage them in a responsible manner. In the words of the Minister, “although unprecedented that a country takes steps towards implementing the EITI well before even having an oil or gas discovery, this is done by Lebanon to ensure that we are doing the right thing right from the beginning”.