Interview with Peter Eigen - How does EITI provide added value for civil society?

The governance challenges of natural resource extraction are enormous. What can be done to improve natural resource governance? Stephan Wolters (adelphi, ECC platform) talked to Peter Eigen, Founder of Transparency International and Chair of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) from 2006-11. As a leading expert on the challenges of corruption, he provides exciting insights and evaluates success and failure of various approaches, including EITI. 

Interview transcript:

"Some NGOs felt that EITI just produces numbers which do not mean anything, do not feed any hungry children, do not get anybody in a hospital, and so on, and that it did not change the behaviour of the companies and the countries. This is a criticism one has to take seriously. Still, we wanted to have a triangular arrangement where governments, private sector and civil society cooperate. We always tried to go as far as these three actors were able to agree. I had a feeling that creating transparency was all we could achieve, and it was important. Sometimes the companies were angry and threatened to walk out of the EITI, for example regarding the Dodd-Frank Act or with respect to reporting on a project basis. Some did not want to include sectors like forestry and fisheries, and so we had to put these on the back burner. Civil society also had objections sometimes: for instance, we did not allow Ethiopia to join because civil society members of the board felt that civil society in that country was not independent and strong enough. Similarly, people felt that the numbers we produce were merely a theoretical exercise. Therefore, it was very helpful that some countries started to broadly disseminate these numbers. In Liberia, the government put up big signs with key figures of the EITI report along the road to a mine, so people who came to a stakeholder meeting there - farmers, small entrepreneurs - knew the exact numbers. They knew exactly that there had been payments, whereas the government stated that they never received the money, so on the basis of this discrepancy proceedings started and people were prosecuted. There was tremendous participation of the people, but the reason was that the president of Liberia encouraged it by empowering civil society and making it a part of political awareness."

In addition, in a six-part exclusive video interview, Peter Eigen provides additional insights to the questions raised here. We will be releasing one part of the series every Wednesday:
• Part I: The resource curse: governance challenges of natural resource management
• Part II: The beginnings of improving transparency in extractive endustries: the Publish What You Pay Initiative
• Part III: Why was the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative set up with a relatively narrow focus on the flow of money?
• Part IV: How does the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative provide added value for civil society?
• Part V: Current developments and future pathways towards improved accountability in natural resource governance
• Part VI: Is the dragon devouring Africa? China's investments in natural resources in Africa and its implications for economic development and political accountability

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