A perfect storm for transparency and good governance in Tunisia’s extractive industries

Excitement builds on the good governance of the extractive industries in Tunisia in 2016.

It has become a bit of a cliché to refer to Tunisia as the success story from the Arab Spring, and yet I hope you will allow me to add one optimistic voice to the choir. Emboldened by a well-deserved Noble Peace Prize where the winners’ commitment to transparency figured prominently, Tunisians will be looking to their government to step up its game and show some real regional leadership in terms of transparency and good governance of the extractive industries. Here are some of the reasons for my optimism.

In the first place, four years and three cabinets after Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali first committed to implementing the EITI, the Government of Tunisia is taking concrete steps to follow through on this commitment. This was among other things announced to the Parliament by HE Zakaria Hamad, Minister of Industry, Energy and Mines (available here, minute 3:19), following a visit to the EITI International Secretariat in Oslo by senior representatives from the Ministries of Industry, of Finance and of the Office of the Prime Minister.

This decision by the Tunisian Government to take concrete steps towards implementation followed a concerted effort by civil society and parliamentarians to push for implementation of the EITI.  This brings me to my second reason for optimism: Tunisian civil society is among the most vibrant in the region. Thanks in part to the concerted efforts by the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) and partners, Tunisian journalists and parliamentarians are well prepared to discuss issues of natural resource governance.

A third reason for optimism concerns the multiplying effect that both of these factors – implementing the EITI Standard and an informed civil society – can have on and through Tunisia’s commitments under the Open Government Partnership. In particular I am excited about Tunisia’s Open Data Platform on extractives and how well it fits with the EITI’s plans for the future as a tool to strengthen government and company reporting systems. Once they start to implement the EITI for real, there is clear potential for Tunisia to show real leadership in piloting the EITI’s next frontier.

Where there is clear government commitment and support from stakeholders, the EITI can provide a toolbox for reformers to make a real difference in the management and good governance of a country’s natural resources. It is difficult not to be excited when this happens, and I am looking forward to seeing what Tunisia has in store for us in 2016. The 7th EITI Global Conference on 24 and 25 February 2016 in Lima, Peru, would be an excellent forum to find out. Will we see you there?