When governments and private sector companies agree to exploit publicly owned natural resources, citizens have the right to know the terms of the resulting deals. These terms are contained in licenses, contracts, regulations and legislation. While regulations and legislation are usually public, licenses and contracts often are not.

Four years after the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) began encouraging contract disclosure through its standard, Past the Tipping Point? assesses the extent to which governments of resource-rich countries have taken up the recommendation. The report finds that disclosing the contracts and licenses that detail terms of resource exploitation has become the norm among EITI implementing countries. Based on a review of 51 EITI implementing countries and one subnational region, the report’s authors find that 29 EITI implementing governments—well over half—have disclosed at least some of these agreements, and several more are taking concrete steps to join their ranks. (See this table for findings for each country including references and links to key documents.)

But there is still plenty of room for improvement. As of today, 20 EITI implementing countries have neither published contracts or licenses nor passed a contract disclosure law, while 11 countries have failed to make the disclosures required under national laws. Even in countries where contract disclosure is an established practice, it remains challenging for citizens to determine which contracts or licenses apply to active extractive operations. Broken websites and the use of inappropriate file formats hinder access and can make analysis all but impossible. EITI reporting requirements mandate the publication of government policies on contract disclosure and information on any planned reforms. These requirements provide an important opportunity to start a discussion on contract disclosure—but the majority of implementing countries do not meet these requirements.

All EITI stakeholders—both national and international—can do more improve the scope and quality of contract and license disclosure. Here are some steps they can take.

Disclosure. Increase the number of contracts available to the public.
1. Target countries where laws and implementation do not match.

2. Put contract transparency on the agenda where it is ignored.

3. Increase knowledge sharing within the EITI community.

4. Improve the comprehensiveness of disclosure.

5. Confirm the number of contracts or licenses in the sector.

6. Encourage companies to embrace disclosure.

Access. Make contracts easy to find, browse, search and use.
7. Use effective publication channels.8. Scrutinize gazette publications.

9. Use open file formats.

10. Publish metadata.

Policy. Establish rules to guide disclosure practices.
11. Develop effective disclosure laws.

EITI reporting. Provide current information on contract disclosure.
12. Ensure effective EITI reporting about contract disclosure policy and practice in line with section 2.4(b) of the EITI Standard.

Source of article: Natural Resource Governance Institute