EITI Global Conference Unfolds New Standard

The EITI Global Conference was held at the OECD Conference Centre in Paris, France with delegates from the 52 member countries and other special guest, world leaders from around the world in attendance.

 

The conference provided a platform for representatives from 52 EITI implementing countries and beyond to discuss key issues around the management of the extractive sector and the impact of the EITI. The EITI demonstrated diversity and inclusion in the conference programme and ensured that representation on all panels is balanced, reflecting gender, regional and language diversity.

On this commitment, participation in the conference was diverse among all races, gender, professions and business investors. Particularly of note were the multi-stakeholders such as companies, civil society organizations (CSOs) and government leaders. The implementing and supporting countries constituted the heart of the delegates given their divergent interests reflected in the various presentations both at the plenary and committee deliberations. It was also a huge platform for the EITI global board to meet and review the progress of implementation including impacts, benefits, challenges and gaps between what was achieved and what needs to be done to enthrone transparency and accountability in the management of oil gas and mining in resource-rich countries.

Prominent among the CSOs in attendance were the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) coalition from member countries, Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), Open Government Partnership (OGP), Global Witness (GW) and other non-governmental & professional organizations. The company participation was led by the CEO of Total, Patrick Jean Pouyanne, the Chairman of Rino Tinto, Simon Thompson, among others. On government participation, the President of Central African Republic, the Prime Minister of Congo, the Vice President of Ghana and other world leaders, were in Paris to convey support for implementation in their respective countries.

The Nigerian delegation to the conference was led by the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Waziri Adio and some members of management and staff. Others Nigerians at the conference were the immediate past Minister of Finance, Former Executive Secretary of NEITI and member of the immediate past EITI Board, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, the Executive Chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Professor Bolajii Owasanoye and some members of his management team. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was led by the former GGM, Crude Oil and Marketing Division (COMD), Mr. Mele Kolo Kyari who was recently elevated to the Group Managing Director of the Corporation.

The theme of the conference was “OPEN DATA, BUILD TRUST”. This theme was chosen to draw national and international attention on the importance of open, accessible and simplified data as a key component of information dissemination required to build the confidence of citizens on how natural resources in their country are managed. The theme underlined the fact that the publication of data by member countries in their EITI report was not enough if the data is not available, easily accessible, complicated and cannot be understood to enrich human understanding and build the knowledge capacity of the citizens required to use information and data to promote public debate capable of holding government and companies accountable. Member countries, including Nigeria, made presentations on the importance of open data in advancing EITI implementation to achieve the desired impact in their respective countries.

The NEITI Executive Secretary, Waziri Adio announced to the global audience that Nigeria has already unfolded an open data policy. He referred the audience to NEITI website where the details remain accessible.         

The first major deliberation called the National Coordinators’ Meeting had in attendance National Coordinators drawn from the 52 implementing countries. This very important meeting was chaired by the Executive Secretary of NEITI/ National Coordinator of EITI in Nigeria, Waziri Adio. Others in attendance were the Executive Director of the EITI Secretariat, Mark Robinson and other staff of the EITI Secretariat in Oslo. The meeting provided a forum for implementing countries to present status reports, identify areas of progress, challenges and seek peer review interventions to deepen implementation in their countries. Top on the agenda of the National Coordinator’s meeting were issues around the new EITI standard, processes and principles of validation. The meeting also discussed emerging issues in the EITI such as contract transparency, beneficial ownership implementation, gender equality and environmental issues in the industry.

The EITI secretariat made incisive presentations to provide updates and clarifications on areas of the knowledge gap and the way forward. The chairman of the meeting, Waziri Adio of Nigeria called on the newly appointed Executive Director of the EITI Secretariat, Mark Robinson to formally introduce himself and his agenda in advancing the global organization. One of the highlights of the meeting was the presentation of the EITI standard for the attention and buy-in of implementing countries.

Under the new standard, strong oversight by multi-stakeholders group was strengthened while legal and institutional framework including allocation of contracts and licenses were made wider open for disclosure. The standard also required extensive disclosures of information related to exploration and production. Other areas where openness was made compulsory include revenue allocation, social and economic spending among others.

The outgoing Chairman of the EITI, Fredrik Reinfeldt said the EITI standard has continuously evolved since it was first agreed in 2013. In that time, he said, it was shaped by the 50 plus implementing countries, building on emerging practices at the country level. He went on to give assurance that standard for transparency and accountability in the extractives sector has become a model for multi-stakeholder transparency initiatives working in other sectors.

