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EITI Expert: On Latin America Governance, a ‘Much Richer’ Conversation Taking Place

Francisco Paris is the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) international secretariat’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, and is based in Oslo. Earlier this year, Mr. Paris attended the EITI Latin America Regional Conference in Lima, where government, civil society and corporate representatives met to discuss pressing socio-environmental concerns in the region. Many activists and advocates in the region see the environmental impact of extractive industries as a new frontier in EITI reporting. He shared his thoughts on these matters, and we’re in turn sharing them with NRGI blog readers here:

We’ve taken important initial steps toward a comprehensive approach to extractive sector transparency.

We now have a starting point of understanding of what needs to be included in EITI reports, beginning with licenses, data production, revenues and transfers. We see signs that countries are fulfilling the new standard; some are voluntarily going beyond it. There are discussions about how contracts are being covered, on [how much money countries are spending on environmental protection or mitigation in connection with extraction], and many more subjects. These are good signals. When all countries manage to file their reports, we’ll have a clearer idea of the landscape.

We are having a much richer conversation about the issues, and not only about EITI as an instrument. The EITI national commissions have a certain degree of freedom to test what is working and what is less useful. For the first time, participants have the grounding to talk about larger issues rather than just the mechanics of EITI itself. But, I think that we have moved to a phase where the how-do-we-implement idea becomes a discussion about a facilitating meaningful transparency. That is an important change.

We need EITI to be internalized—in government systems, procedures, forms and practices in the extractive sector at large. Internalizing EITI means that, for example, when there is a contract bidding round, transparency through the whole process is at the forefront. The internalization of transparency is crucial.

Then again, we should look at the “how”—at the procedures. The process has to be more agile and the international movement less worried about ticking boxes or strict rules and more about how to go forward together.

Unlike in other countries, where EITI has had a great impact from the beginning, Latin American countries have challenges that tend to be more sophisticated. The challenges related to anti-corruption play differently when there are already systems and procedures aiming at fighting corruption. We need to take these to the next level.

It’s about being a bit more transparent than you already are. If your system used to be transparent it is easier to push it a little bit further. For example, if you have an internet database that publishes information from a regulatory agency, let’s make it talk with another database from another agency. The challenges are different and the standard has to be flexible enough to become global.

Mr. Paris’ comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Alonso Hidalgo is NRGI’s Latin America program assistant.