EITI and Sustainable Development Goals

By Gabrielle Rawlins, CSO Liaison and Communications Officer, TTEITI Secretariat

 

Introduction

The term ‘sustainability’ has become a catch phrase to capture everything from conservation to effective management of resources. But, sustainability is broader than these concepts.

In its attempt to create a global target for sustainable development, the United Nations (UN) in 2000 launched the 17-step Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs were revised and adopted by all UN member states in September 2015 and set ambitious objectives across the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic development, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability, underpinned by good governance. Sound measurement tool and data collection and sharing are critical for turning the SDGs into practical tools for problem-solving by (a) mobilizing governments, business, civil society and academia; (b) providing a report card to track progress and ensure accountability; and (c) serving as a management tool for the transformations needed to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

SDGs

Although not focused primarily on the extractive sectors, the SDGs focus on diverse targets with the hope that countries would alleviate or eradicate poverty and hunger, improve health-care and education and preserve the environment. What the UN attempted to outline were 17 goals/objectives that, if achieved, would empower individuals, ensure healthy lives, protect the ecosystem and grow a strong, safe, inclusive and transformative society.

On closer inspection of the SDGs,, one thing constantly rings true, the need to conserve and protect the environment. But what does this actually entail? Sustaining the environment has been on the minds of earlier scholars and the strategies put in place to do so will be on all future agendas. Former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon once said, “We have reached a new milestone as a human family. With seven (7) billion of us now inhabiting our planet, it is time to ask some fundamental questions. How can we provide a dignified life for ourselves and future generation while preserving and protecting the global commons – the atmosphere, the oceans and the ecosystems that support us?” The answer to this question formed the basis of the SDGs that were designed to put the world on a more sustainable path to life by 2030.

Although not mentioned explicitly in the UN SDGs, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is a global movement that promotes sustainable development in participating countries through the mobilizing of the extractive sectors three stakeholders (government, companies and civil society). The EITI’s key mandate is to provide a global benchmark to promote transparent and accountable management of non-renewable natural resources. The EITI acts as a disincentive to corruption in the extractive sectors by promoting in countries rich in natural resources transparency in the exploitation of the people’s resources. It does so by monitoring and reconciling revenue payments by companies and receipts by government as well as by supporting reforms to tax collection, audit and assurance and data management systems. The EITI’s promotion of transparency and accountability creates a platform to support the achievement of the SDGs.

 

EITI and its beneficiaries

The functions and benefits of EITI implementation can address parts of each of the SDGs and this can be seen from the perspective of government bodies and civil society organizations where there is a succinct correlation between EITI and SDGs.

The EITI in reducing corruption in industries in the extractive sectors through its setting out of clear requirements on public disclosure and other related issues, preserves the government revenues that are essential for funding the achievement of the SDGs. Participating countries are guided by the EITI Standard 2016 which, among other things, requires that implementing countries disclose the ‘beneficial owners’ of oil, gas, and mining companies and this ties in directly with the objective of responsible production and consumption. The TTTEITI Steering Committee revised its definitions of beneficial ownership and is publishing online a Beneficial Ownership Registry so as to ensure that individuals can no longer hide behind the names of companies or corporations.

The EITI’s promotion of best practice in the management of revenue collection and expenditure ties in closely with the sustainable goal of ensuring affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all and captures the concept of transparency, accountability and reliability. With the implementation of beneficial ownership disclosure through a public registry, countries implementing the EITI are better able to know with whom they are entering into contracts for the exploitation of their resources. According to the Africa Progress Panel, the Democratic Republic of the Congo discovered that between 2010-2012 USD 1.36 billion from five mining deals were hidden behind secret ownership.

Citizens engagement

With the aim of achieving longevity in the extractive sectors by adopting and implementing the SDGs, it is necessary to engage with civil society to act as watchdogs in the exploitation of the country’s resources. In many instances, civil society seems not to understand its role and how much influence it has in natural resource governance. In order for this to occur civil society must first recognize that the resources of a country belong to the people and that gives them an inalienable right to information and a role in the management process. They must also recognize that the government only manages the natural resources on the people’s behalf and the extractive companies are transient investors. Citizens of a country should be engaged continuously through outreach programmes and capacity building forums which the EITI promotes. The EITI provides this platform and encourages civil society to take centre stage in natural resource governance. According to the EITI, the benefits to civil society come from increasing the amount of information in the public domain. The principles of the EITI call for citizens to hold their governments and extractive companies accountable for how their natural resources are exploited. These principles also help to contribute to policy formulation by empowering citizens to lobby for issues involving effective management of natural resources.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, the implementation of the EITI and the promotion of its objectives can contribute to achieving the SDGs because proper management of natural resources revenue payments and receipts and the empowerment of civil society to play their rightful role in the process can create improved prospects for future generations. The EITI Principles and Criteria and EITI Standard requirements may not be a magic wand to eradicate poverty or end world hunger. However, by empowering citizens to hold governments and companies accountable for the management of the exploitation of their resources and the proper use of the derived revenues, the EITI plays a small but important role in support of the themes of poverty reduction, improved quality of health, education, clean water, life on land and life below land and contributes to better infrastructure, sustainable cities and communities and environmental sustainability. Moreover, it encourages the development of the country’s participatory democracy through regular dialogue between the governed and the government.

The EITI is based on the premise that the resources of a country belong to its citizens. EITI implementation enables civil society to not only question how their resources revenues are being spent but also to have a say on what the revenues are being spent. In the process, civil society can lobby for reform and for the betterment of their country.

While the implementation of the EITI might not cure all the shortcomings in this world, it can alleviate many problems by assisting in resource revenue transparency and widespread reform. To some, the EITI may be seen as being about the extractive sectors, but others recognize it as being an important small piece of a bigger picture which focuses on the achievement of the lofty sustainable development goals.