May 24, 2013

Transparency has momentum.

There is a global momentum behind Transparency, what a famous Supreme Court Justice in the United States once referred to as "the strongest of all disinfectants."

There are about 1300 people signed up to participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative's Global Conference here in Sydney. The Initiative has grown to including 39 countries implementing EITI’s rules designed to bring transparency, accountability, and good governance to countries' mining, oil, gas, and other extractive sectors. As the Secretariat reports, over $1 trillion in transactions have been reviewed in line with the EITI's processes to build good government and sound investment and business climates in the countries implementing the EITI rules and standards.

Countries around the world are seeing the benefits of improved procedures, of better governance in their extractive industry sectors. There are numerous examples of cases where resources are associated with the word "curse," where the development of natural resources has been associated with corruption and lost opportunities for development. What we are seeing today is that these problems are not inevitable, that by implementing the EITI rules and processes the development of natural resources can be, indeed are, a blessing for the people of a country.

The United States is also engaged now in the process of becoming an EITI implementing country, not only a country that has supported EITI since its inception, but a country putting in place the EITI's procedures to strengthen the rules and processes already in place in one of the world's largest natural resource producers. As President Obama noted in announcing that the decision to pursue the status of an EITI implementing country, the EITI's principles, standards, and rules are applicable to all countries, at all levels of development.

As many of you may know, the United States has also passed a law, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and the Security and Exchange Commission recently put in place rules requiring certain companies that file annual reports to disclose certain of their payments to governments worldwide. Under the law and these new rules, companies will report certain payments at the project level, except when the obligation is at the entity level, for example with corporate income taxes. These requirements are significant steps increasing the accountability of companies and governments.

Others are following suit, transparency has momentum. We heard PM Cameron's announcement just now about the UK pursuing deeper engagement in the EITI. We have just learned France is doing so as well.

We in the United States are also pleased to see that the European Union has concluded its negotiations on a rule similar to that we have in place in the United States and that the European Parliament is likely to vote on this new EU rule this summer. The EU's disclosure rules will also help people all over the world understand what their governments are receiving and their impact will increased the extent to which other major financial jurisdictions implement similar requirements. To this end, it is important that the EITI has also agreed, as part of the new rules agreed here in Sydney, on a similar reporting standard to what is in place in the U.S. and coming into place in the EU. This will reduce the reporting burden for companies and will broaden the number of companies -- including state-owned companies -- that will report on a project-by-project basis.

Clare – it is a pleasure to be up here with my Board colleagues at what is such a key time for this organization and to note the great strides the EITI has made, how it has helped countries around the world make towards transparency, accountability, and improved governance and increased prosperity.

I think it’s fair to say the changes the EITI Members Association adopted yesterday are the most sweeping changes since the EITI’s inception 10 years ago – significantly broadening the scope, depth, disaggregation, and quality of reporting, and raising the standard required to achieve EITI compliant status. They are another sign of the momentum around the world behind transparency.

These changes represent a significant improvement to the EITI system. They will ensure EITI remains relevant and is more effective for the citizens of implementing countries to understand what is happening in the extractive industries sector in their countries, what is happening in their economies, and to be able to engage knowledgeably with their governments and to hold them accountable.

Let me focus for a moment on the contextual information that EITI reports will now require. The EITI reports will be required to include background and context information, including production volumes, applicable laws, and how the EITI process intersects with a country’s budget and spending processes (including reporting on any mandatory disbursements to subnational governments). This information will add significant value to the reports and is critical to citizens’ understanding of the sector and their ability to actually use the data generated from EITI reports to hold governments accountable.

Agreeing these rules was -- I think my colleagues concur-- a very challenging process, but a very robust one that produced a valuable result. And let us remember, these same discussions will occur again within in-country multi-stakeholder groups, ensuring real country ownership of the process.

Maintaining a high standard and treating countries equitably, while at the same time ensuring this is a country-owned process, one engaging civil society as well as business and the government, will be an important focus for the incoming board, one which we welcome and support.

Let me emphasize this final point: the EITI is valuable as a process, because it is country-owned, and it creates a space for key dialogues with civil society and industry on management of the extractive sectors. Under the revised standard, EITI reports will cover a much wider scope of information than strictly payments to governments. EITI and mandatory reporting requirements, working in parallel, will help ensure a broader portion of the world’s people are armed with the tools to hold their governments responsible for transparent sector management.

In closing, let me thank and congratulate Clare Short, Jonas, the Secretariat, the Board, and the companies, civil society groups, and governments part of EITI for their hard and successful work and note that we in the United States look forward to working with you to capitalize on, to further this momentum towards transparency, accountability, and good governance in the extractive industries sector so that natural resources are better used for the prosperity and well- being in countries around the world.

Thank you.