Colombia is preparing to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). As part of this effort, it has established a multi-stakeholder platform, in which civil society is represented by Transparency International – Colombia (IT-C), Universidad del Externado (UE) and Fundacion Foro Nacional por Colombia (FFNC), the last two being NRGI grantees.
In a novel move, the civil society representation has suggested that information related to the environment be included in the national report to be prepared after Colombia is accepted as a candidate. They present three main arguments. First, as can be seen in the Resource Governance Index, Colombia does pretty well when it comes to fiscal transparency. Thus, an EITI national report that merely compiles and presents information that is already widely available would ease access but not really add to the existing level of transparency. Second, local civil society organizations and populations in producing areas value access to environmental information at least as much as they value access to financial information regarding payments, transfers and expenditures. The threat of pollution is just one example. Finally, they argue that by including environmental information, Colombia will be an innovator in the field, not just another average EITI country.
The civil society representation is proposing that the report include, for example, environmental licenses and respective payments; environmental impact assessments and environmental management plans; reports on environmental commitments and official follow-up by government agencies; water and forest usage payments; and mandatory environmental investments.
Most of this is already public information, but it not easily accessible to citizens. Some is not available at all. In both cases, by including environmental information relevant to extractive industries in its first report, EITI Colombia could satisfy the demands of local populations, engage environmental activists and lead the global EITI process towards a substantially broader agenda.
Carlos Monge is NRGI’s Latin America regional coordinator.