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Civil Society Concerns at Eurasia PWYP Meeting

In November 2015, PWYP members from across Eurasia met in Ulaanbaatar for an NRGI-led training session to discuss common extractives governance challenges their countries face. Shrinking civil society space was a dominant concern.

Participants agreed on the importance of incorporating the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative into national development strategies and boosting beneficial ownership disclosure, which remains a crucial transparency and accountability challenge.

The November training session focused on bettering data on production, subnational revenues and state-owned enterprises. Ulaanbaatar participants also discussed opportunities to improve the relevance, timeliness and openness of EITI data and reports. They differed, however, on methods and timelines for implementing reform.

EITI participation in Eurasia varies: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan joined EITI early on; others, like Tajikistan and Ukraine, have only begun implementing it.

Eurasia has seen some innovative EITI practices. Kazakhstan has shared EITI data with the population. Ukraine and Mongolia have disclosed a great deal of budget spending information. Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia disseminated EITI data to local communities.

Mongolia, Ukraine and Albania see strong civil society support for beneficial ownership disclosure being made a mandatory EITI requirement as soon as possible. Representatives from Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan said enhanced clarity on how to implement the requirement is needed. Tajikistan and Kazakhstan said their legal environments make it difficult for immediate implementation.

Some of the countries in the region, notably Ukraine, are implementing ambitious Open Government Partnership action plans while others have only recently became OGP eligible—for instance, Kazakhstan recently adopted the Freedom of Information Act. Civil society activists recognized their role in ensuring Eurasia countries remain committed to the OGP values and implement meaningful reforms. The OGP could provide opportunities for enhancing reforms. It could improve extractives governance by complementing and deepening EITI requirements in the national context.

Many delegates were concerned about a reduction of civil society space, limiting their ability to operate freely and effectively.

Azerbaijan faces a worsening enabling environment, as well as problems with registering and financing non-governmental organizations. Journalists and opposition figures have been imprisoned. The country’s EITI status has been downgraded. In Kazakhstan, new restrictions on the ability of civil society to freely access grants from non-governmental institutions and donors could potentially damage EITI progress. And in Mongolia, many non-governmental organizations could potentially stop functioning due to the new legal restrictions. Another problem Mongolia faces is a lack of forward momentum for civil society participating in the EITI processes—this is especially the case for civil society working at the subnational level.

Participants agreed that better communication and coordination among the civil society organizations operating in Eurasia, as well as with EITI board representatives and the PWYP global network, is needed. Despite the many financial and logistical barriers to such movement – translating information into local languages, allowing for time to receive and respond to information about global and regional developments, and attracting new forces, especially youth, into the movement for better extractives governance – the restructured PWYP can and should play a coordinating role.

Dorjdari Namkhaijantsan is NRGI’s Mongolia manager.