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A year to fight corruption

On International Anti-Corruption Day, EITI Chair Rt Hon. Helen Clark explains how extractive sector transparency can support achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

With ten years now remaining to achieve the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN General Assembly’s decision to hold a Special Session against Corruption in 2021 is a welcome step. Every corrupt deal that is struck reduces the resources available in the world’s poorest nations to meet their aspirations for sustainable development. 2021 is an important year for fighting corruption and increasing transparency as the world endeavours to recover from the shock which the COVID-19 pandemic has delivered to societies, economies, and healthcare systems.

One of the lessons learned from the pandemic is that data matters. Data transparency is a tool which can contribute to better-informed and more inclusive decision making. Extractive sector transparency is essential in the recovery from the pandemic, especially for countries that depend on resource revenues.

There are now 55 countries committed to implementation of the EITI Standard, and more are considering candidature. The EITI Standard contributes to fighting corruption. It calls for a systematic approach to publishing data on the management of the extractive industries. That covers information from how extraction rights are awarded, to how revenues make their way through government and how they benefit the public. Reporting is undertaken at a country level in line with national priorities and aims to identify gaps in disclosure and areas vulnerable to abuse.

The UN’s Special Session against Corruption has agreed to adopt a “a concise and action-oriented political declaration”. It has an opportunity to use this statement to demonstrate its support for eliminating the use of anonymous company ownership as a vehicle for corruption, and to adopt concrete commitments to this end. Civil society partners are urging the UN to address the development of centralised, public registers of the beneficial owners of companies in its political declaration, thereby translating political commitment into action.

Beneficial ownership transparency is a priority for extractives governance – the 2019 EITI Standard requires EITI implementing countries to publish information on the beneficial owners of extractive companies. Along with revenue disclosures and contract transparency, disclosure of the beneficial ownership of extractive companies provides vital data in the fight against corruption. Taken together, they enable public disclosure of the parties to extractive sector contracts, the terms of such contracts, the payments they make, and the ultimate beneficiaries of each deal.

This information is therefore a powerful tool to help expose corrupt deals and introduce policy reforms which close avenues for illegal activity. We urge those participating in the UN’s Special Session on Corruption to seize this opportunity to make 2021 the year to fight corruption in the extractive industries and beyond.