UK government 'fails credibility test in anti-corruption fight'

By agency reporter
October 2, 2017

The UK’s hard-earned reputation as a leader in the global fight to end corruption is in tatters after NGOs walked out of a landmark scheme to ensure transparency in the extractive sector, said Global Witness.

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) was co-launched by the UK government in 2002 to help fight the corruption that robs developing countries of billions of dollars through dodgy oil, gas and mining deals struck between government ministers and extractive companies.

The scheme has dramatically helped improve transparency around global oil and gas deals by giving civil society a core role in scrutinising any agreements and holding industry and governments to account – making sure profits benefit ordinary people rather than being siphoned off into the bank accounts of a corrupt few.

The walkout, on 29 September 2017, was prompted after the UK government breached the rules of the EITI by inviting the organisation headed by former MP Eric Joyce to co-represent civil society in the Initiative. The rules clearly state that, in order to ensure full independence of civil society voice, NGOs must collectively decide who will represent them. By directly approaching one organisation, the UK government is undermining the independence and democracy of civil society in the process.

Simon Clydesdale, oil campaign leader for Global Witness, said, “The UK government is actively subverting the process that helps ensure governments and the extractive industry are held to account over oil, gas and mining deals. A year ago the UK was leading the global fight to end corruption, now it is set to fail the transparency test it set the rest of the world. If Theresa May wants her rhetoric on fighting poverty and instability to be believed, her government must vigorously defend the measures designed to deliver on it. That means empowering civil society to scrutinise proceedings, not undermining its role.”

Following the walkout, the UK EITI Civil Society Network issued the following statement:

"The UK EITI Civil Society Network (CSN) regretfully announces its withdrawal from engagement with the UK EITI.

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is an international standard for openness around the management of revenues from natural resources. It is designed to improve accountability and public trust for the revenues paid and received for a country’s oil, gas and mineral resources.

We oppose the decision by senior UK Government officials on 26 September 2017 to give one organisation, Extractive Industries Civil Society (EICS), authority over certain civil society nominations to the UK EITI Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG). This decision contravenes sections 1.3 and 1.4 of the EITI Standard and is a breach of civil society’s right to determine its own representatives independently. 

The CSN represents broad and mainstream civil society engagement with the UK EITI. A number of its member organisations were instrumental in the establishment of the EITI internationally in 2003. The CSN has an agreed and published process for filling civil society MSG places, which was adopted by consensus. 

In July 2017 we wrote to Margot James MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility, who is the UK’s EITI Champion, expressing our concern at one organisation’s control of half of the civil society MSG seats and calling for a democratic, fair and transparent process for civil society selection.

In a further effort to find a solution in September 2017, and following consultation with government officials at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the CSN agreed to amend its Membership Principles to make reference to diversity and local UK communities affected by the extractive industries. The CSN also invited EICS to apply to join the CSN, which it refused to do. We have always sought in good faith to find a solution to the challenges faced on the issue of civil society representation.

The decision to give special status to one civil society organisation over its peers goes against the EITI’s founding principles. We withdraw from the process with immediate effect."

Full member organisations of the CSN include, 

Article 19 

Christian Aid

Global Witness 

Green Alliance

Involve

Natural Resource Governance Institute

ONE 

Oxfam GB

Publish What You Pay UK

Transparency International UK

The CSN also has more than 20 individual associate members, mostly affiliated to non-governmental organisations or academic institutions. 

* Global Witness https://www.globalwitness.org/en-gb/

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