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An Opportunity to Walk the Talk: Making Gender Disclosure Part of the EITI Standard

This blog post was also released on the Environmental Governance Programme (EGP) for Sustainable Natural Resource Management blog.

There are many questions and good intentions floating around to address gender and extractives. We know that women are more likely to be negatively impacted by extraction than men. What can be done as a policy response is often less evident.

IISD Economic and Law Policy Program International Law Advisor Suzy Nikièma (center) and environment and social governance expert Sohinee Mazumdar lead a working group of delegates at the IGF Global Forum. Photo by IISD Reporting Services Digital Manager Diego Noguera.

Last fall, UNDP and the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals, and Sustainable Development hosted a discussion exploring which gender impacts of mining are most significant and most difficult to tackle. After a panel in which I and other experts dissected recent literature and good practice, the participants – 90 government officials from 40 countries – were asked to order 10 gendered impacts of mining from greatest to least important.

The results were clear. The vast majority of groups identify “lack of voice and participation in decision-making” as the top concern, followed by “access to employment and education” and “increased risk of gender-based violence.” After the survey, delegates highlighted the challenges of confronting cultural norms while attempting to craft inclusive policies. This wasn’t a room full of gender experts—this was a group of officials who mostly focus on mining but have grown to understand the importance of addressing gendered impacts of the industry.

The good news? There is an opportunity to make progress in providing countries a policy tool to respond to the gender gap in participation. In just under a month, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative board will meet to discuss revisions to their governing standard, including gender provisions.

EITI has long been a tool to level the playing field and create room for participation in decision-making for unlikely actors. EITI, a multi-stakeholder body, collects and shares information about extractive industries in 51 countries with the hope of informing better policy-making. It was originally created as a gender-neutral platform, like many international mechanisms. Before it started to explicitly address issues of gender, EITI developed an unintended bias toward having more men participate and be able to access its information. Over the past several years, the EITI board and its supporters have said that they want to make sure the initiative can be more gender-responsive.

There are important proposals before the EITI board to make strides toward addressing these challenges. The changes recommended by civil society address each aspect of EITI, from who participates, to what data is disclosed, to how the data is shared. This comprehensive approach is necessary to give advocates in EITI implementing countries the leverage to transform policy discussions. The proposal championed by civil society members of the board will enhance the EITI Standard and require:

  • Multi-stakeholder groups to consider gender when creating their membership
  • Disclosure of employment statistics disaggregated by gender
  • Commentary of whether a country conducts gender-responsive budgeting
  • Consideration of how different genders access information when creating a data dissemination strategy

These changes are not only necessary. They are relatively easy to implement. Participation in EITI stakeholder groups have often been extremely gender-skewed, with more than half of the groups having fewer than 25 percent female participation. Many countries and companies already disaggregate labor information by gender. For the last two years, Tullow Oil, BP, Shell and many private sector entities based in the U.K. published a report analyzing the pay gap between men and women working for their company. Having the information about gender breakdown in the work force is the first step for countries and companies to address the gender gap. UNWomen and others have produced recommendations on gender-responsive budgeting for over 30 years. A World Bank report six years ago drew attention to the gender gap in understanding EITI data within countries, and gave recommendations for how transparency mechanisms can share data in more gender-responsive ways.

Gender in development is an area that can often get trapped in good intentions and tokenistic responses. Making these changes a requirement for all EITI implementing countries is an opportunity for the EITI to grow from talking about gender to creating policy change that meets minimum gender norms. Some members of the EITI board have suggested that “encouraging” countries would be sufficient. For EITI to fulfill its desire to be gender relevant and to meet the needs of those in resource-rich countries, the board must respond to this important moment in making gender requirements part of the EITI Standard.

Rebecca Iwerks is the capacity development director at the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI).