Several Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) staff members took part in the OGP global summit last week in Mexico City with the aim of advancing collective understanding of how greater transparency and participation in decisionmaking can improve the management of natural resources and citizens’ lives. How did we do it?
Our first mission was to inspire governments to take up innovative extractives commitments. To achieve this, we launched the Openness in Natural Resources Working Group. A community of respresentatives from government and civil society organizations, the working group fosters the creation and implementation of impactful natural resource commitments. The working group is co-chaired by the governments of Indonesia and Mexico, NRGI and the World Resources Institute (WRI). It is supported by international actors such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the World Bank and Oxfam America.
It received broad support from various regions. Azerbaijan, Colombia, Ghana, Indonesia, Liberia, Mexico, Philippines, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and the United States participated in the launch meeting and committed to advance the natural resource governance agenda. Kenya also expressed a deep interest in becoming a member. (Kenya is planning on linking its next OGP national action plan to EITI implementation.)
With these participating countries in mind, the working group aims to provide a space for peer learning between and across government and civil society. We hope that countries will be able to learn from each other and stay focused on key areas that remain challenging. These include beneficial ownership, extractive contracts and environmental management data.
Strides in these areas have been made by member nations. The UK, for example, announced a publicly accessible central registry of company beneficial ownership information in 2013. The registry will be published in 2016 and will contain information about who ultimately owns and controls UK companies. Secret ownership structures enable companies to evade tax payments or hide improper relationships with government officials; almost all extractives corruption cases involve them. Publishing information about companies’ beneficial owners can help deter such practices and enable detection. The OGP could be a perfect platform to make a commitment on such disclosures.
As many countries—including Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Philippines, the U.K. and the U.S.—will start drafting their next OGP national action plans in January 2016, the working group seeks to capitalize on that momentum and broaden the number of countries and commitments promoting disclosure in these key areas.
Disclosure of information will only be meaningful if countries adhere to open data standards that promote accessibility and usability by a range of stakeholders. The working group members have experience and expertise to share in how to use spatial data, maps and portals effectively to ensure disclosure advances transparency and accountability. There are more than 30 commitments focused on the creation of natural resource information portals, for example.
Tunisia’s ministry of industry has recently launched an open data portal for the oil and mining sectors as part of its OGP commitments. We hope that Tunisia will soon include contract disclosure and join EITI, data from which could be included in the portal. The working group will leverage this and other experiences to draw lessons on good practice in the release and organization of information. It will also provide technical support on a per-request basis to OGP participant countries.
Through the participation and collaborative efforts of key stakeholders within government, civil society, and international institutions and initiatives, the working group initiates and sustains efforts to improve and enhance resource governance for citizen benefit. This, however, can only take place if what started in Mexico City spreads to capitals around the globe.
Marie Lintzer is a governance officer with the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI).