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After a Decade's Work, Re-Strategizing Natural Resource Governance Interventions

On September 18, the World Bank and the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) will host a half-day discussion in London on the challenges and opportunities in supporting natural resource-rich countries to manage their hydrocarbon and mineral wealth. This session is part of the “New Directions in Governance” conference organized jointly by the World Bank’s Governance Partnership Facility (GPF) and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). The meeting will foster an exchange of insights and experiences from the broader community of actors working on these issues in order to inform a strategic framework for engagement to guide the World Bank’s work moving forward. The conversations will focus on how to build on the work in this field to date, how to support emerging priorities in the field, and identifying where the World Bank’s comparative advantage lies. A series of follow-up activities and a second meeting later this year will focus on fleshing out and concretizing the World Bank’s strategic framework through continued dialogues with others working on natural resource governance.

Emergence and development of the field

The early 2000s witnessed the start of a surge in interest and activity around natural resource governance, as individuals and organizations began to grapple with “the resource curse” in theory and practice. Transparency of payments from extractive companies to governments and of corresponding revenues recorded by governments became major concerns, as a small but vocal group of NGOs and the Open Society Institute formed the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) coalition, and were joined by companies and governments in creating the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

A decade or so later, we have a far more developed field with numerous NGOs, governments, companies, foundations, academics and international organizations turning their attention, either individually or through multi-stakeholder approaches, to a wider range of issues related to natural resource governance. They deploy myriad tools and strategies across varied geographies and engage a wide array of stakeholders at the sub-national, national, regional, and global levels. The result is an increasingly complex landscape of efforts and actors addressing the challenges of resource governance, often with little knowledge shared across them.

Taking a more strategic approach to natural resource governance

In recent years, a number of organizations – PWYP, NRGI (formerly the Revenue Watch Institute – Natural Resource Charter), Oxfam America, the UK’s Department for International Development, and, currently, the World Bank – have been reassessing their own natural resource governance work and how it fits into this complex and evolving landscape. Such reassessments provide valuable opportunities for each actor to more deliberately and strategically frame and advance its own agenda and to contribute to the broader field. However, to be effective, individual organizations must come to systematically understand how and why they might decide to pursue different approaches, as well as which others are active in the field and in what ways.

As the World Bank embarks on the process of developing a new strategic framework to guide its efforts in this field, it can benefit from foundational investigations undertaken by others, including NRGI. As an input into its own five-year strategy development process, NRGI commissioned a report on some of the major actors in the field. Natural Resource Governance: An In-Depth Subfield Mapping and Analysis is a nuanced mapping and analysis of work done by a small group of 17 core actors, including the World Bank. Complementing Oxford Policy Management’s broader data collection and mapping project, the report examines the different problems on which this group of organizations focus, the theories of change underpinning their respective approaches, the tools and strategies they use, the different stakeholders they target, and their self-perceived comparative advantages. It also analyzes field-level trends regarding near-term priorities, gaps and weaknesses, and possible opportunities for greater coordination and collaboration across organizations. Considering such issues can help advance the World Bank’s dual goals of systematically developing and defining the scope of its own work while complementing the efforts of others in the field.

The session on September 18 will be attended by representative of a broad range of civil society, academia, donor agencies and World Bank Group. We look forward to providing a summary of the discussion and the plans to move our common agenda forward.

Leila Kazemi, Ph.D., is a consultant in extractive industries governance.