More than a decade ago, Publish What You Pay (PWYP) and the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) set out with partners in Eurasia to advocate for disclosure of data in the oil, gas and mining sectors. The results are evident: in many post-Soviet resource dependent countries we now see a fairly systematic and regular disclosure of extractive industry data, including contracts, revenues and payments, quasi-fiscal activities of SOEs, and even a list of final beneficiaries in some countries. Although countries in the region have reached this important milestone, much work remains to ensure that extractive industry stakeholders use this data to improve overall natural resource governance and maximize the benefits for the people in Eurasia.
Some have assumed that disclosure of data automatically implies oversight pressure on government and business stakeholders, which in turn leads to accountable behavior by these actors. But experience has shown that this once-presumed cause-and-effect chain is not linear. A much more complex set of conditions must exist in harmony to produce tangible governance results. These conditions range from the existence of democratic institutions to the capacities of the oversight actors involved. Important international platforms such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and Open Government Partnership help to create transparency “pockets” by promoting universal rules and standards, but in general, these efforts do not have a spillover effect and have not led to systemic change in Eurasian countries. The work does however lead to more active results-oriented dialogue among stakeholders; it’s absolutely necessary, yet insufficient on its own.
PWYP and NRGI have engaged in discussions with civil society partners in Eurasia to identify a roadmap for continuing the journey from data disclosure to tangible use of data for improving natural resource governance in the region. In addition to further develop the capacity of civil society experts to analyze data, actual demonstrations of how data can be used to demand accountability will help to narrow the gap. PWYP Eurasia therefore established the Eurasia Data Working Group, which in turn spurred the creation of pilot data analysis projects in Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Ukraine.
Through these projects, researchers have used publicly available data to pinpoint concrete governance flaws and generated recommendations for stakeholders. The authors of the analyses aimed to establish a clear link between data and tangible governance results, and focused on governance challenges at the subnational level. Narrowing the focus and scope of the analysis to a very specific and relatable governance shortcoming is the most important aspect of this work. These cases clearly demonstrate the role of data disclosure in creating practical and robust recommendations for concrete governance improvement, and pave the way for substantive dialogue among stakeholders.
Each of these pilot analyses will contribute to the advocacy strategy of the local PWYP coalitions and can serve as one of the civil society tactics to be used more broadly in the Eurasia region and beyond.