From January 26-28, civil society groups from francophone Africa met in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, to assess the implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in their countries to date. Together, francophone African nations make up nearly 45 percent of all EITI implementing countries. This meeting offered civil society the opportunity to share their experiences, explore the community's capacity to analyze EITI reports, and discuss planned new EITI rules, in preparation for the upcoming International EITI Global Conference in Paris on March 2-3.
At the close of the meeting, participants issued a public declaration on EITI achievements and challenges, and called for specific measures to increase transparent management of oil, gas and minerals.
The group said it was encouraged by the publication of numerous country reports; improving quality in reports in individual countries, civil society's efforts to widely distribute accessible information about EITI reports, and increasing public awareness of the initiative.
After a long tradition of opacity, with only elites contributing to the discussion on natural resource management, EITI has spurred an open debate in many countries on oil, gas and mining issues. Broad support has helped reduce intimidation against transparency advocates. And civil society is now pushing beyond basic EITI requirements to call for contract transparency, company-by-company disaggregated payment disclosure, and the implementation of financial reform laws similar to the provisions in the new U.S. Dodd-Frank reform law.
However, meeting participants identified several constraints on proper EITI implementation. Although many francophone Africa countries have produced reports, these have been intermittent and often out of date. Additionally, many countries' EITI multi-stakeholder groups meet irregularly and lack clear protocols or a solid understanding of civil society's EITI role, which contributes to their exclusion from the reporting process.
The representatives at the January meeting expressed their hope that francophone Africa countries will move beyond minimal EITI compliance to a culture of transparency and accountability among governments, citizens and industry stakeholders in the EITI process.