Opacity around agreements governments make with companies over extractives and land projects is a serious problem. When citizens are unable to fully comprehend the nature of natural resource projects, misunderstandings and mismatched expectations can undermine trust in government and companies. In the worst cases, this can lead to conflict.
It is for these reasons that NRGI and the World Resources Institute are pleased to see that contract transparency and environmental disclosure are poised to feature prominently in the Paris Declaration, the outcomes document for the 7-9 December Open Government Partnership Global Summit.
The Paris Declaration will highlight collective actions that national and subnational governments and civil society organizations have signed on to. These actions could help meet existing priorities committed to in OGP National Action Plans. Available in draft form on a contribution platform, collective actions cover a wide range of thematic areas. Collective action eight, developed with support from OGP’s Openness in Natural Resources Working Group, directly addresses natural resource governance, focusing on transparency and open contracting in the oil, gas, mining, agriculture and forestry sectors. It reads:
“We will publish the contracts, licenses or leases (including associated geospatial information), which detail the agreements made between companies and the government on natural resources and land projects and the sales of commodities, and we will improve the transparency of the processes through which those agreements are made, in line with the open contracting principles. Partners will also publish information and assessments on the potential social and environmental impacts of these projects, improving accountability and participation in their environmental management.”
We strongly encourage countries to sign on to the action in one of three different ways:
Contract disclosure. Disclose contracts, licenses or leases detailing agreements made between companies and the government to exploit or sell natural resources, including the geospatial boundaries of these agreements.
Open contracting in natural resources. Make the processes through which companies and governments come to agreements on natural resources more transparent, participatory and accountable.
Environmental disclosure and participation. Improve environmental and social information dissemination and citizen participation in processes to determine, monitor and manage environmental impacts.
And for those still wondering what they can do, we have created a briefing that details the ways governments and civil society organizations participating in OGP can achieve real change on these issues. Let’s make the OGP Global Summit a milestone for contract transparency and environmental disclosure in natural resources.
Carole Excell is the project director of the Access Initiative at the World Resources Institute. Rob Pitman is a governance officer at the Natural Resource Governance Institute.