Politics of Poverty

A timely milestone for oil, gas, and mining transparency crusaders

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Citizens across Africa affected by mining, such as Godfried Ofori, chairman of the Concerned Citizens Association of Prestea (pictured standing next to an open mining pit in Prestea, Ghana in 2007) are looking to their governments to be more transparent about mining deals and revenues and to respect Free, Prior and Informed Consent for communities. Photo: Chris Hufstader / Oxfam America

Publish What You Pay US celebrates 10 years of fighting corruption.

This month’s 10-year anniversary of Publish What You Pay US comes at a very important moment in the coalition’s mission. As an organization working for transparency and accountability in the oil, gas and mining industry for the past decade, its signature achievement was the passage of Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act. The law requires oil, gas and mining companies to disclose their payments to host governments.

Senator Lugar (R-IN) is presented a framed copy of Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank law signed by PWYP-US coalition members at the ten year anniversary event. Pictured with him is Jana Morgan, PWYP-US national coordinator.

Since Dodd-Frank’s passage four years ago, it has been quite a battle to get these rules in place. While this landmark provision was seen as a huge victory for citizens and investors in the US and resource-rich countries abroad, “a law is only as good as its implementation,” says Jana Morgan, the national coordinator for PWYP-US.

The oil industry’s lobbying group sued to block the rules, and after a legal battle a court sent the rules back to be rewritten. That was more than a year ago.

The delay is damaging our foreign policy and corporate interests around the world,” said former Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), a champion of transparency legislation, at an event I attended to celebrate the anniversary last week.

Earlier this month, Oxfam sued the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is responsible for issuing the rules, to finish the job. As we celebrate 10 years of hard work in fighting corruption, we’re near the finish line on this important legislation.

Secrecy in the extractives sector has fueled the resource curse and devastated the lives of citizens around the world. It must not be tolerated, and thanks to the work of the coalition and its allies, we are closer than ever to shining a light on secret deals,” explains Morgan of PWYP-US.

Back in 2004, a handful of organizations – including Oxfam, Catholic Relief Services, Bank Information Center, Friends of the Earth, and Pacific Environment – founded PWYP-US based on a simple idea: more openness about the billions of dollars paid each year by oil, gas and mining companies to governments could help fight corruption and make sure those funds were spent wisely. They knew that this data could help channel government budgets to be spent better, reduce conflict and violence, and promote better markets by informing investors about risks companies face abroad.

Ten years ago you could not imagine that it would become standard practice for resource payment and revenue information to be made public,” said Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), the co-sponsor of Section 1504. “That has all changed. Publish What You Pay has been the game changer that has helped tilt the balance of power away from corrupt leaders and into the hands of citizens.”

Since the 2010 passage of the Dodd-Frank provision, similar laws have been put in place in the European and Norway, and Canada is set to put legislation in place in 2015. The US should be a leader on transparency, and it’s in our government’s interest to fight corruption, promote stability and make sure our investors know how their money is being spent.

At an event I attended to celebrate the anniversary this week, former Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), a champion of transparency legislation, said, “The goal is a more prosperous world where governments are held accountable to their citizens.”

As we celebrate all the progress made in the past 10 years by PWYP-US, we’re inspired by what citizen activists equipped with this oil, gas, and mining information are doing to hold their governments accountable and what else they could do in the future.

At the anniversary event, there was a sentiment that today we celebrate, but tomorrow we get back to work. Here’s to another decade of working for transparency and justice!

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