Another highlight of the meeting of national coordinators was a valedictory session for the outgoing Chair, Mr. Fredrik Reinfeldt and welcome applause for the new chair, Rt Hon. Helen Clark. In his valedictory speech to implementing countries the outgoing chair, Reinfeldt thanked the EITI board, EITI Secretariat and implementing countries for pushing for consensus on a range of new requirements that will continue to make the EITI Standard a useful reform tool. He added that there had been a rapid change in the world and the landscape for extractive industry transparency and called on the EITI and its supporters to respond efficiently and effectively to the public interest in extractive sector revenues and governance.

At the conference, two major presentations were made titled “Extractive Data: Use, Impact, Collaboration.” supported by NRGI, OXFAM and GW and another session in that regard was “Leveraging information technology in EITI mainstreaming” supported by the EITI international secretariat in collaboration with partners. In this session, conversations ranged from the use of block chain and algorithm for data on how portals are results of a mainstreaming process. There were conversations around countries that have fully mainstreamed may have their validation moved to the government auditing system of the countries. The Development Gateway team discussed how they specialize in IT tools; the countries they work with and how such data tools ensured that the Extractive Industry impact in the community is measured. The NRGI team talked about how EITI data has been used to do a lot of data visualization work for countries, the research work they carried out and policy-driven reports they can churn out. They discussed the need for data literacy and how less time exerted in data gathering would help with more time for using the data for more productive uses.

The Conference witnessed keynote speeches from government leaders, company executives in the oil, gas and mining companies as well as the civil society and development partners. All the speeches conveyed the commitments to strengthen EITI implementation in resource-rich countries around the world. The speakers also underlined the impact of EITI in enthroning transparency, accountability and good governance of natural resources in member countries. They warned of the consequences of impunity, waste and mismanagement of revenues accruing to countries with natural resources given its negative implication on rising global poverty, insecurity and migration of citizens from resource-rich nations to developed countries even amid hazards.

Addressing the opening session, the EITI chair, Reinfeldt reiterated that ensuring good governance of the extractive industries is essential for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and tackling corruption in the past decade EITI countries have disclosed almost $2.5trillion from the extractive industries. But more work remains to be done, especially at a time when trust in governments, multilateralism, even the value of dialogue itself is under strain.

At a panel session on “Taxing Extractives- How do you make the data work for you.”, the NEITI Executive Secretary, Adio highlighted the importance of financial modelling in tracking extractive revenues from the point of payment to the point of receipts and utilization. He shared with the audience NEITI’s experience in this direction.

Another panel where Nigeria made a significant contribution is on “The role of transparency in fighting corruption in the extractives sector” where the Executive Chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), Professor Owasanoye was a member of the panel. He used the opportunity to provide the global audience with information and enlightenment on the journey so far on the fight against corruption by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration using the ICPC as a case study.

The immediate past Executive Secretary of NEITI, and former Minister of Finance Mrs. Zainab Ahmed while speaking as a member of the panel on “What is the big deal with extractives data and how can transparency stimulate domestic resource mobilization?” talked about how NEITI reports helped the government of Nigeria in revenue mobilization through the recovery of taxes, royalty and other debts owed by companies. The panel also discussed other areas that the EITI reports could be useful in generating revenue to support development and poverty reduction in member countries.

This year’s innovation at the conference was the introduction of the National Innovation Exchange, which was an exposition of the EITI implementing countries. It provided an opportunity to learn and exchange knowledge about EITI implementation. In the pitch corner, country delegations and partners shared ten-minute presentations, followed by discussions on exciting new ideas, innovations and lessons learned. The innovation exchange created open markets for member countries to showcase their unique achievements through publications and other creative ideas. A striking feature of the innovation exchange was the pitch session.

A member of the Nigerian Delegation, Ms Chinenye Okechukwu represented the country at the event and spoke on “Information & Data disclosures, public debate and extractive sector reforms in Nigeria” to show how Nigeria is using data to build trust. Here the NEITI audit dashboard, Policy Papers, Occasional and Quarterly review, RemTrack App and other innovations developed by NEITI to drive home its message to the industry and the citizens at the grassroots. The Nigerian presenter at the pitch session, Ms Okechukwu also answered questions and responded to comments from participants at the pitch session. The Nigerian stand witnessed an influx of stakeholders from Countries, CSOs, Crude oil Traders, Research students, Ministers among others to interact, ask questions and seek clarification.

Delegates from around the world who converged on Paris for the conference also took some time off to explore the tourism opportunities in abundance in the ancient French capital. The conference also witnessed a special dinner in honour of delegates by the Government of France. Although this year’s conference was short, participants left Paris with immense satisfaction that the EITI as a global organization is committed to enthroning good governance of natural resources in resource-rich nations around the world and has recorded measurable impact and deserving widespread support by governments, civil society organizations, development partners, companies and the citizens to meet the desired expectations.