In a ‘Letter to Europe’ published in the Financial Times, Oxfam and other NGOs of the Publish What You Pay coalition are calling key EU decision makers to resist pressure from the oil industry and champion transparency in oil, gas, mining and logging industries.
The institutions of the European Union (EU)– the European Commission, the Council representing the Member States and the European Parliament – are entering the final stage of negotiations on a legislation which, if ambitious enough, would bring more transparency on the payments made by extractive and forestry companies to governments when they exploit natural resources like oil, gas and minerals in developing countries.
As it stands, deals are often secretive, and leave local communities and the environment worse off. Imagine living near a mine or an oil extraction site. As a citizen in Europe, you would probably have access to all relevant information about the extraction company and how you would be affected as a neighbour. This is what citizens in developing countries are also looking for: the ability to track how much money is being spent and where that money goes.
The new EU law is a tremendous opportunity to bring more transparency, which would help fight corruption, secrecy and tax avoidance. Transparency helps citizens to hold governments and businesses to account, ensuring that natural resources generate benefits for the whole society rather than for a select few.
If citizens in resource-rich countries actually started to benefit from resource revenues, their dependence on aid would be dramatically reduced. In 2008, Africa’s oil, gas and mineral exports were worth roughly 9 times the value of international aid to the continent ($393 billion vs $44 billion). And yet, many countries have failed to turn natural resource wealth into lasting benefits for their people.
The US has seen the light on the same issue, adopting a final rule in August 2012 that imposes effective reporting rules on extractive industries. And thus far, they are standing strong in their commitment to provide transparency to the resource-rich countries; just last week, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) denied a request from oil companies to delay the implementation of the new law, despite huge lobbying efforts on their side. The EU must follow this lead in order fight secrecy and corruption and tackle poverty.
So come on Europe, if the US can do it, you can too. It’s time to help millions of citizens in developing countries shed light on how their resource wealth is being used.
You’re almost there. The world is watching, so please deliver!