|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press conference by extractive industries transparency initiative
At a Headquarters press conference today, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) announced that its first ever board meeting had taken place. Part of the Global Compact, an international initiative aimed at bringing together companies with United Nations agencies, labour and civil society to support universal environmental and social principles, EITI supports improved governance in resource-rich countries.
Started six years ago as a campaign called Publish What You Pay, originally formed by a group of non-governmental organizations, EITI serves to ensure accountability and transparency in natural resources revenues through the publication and verification of company payments and Government revenues from oil, gas and mining. To date, about 23 countries have either endorsed, or are actively implementing EITI principles across the world -- from Peru, to Trinidad and Tobago, Azerbaijan, Nigeria and Timor-Leste.
Peter Eigen, Chairman of the Board of EITI, described the Initiative’s underlying concept as the commitment to publish everything received, the commitment of operating companies to publish everything they pay and, further, what is produced as being consolidated, audited and validated. Additional transparency created more rationality, predictability and fairness, he noted, and eventually led to a system where revenues were used for development and addressing the basic needs of people. In this way, “the system was overcoming poverty and violence and conflict in many parts of the world where these natural resources are found,” he said.
He said that, in its “Report of the International Advisory Group” presented at a global conference in Oslo last month, EITI’s recommendation for the creation of a 20-person multi-stakeholder board -- comprised of companies, Governments, civil society and financing houses -- had been unanimously adopted. At its first official meeting today, the Board had decided that the Initiative’s Secretariat would be headquartered in Oslo, Norway.
Christian Mounzeo, Board member and National Coordinator for Congolese Publish What You Pay, was scheduled to be at the meeting, but he faced a lawsuit and could not leave the country. Mr. Mounzeo had been arrested in Brazzaville upon his return from the Oslo conference last month, when he was charged with slandering his country’s President after complaining of corruption there.
In reply to a question on what Mr. Mounzeo had been charged with, Mr. Eigen said that Global Witness had reported that the serious legal case was a complaint regarding donor money being mismanaged. However, the donor was Global Witness, which had said that they had no indication that any money had been misused, he added.
Responding to a question on whether there was a potential conflict of interest in the Secretariat’s helm being in Norway, an oil-producing country, Shahmar Arif Oglu Movsumov, Board member and Executive Director of Azerbaijan’s oil fund, said that, though that question did have merit, the Board had ultimately agreed that Norway had an extremely good track record assisting countries in implementing the best governance principles. “It is also a very transparent country itself,” he added.
Mr. Eigen followed up by saying that the risk of a conflict of interest in Norway was offset by the benefit of their reputation and familiarity. Moreover, the competing bidder was Germany, an oil-importer, and one could argue there was potential conflict of interest there as well. “There are pros and cons on both sides,” he said.
Carlos Monge, Board member and Coordinator, Monitoring of Regional Governments and Extractive Industries for GRUPO PROPUESTA CIUDADANA in Lima, Peru, added that the EITI would be run by a Board from now on. “The Board would defend its independence fiercely from any uncalled-for, or third-party influence,” he said.
On a question relating to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, which runs through Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey, Mr. Movsumov said that, in accordance with the agreement, each country was responsible for the security of its part of the pipeline. On Azerbaijan specifically, the BTC was already functioning and tomorrow, under the EITI principles, all revenues would be reported and checked against the Government’s report. Following the press conference, he announced that the Government of Azerbaijan was considering initiating a United Nations resolution to support EITI.
* *** *For information media • not an official record