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Interview with Helen Clark, Chair of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

14.12.2021

© Helen Klisser During; https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) was founded in 2003 primarily to curb corruption in resource-rich countries. 55 countries are now taking part in the initiative.

For the 93. edition of the magazine "Scheinwerfer", Edda Müller and Karsten Kläge have spoken to Rt Hon. Helen Clark, EITI Board Chair.

What is your assessment of the endeavours to increase transparency in the raw materials sector and to curb corruption?

Revenues from the extractives sector can make the difference between prosperity and poverty for countless millions of people around the world. So, the mission of the EITI over the last two decades has been an important one.

The EITI has established the global standard for extractives transparency. In some countries, particularly those where civic space is constrained, the EITI has enabled civil society voices to be heard. This is essential to the EITI process, and ensures that transparency can lead to greater accountability.  

Since becoming EITI Board Chair, I have sought to make the EITI’s role in addressing corruption a more visible part of its work. What does this mean in practice? One example is a debate held earlier this year among multi-stakeholder groups in Francophone Africa and Asia. Participants acknowledged that EITI multi-stakeholder groups provide a public platform to raise awareness about corruption allegations, can help identify weaknesses in governance, and can ensure that this information is available to those fighting corruption – such as audit institutions, parliamentarians, and the media.  

Another way in which the EITI has pushed boundaries is through its work on thematic areas in the EITI Standard, such as contract publication and beneficial ownership disclosure. Our Opening Extractives programme, for example, supports around twelve countries in the publication and use of company ownership data. As anonymous companies have been a vehicle for corruption, the publication of this data will be an important step forward in achieving transparency.

Not only corruption but also climate change is an enormous challenge, especially for the fossil resources sector. What contribution can the EITI make in the energy transition?

The EITI can play a substantive role in the energy transition. In countries which are dependent on oil and gas revenues, it can provide the data to inform public debate on energy transition pathways. Multi-stakeholder groups provide a forum and springboard for public debate. Data and inclusive dialogue are essential in responding to large intractable problems such as climate change.

The renewables sector is not immune to corruption either. The EITI is engaging in this area, looking into corruption risks and collaborating with new partners. Some countries, for example Albania, have included data on renewables in public reporting. In countries rich in critical minerals, EITI implementation can enhance transparency through the supply chain and ensure that environmental and social governance is not compromised.   

What contribution can and should Germany make?

Germany can make a substantial contribution by continuing to implement the EITI in a meaningful way which contributes to public debate. It is essential that OECD countries remain part of the EITI and fully engaged in the implementation process. Germany is piloting a new risk-based approach to demonstrate the reliability of revenue disclosures from government. This approach examines the revenue management system itself and could be a useful model for other countries.

Germany – like many OECD countries – has declining coal, oil, and gas sectors. Questions about the cost of the transition may therefore be a topic for the EITI to address, given the EITI’s role in disclosures on policies, contracts, beneficial owners, and revenues from the sector. Germany is already integrating data on subsidies in its reports.

55 countries are currently participating in the initiative. Who would you like to join next?

A few weeks ago, Gabon has joined the EITI. A move by the USA to rejoin the EITI would be warmly welcomed in view of its wider significance. We would also welcome applications from countries such as Brazil, Australia, Chile and South Africa which have large extractive sectors and substantial regional influence.

Personally, I would be delighted to see participation from Zimbabwe, a country I visited just prior to the COVID-19 crisis. Zimbabwe’s citizens have much to gain from a transparent and accountable approach to resource sector governance.