Campaigners from anti-poverty groups CAFOD, Tearfund and ONE sent a Valentine’s Day message to newly appointed government minister Norman Lamb - by carrying a giant love heart with the message “love truth” to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
The development NGOs, part of the 'Publish What You Pay Coalition', were raising awareness of a new law that would force oil, gas and mining companies to tell the truth about payments they make to governments of poor countries in return for their natural resources.
The proposed law, currently being debated by European leaders, would put an end to the secrecy that allows unscrupulous leaders to siphon-off the profits they make from natural resources instead of investing in vital services that will benefit the people of their country. If spent well, profits from natural resource revenues could help hundreds of millions of people living in poverty.
Norman Lamb MP, who was appointed to the Government as a minister in the Department of Business following the resignation of Chris Huhne, will join ministers from around Europe in Brussels next week, 20 February 2012, to discuss the proposed law for the first time.
Clare Lyons, Campaigns Manager for CAFOD said: “For millions of people in the developing world this is urgent, as rising global commodity prices make mineral exploitation an increasingly attractive option for many companies. We need legislation to open up the books of oil, gas and mining companies so poor communities can see where the money goes and hold their governments to account. These resources are finite – once they are gone they are gone forever – so there is no time to waste.”
Claire Hazelgrove, UK Campaigns Manager, from ONE added: “Honesty and openness is the key to any good relationship, even more so between business and governments. Revenues from natural resources should be going into vital services like schools, health clinics and roads that could help lift hundreds of millions out of poverty, not into the pockets of a few corrupt leaders. It is a trillion dollar scandal that is denying millions the chance to escape poverty.”
Ben Niblett, Head of Campaigns at Tearfund declared: “We need to see robust laws in place that will unearth the truth on what companies pay to the governments of countries where they operate. Truth and transparency must be at the heart of corporate accountability if poor communities are to benefit from the resources they literally live on top of.”
The European Commission has proposed an EU-wide transparency law to shed light on the payments oil, gas and mining companies make to the governments where they operate. This would empower citizens with the information they need to hold their leaders accountable for money received. In 2010 Africa’s natural resources were worth $333 billion.
The move by Europe is in line with the US Dodd-Frank Act which sets out that all US listed extractive industry companies should publish their payments to governments. This month will see the final rules implementing Dodd-Frank published in the United States.
Campaigners in the US have also been taking action this week as part of the Publish What You Pay Coalition.
* CAFOD’s Open up the books! campaign is here: www.cafod.org.uk/take-action/open-up-the-books
* 25,000 people have already signed ONE’s petition calling on European leaders to end the secret deals. Others can join the campaign at: http://one.org/c/international/actnow/3835/
* Tearfund’s Unearth the Truth campaign: www.tearfund.org/unearth