Three and a half billion people live in countries rich on oil, gas or minerals, according to World Bank estimates. The tragedy is that so many of the countries endowed with great natural resource wealth remain home to some of the world’s poorest communities.
In developing countries, natural resources and energy markets generate revenue flows that dwarf the money entering government’s coffers, such as through taxes or aid. A large portion of these funds never enter a government’s budget or pay for key social programmes that are direly needed by a country’s citizens. The reason for this in many cases is corruption.
Panelists in the ‘Fuelling Transparency and accountability in the Natural resources and Energy markets’ plenary session explored ways to bridge this gap by increasing transparency, ensuring accountability and empowering citizens to make more active role as public watchdogs. These advances were attributed to early coalition between civil society, governments and private sector actors.
Peter Eigen, Chair of the executive Industries Transparency Initiative, call this partnership the ‘magic triangle’. The initiative aims to get the signatory governments to transparently publish the revenues that they receive from extractive industry companies, so that it is accessible to the nearly 500 million people living in these countries.
While the data not feed the children, alleviate poverty or end corruption, the information provides a powerful lever for demanding better global governance, greater accountability and increased citizen engagement.
Positive change is also seen in certain anti corruption legislation, both nationally and internationally. For example, the adaptation of the Dodd-Frank law in the US will require all oil, gas and mining companies listed on US stock exchanges to publish revenue payments, country by country.
However, as noted by the panelists, these advances do not go far enough. The OECD convention does not include some emerging powers as signatories. National legislation is not always enforced and many signatory countries have been guilty of double standards when it comes to the behavior of their business abroad.