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Paradox and Progress in 2023

At NRGI, our mission was born out of a primary paradox—the juxtaposition in some countries of enormous wealth below the ground with poverty above it. But as I reflect on 2023 I am mindful that the urgency and relevance of our work persists because of the emergence of new paradoxes—that progress on a just fossil-fuel phaseout is in the hands of petrostates at the helm of global climate negotiations, and that a future built on green technologies requires a rapid, responsible ramp-up in mineral production.
In a world pockmarked by paradox, it is easy to fall prey to pessimism. It takes courage and resilience to stay the course and to see complexity and uncertainty not as obstacles, but as laboratories where innovation can thrive. NRGI seizes the power and possibility in these paradoxes.
On advancing transition mineral governance, this year NRGI has navigated the geopolitics of the race for supply, to ensure that citizens of producing countries benefit from the boom in demand. At the global level, we have worked with partners to define concrete steps to reduce corruption in the mineral supply chain, collaborating with institutions such as the IEA and OECD to raise the bar on governance, and advocating that consumer countries in North America and the European Union strengthen their commitments to accountability.

We complemented these efforts by supporting policy makers and civil society in countries such as MongoliaColombiaGuinea and the Philippines to diagnose mining-sector corruption risks and to leverage the new EITI standard for anticorruption. In Chile, we worked with national advocates to ensure transparency and accountability as the state seeks to protect its interests in the lithium sector. And in the Democratic Republic of the CongoGhana and Mexico we convened public dialogues and highlighting needed governance measures to enhance the management of transition minerals.

On supporting just transition in fossil fuel-producing countries, the COP28 outcome mentioning fossil fuel transition underscores the importance of sharp analysis and open dialogue to chart the future for low- and middle-income producers of oil, gas and coal. This year, we developed a shared vision for the road to COP28 with leading policymakers and civil society actors in the Middle East and North Africa. Next year’s COP will take place in Azerbaijan, an oil-rich country where civic space is heavily curtailed and those who bravely speak out against misgovernance in the oil sector pay dearly. We remain steadfast in our support for imperiled activists around the world.
In Colombia, through cutting-edge narrative-shifting work, we amplified the voices and ambitions of those most affected to inform a society beyond hydrocarbons. And in MexicoNigeriaGhana, Uganda and across the African continent, we have helped to define what a just transition will look like, in citizens’ own terms. Meanwhile in Senegal, we made the case for emissions reductions in the country’s nascent gas sector and helped policy makers and citizens leverage the opportunity of the country’s just energy transition partnership (JETP), while supporting transparent and accountable management of ongoing extractive projects. And we continued to draw attention to the critical role that national oil companies will play in the success or failure of the energy transition—both through global research and advocacy and through policy reform in countries such as Colombia, Mexico, Ghana and Uganda.
We look ahead to 2024 with excitement and ambition—recognizing the fundamental paradoxes of our work are also essential to our success: we will hold strong to the fundamentals of governance, while also pursuing disruptive and innovative ideas to effect change; we will seek to engage all stakeholders, while recognizing that consensus and collaboration cannot lead to a lowest common denominator outcome; and we will strive to be at the leading edge of climate action and development, while also learning from and leaning on our partners around the world.