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"One of the Most Beautiful Initiatives"

S. Vijay Iyer's picture

The title for this blog post comes from Mr. Amadou Cisse, Minister of Mines of Mali, who said that the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) “was one of the most beautiful initiatives that the World Bank has ever supported.” 

The Minister, along with many of his African peers, participated at the huge Investing in African Mining Indaba event, an annual gathering in Cape Town. Mr. Cisse went on to add that “if there is no transparency, there is no peace.”

The Mining INDABA conference annually attracts more than 6,000 people representing more than 1000 international companies and approximately 40 African and non-African government delegations. In a well attended pre-Indaba event in February, the World Bank organized high-level discussions on governance of extractive industries and the Africa Mining Vision. For the gathered African Ministers, private sector and civil society representatives, tapping the sector’s great potential to foster sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction responsibly was the focus.

In Africa and elsewhere demand for greater government accountability is growing. And this means that achieving minimum compliance with the EITI principles of accountability and transparency is no longer enough. As Clare Short, the Chair of EITI, put it: “We have come a long way but we have not come far enough. We have reasons to be optimistic but we must do more so resources from extractive industries are well-managed and benefit the poorest.”

And thus the idea of making the EITI a platform for further reform is taking shape. The World Bank, along with other major stakeholders like the African Union, the United Nations Commission for Africa, and the African Development Bank, are part of this effort.

As Marcelo Giugale, Director of the Bank Poverty Reduction & Economic Management Group for Africa, explained, this is the right time to raise the bar and look into the next generation of EITI reforms. And this is needed not because the Bank or other international organizations think so. It is the massive transformation in the relationship between state and citizen, with increased demand for personal accountability in public policy, that makes it necessary.

In the same vein, what’s also crucial is that our client countries really appreciate and demand the Bank’s contributions to improve governance in the extractive industries.

Despite some criticism from different quarters, both inside and outside the Bank, and occasional negative connotations associated with the Bank’s involvement in the extractive industries, it was evident at the conference that the Bank is playing a constructive and much needed role. It is helping to advance a challenging reform agenda aimed at ensuring that the resources from the oil, gas and mining industries are well-managed, and spent on much-needed infrastructure (i.e. schools, hospitals, roads, electricity, etc) for the benefit of all segments of society, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable.

It was both refreshing and heartening to hear minister after minister, from Nigeria to Burkina Faso to Sierra Leone, that the World Bank’s interventions are needed, and are making a difference.

And so our work on promoting accountability and transparency takes on a whole new meaning. It goes far beyond the mere publication and reconciliation of revenues paid to, and received by, governments. It has broader development implications, including conflict prevention and peace building.

In wrapping up, the Bank’s Vice President for Africa Obiageli Ezekwesili remarked that there is convergence on taking EITI beyond bare compliance of reconciliation of payments made and received. A challenging aspiration of a multi-stakeholder process to reinforce country and people ownership, with a more inclusive mapping of people’s needs and expectations is required. This then needs to be translated to addressing the entire extractive industries value chain – from exploration to contract negotiation to revenue management and sustainable development – to broaden reforms and ensure that governments and industries contribute to sustainable growth and poverty reduction.

And last, but not least, she made a passionate appeal to amplify the African voice in this process, considering that 21 of the 35 countries implementing the EITI principles are from the Africa region. They have many lessons to share with others aiming to join and implement the EITI process. Her closing words, “EITI is African. Take absolute control of this agenda because posterity will ask account of your actions.”