In countries where the call for transition to clean energy threatens interests vested in the fossil fuel sector, civil society is coming under increasing threat. The challenges faced by Ghanaian organizations questioning the Aker Energy deal is one example.
But translating pledges into action remains a challenge. Although the government of Niger rejoined EITI in February 2020, just weeks later civil society actors again accused authorities of harassing and arresting activists. The authorities justified their actions citing pandemic restrictions.
- Build more effective and diverse coalitions. Internal conflicts are hampering many existing coalitions. Resolving them, although no easy task, would make them more effective and less vulnerable to government backlash. In NRGI priority countries, we will work with PWYP and others to invest in dispute resolution, replicate models of successful coalitions, and encourage the diversification of coalition membership. Critical to this work will be more effective analysis of political economy, as we have undertaken in Nigeria, to identify the points of influence and actors to leverage amid closing civic space. We will also support and equip our partners to engage in and contribute to national debates on emerging topics related to just transition.
- Connect actors across country, regional and international dialogues. Authoritarian regimes are replicating their playbook across countries. We will in turn seek to connect advocacy across countries, for greater collaboration and impact, specifically to strengthen negotiation opportunities for lower-income countries in the context of the energy transition. One immediate task is to define and effectively advance a just transition agenda for resource-rich countries, and ensure that national agendas influence global climate action. We will engage more in relevant international forums like climate COPs, working with global partners and facilitating participation from civil society organizations of resource-producing countries.
- Support the translation of policy into effective practice. Where strong policies exist to protect civic space, we will use our influence and that of our partners to ensure strong implementation. For example, we will use our role on the EITI international board to push for a stronger implementation of the civic space protocol. We will also support the establishment of the OGP Civic Space Learning Network.
- Call out kleptocratic regimes and practices that enable them. We will leverage the global attention on Russia to call out the risks of seeking fossil fuels from other autocratic regimes. We will support calls for divestment to result in economic opportunities for democratic and reform-minded states. In parallel, we will advocate strengthening safeguards to ensure that economic opportunities related to critical minerals for the energy transition do not reinforce autocratic regimes.
- Bilateral and philanthropic foundation funders should strengthen long-term plans to support capacity development and coalition-building efforts, seeking to reinforce existing mechanisms for dialogue and participation—not creating new competing platforms.
- Multi-stakeholder initiatives like EITI and OGP should commit to more efficiently translating their standards into implementation; and to enforcing the standards they set—even in tough cases.
- Extractive sector and energy companies should speak up and support the protection of civic space, which is key to positive economic outcomes.
- Investors should strengthen criteria related to civic space protection in their business decisions, and encourage companies and governments to ensure the protection of civic space as essential to environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations and a positive investment climate.
- International financial institutions should make greater use of their lending power to call for action to support civic space.
Top image by Teo-Inspiro International for Shutterstock; midddle image by Delali Adogla-Bessa for Shutterstock; bottom image by Emmage for Shutterstock.