The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) has been moving toward “mainstreaming,” with implementing countries transitioning away from standalone EITI reports in favor of meeting EITI requirements via routine and publicly accessible government and company reporting. This has the potential to significantly improve the timeliness, contextualization and quality of disclosed data. In parallel, the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) has initiated a reflection on the opportunities and risks this process represents for civil society participation. While these changes offer several opportunities to strengthen the role of civil society organizations (CSOs), many civil society actors worry that the mainstreaming processes could undermine the multi-stakeholder nature of EITI in the wider context of continued attacks on civic freedoms and dialogue.
Cielo Magno is an assistant professor at the University of the Philippines’ School of Economics; a civil society representative on the EITI international board; the former national coordinator of Bantay Kita-Publish What You Pay Philippines; a member of NRGI’s board of directors; and a founding member of EITI-Philippines. Using civil society’s EITI journey in her country as a jumping-off point, we asked her to reflect on the opportunities and risks related to mainstreaming for civil society consultation and participation. This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
NRGI: What was the initial reaction of civil society when the Filipino government joined the EITI in 2012? And how has the EITI’s implementation spurred civil society’s participation in the governance of extractives?
Cielo Magno: Civil society was hesitant to join EITI because we saw the possibility of the government using it to somehow “whitewash” what communities considered the real issues of the extractive sector: specifically, the negative social and environmental effects of mining, including water pollution, deforestation, the rehabilitation of abandoned mines, or the displacement of residents and violence in some mining areas. But we decided to engage in the process, and through EITI implementation I must say civil society has been able to get a lot of relevant information related to mining, oil, and gas disclosed, including social and environmental data. The EITI Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG) agreed to have companies’ social expenditures and environmental data disclosed even before EITI required that. This data included water use, tree cutting permits, mining monitoring reports and full contracts. It’s a work in progress, and not all information is publicly available yet. But the MSG’s vision and mission is to work toward making all this information publicly available. This has allowed civil society to engage on specific technical issues, like the taxation of the mining sector; monitoring how much revenue local governments get from mining through subnational transfers; and creating a real dialogue with extractive companies.
Given that the EITI experience of civil society in the Philippines has been more positive than negative, what do you expect will be the impact of mainstreaming on the participation of civil society in the governance of extractives?
I expect EITI mainstreaming to help institutionalize further the participation of civil society in the management of extractives, to genuinely operationalize and strengthen the existing mechanisms created by laws. This includes strengthening the current space for CSOs to participate, in particular by improving access to information (easier access to more timely data). Another expectation is for the MSG to have a more engaged role in monitoring the implementation of extractives policies. Obviously there will always be pushback to limit what EITI covers. But the MSG members who appreciate open discussion among stakeholders would understand that having open lines of communication actually minimizes conflict and facilitates solutions. I am not part of the MSG anymore, but I really hope the different stakeholders realize that mainstreaming is not about making MSG irrelevant, but making it actually more relevant. The production of reports and discussions could be devolved to local stakeholders and the MSG could have a monitoring role. It can then also discuss governance issues that are not covered by EITI.
Could you tell us more about the existing mechanisms related to the consultation and participation of civil society in the management of extractives that mainstreaming could build on in the Philippines?
Currently, our devolved system has institutionalized spaces for CSOs to participate in governance in general and the governance of extractives in particular. In every province where there is mining, the regional offices of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau have to create a multi-stakeholders mining regulatory board (PMRB) that has the mandate to regulate small-scale mining. It is very much like EITI, but focuses on small-scale mining. Another multi-stakeholder committee—the Mining Multipartite Monitoring Team, created by the 1995 Mining Act—is tasked with monitoring the mining projects quarterly at the local level, especially their environmental impacts.
EITI mainstreaming could support further the institutionalization and operationalization of these boards and teams, and ensure that genuine representation of civil society is achieved. These spaces and opportunities have existing mandates and authorities under the law that are consistent with EITI. But because of limited attention, resources and capacity, they have not been maximized. Mainstreaming can make these mechanisms more effective. For example, the reporting and monitoring requirements for PMRBs could be incorporated into EITI reporting, expanding EITI coverage to small-scale mining. The disclosure of these reports would then help strengthen accountability of PMRB members. In parallel, capacity building activities could target them to make sure they really know how to monitor mining operations.
Beyond extractives, the 1991 Local Government Code mandates CSO representation in local public finance. EITI mainstreaming could mean tapping these opportunities to make sure mining revenues are used according to what is mandated by law. Monitoring the accuracy of subnational transfers, how they are budgeted and how they are spent can help maximize the benefits we get from mining.
Matthieu Salomon is a senior governance officer with the Natural Resource Governance Institute.