Meet the first of the EITI National Coordinators to be featured monthly in this new article series from the Secretariat.
In the spotlight for September we have Mark A. J. Regis from the Trinidad and Tobago EITI Secretariat (TTEITI).
45 years old (or “young” as he puts it), Mr Regis took part setting up the TTEITI Secretariat in September 2011. He was drawn to the EITI for its tripartite model as he enjoys building consensus between various stakeholders. He also saw the opportunity for EITI to influence the country’s developing participatory democracy.
His vision for a successful TTEITI includes citizens who are empowered by the information disclosed in the EITI Reports and hold the government and the companies accountable.
Mr Regis also hopes the government agencies will become more open to sharing information with the public and no longer hide behind the notions of secrecy and confidentiality.
Lastly, he wants the companies to be challenged by a broader, more knowledgeable group of civil society actors, to carry out corporate social responsibilities to the people of the regions in which they extract resources.
A new model for resolving conflicts
The National Coordinator thinks that after some time, EITI in his country will foster dialogue among the stakeholders and show the way for addressing other national problems that require cooperation among the parties involved.
“EITI can create a new model for avoiding and resolving conflicts,” Mr Regis said.
Further, he believes that EITI implementation will lead to wider budget reforms related to the improvement of revenue management and collection systems, and the allocation and expenditure of revenues earned from the extractive sectors.
“The government’s promises of greater transparency and accountability will be driven, in part, by the success of the EITI implementation,” Mr Regis said.
“No longer will there be ‘business as usual’ in the extractive sectors and that will trigger a call for reforms in other sectors across the national economy, taking us beyond transparency to true accountability.”
Challenges to success
According to Mr Regis, the biggest challenge to achieving successful EITI implementation in Trinidad and Tobago is the view held in influential quarters that there is little need for increased transparency and accountability in the extractive sectors.
“Therefore, education on the benefits of the EITI is crucial, especially at civil society level, in order to generate an upward demand from the people to implement the EITI.”
“The next challenge is to successfully engage in capacity building among the three stakeholder groups, with a special focus on civil society, to ensure a better understanding of their respective roles and fuller participation in the process.”
“Finally, we must overcome legal confidentiality barriers to disclosure of payments information, enshrined in tax and extractive sector legislations and contracts,” he added.
The importance of links
TTEITI has successfully created links with other implementing countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region, and cooperation with Peru and Guatemala is proving helpful to their implementation process.
Mr Regis highlighted that links beyond this region have also been useful, especially in engaging the youth. TTEITI teamed up with Liberia, which was the first EITI country to create a club for young people.
Mr Regis said the youth club holds regular meetings and debates about the management of the country’s natural resources.
“In August/September 2013, we conducted the first youth exchange programme with Liberia’s EITI under which, Ms. Angel Yalartai, a member of Liberia’s Youth E-Club Programme, spent two weeks in Trinidad and Tobago with members of TTEITI’s Youth Advisory Committee to exchange ideas and to gain knowledge about our country and its extractive sectors.
”The LEITI-TTEITI youth exchange programme is the brainchild of LEITI’s National Coordinator, Sam Topkah. It is designed to forge links between LEITI's E-Club Secondary School initiative with the TTEITI Youth Advisory Committee and Youth Champions Initiative.
A reciprocal visit to Liberia will be arranged.
Most memorable moment
Mr Regis recalled the signing of an EITI Momentum of Understanding (MOU) on 7 June 2013 as his most memorable moment to date working for TTEITI. In this document, the government, 18 of the country’s major oil and gas companies and eight supporting civil society organisations agreed to the terms for the implementation of the EITI.
“The successful negotiation of this MOU took one year to achieve given the number and variety of interests of the stakeholders involved.”
Prior to TTEITI Mr Regis spent four years as the Government and Stakeholder Relations Manager for BG Trinidad and Tobago, and also has 14 years’ experience in the government’s Diplomatic Service.
He holds a Bachelor in History and a minor in Political Science from the University of the West Indies (UWI). He also holds a Post Graduate Diploma in International Relations from the UWI Graduate School of International Relations.
In their EITI reporting, Trinidad and Tobago will cover natural resource sectors, including oil and natural gas on the hydrocarbon side and asphalt and aggregates on the mining side.
Currently there is two full time staff at the TTEITI Secretariat, Mr Regis and his colleague Gisela Granado, who is the Policy Analyst. By the end of 2013, this number will double.
In addition, TTEITI has support from three officers from the Energy Research and Planning Division of the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs, located in close proximity to the TTEITI Secretariat within the Ministry.
By late 2014, when the Secretariat is formally structured via EITI specific legislation (currently in draft form), they will bring on additional technical and administrative staff.