by Alicia Aleman Arrastio
A long and bloody shadow of violence and poverty covers the history of many resource-rich countries. That shadow has also been named a curse by some authors, the media and part of the public opinion: the natural resources curse. According to that thinking, the richer a country is in natural resources (oil, mining, gas), the poorer it is in terms of human development (including peace and quality of democracy). Over decades, research was conducted to qualify, dissect and de-mystify this curse, and understand the specific mechanisms that link resource extraction, development and violence. It was a call to conduct more science and believe less in curses and back luck. And so, transparency became a keyword.
As such, in 2002 a global initiative was launched aimed at promoting the open and accountable management of oil, gas and mineral resources, strengthen government, corporate systems and inform public debate: the name of the initiative was EITI (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative). Fifteen years later, there are 51 countries involved in EITI. All those countries have sizeable extractive sectors and have made a commitment to publish and discuss their extractive finances in their respective societies.
However, according to a recently published report by CIVICUS (the world alliance for citizen participation), in 38 of those 51 countries civic space is being restricted. This is alarming news for the EITI. Only Norway, Germany and Sao Tomé (3 countries) respect the rights of association, peaceful assembly and expression of protest. In all the rest of the countries, civic space is being narrowed (10 countries), obstructed (24 countries), repressed (12 countries) or totally closed (2 countries). Under those conditions, there is little opportunity for civil society organizations and individuals to engage in meaningful discussions about the role of the extractive industries in human development.
CIVICUS has developed an interesting methodology to classify and rate the degree in which civic liberties and freedoms are respected or violated in extractive countries. The results are truly worrisome: governments are using a wide range of tactics to silence civil society voices. From the use of excessive force in protests to attacks on journalists and protesters, censorship, imprisonment, killings and putting all kinds of legislative obstacles to formalization and/or funding of NGOs. There is an urgent need to protect civic space in EITI countries. And a new call to revisit the somehow naïve premises that built EITI in the first place. Transparency needs democracy and democracy needs peace.
To check the status of each EITI country:
CIVICUS Monitor ratings for EITI countries
Burkina Faso: obstructed
Central African Republic:
Côte d’Ivoire: obstructed
DemocraLc Republic of the
Domi n i can Rep u b l i c :
Papua New Guinea: narrowed
Republic of the Congo: repressed
São Tomé and Príncipe: open
Sierra Leone: obstructed
Solomon Islands: narrowed
Trinidad and Tobago: narrowed
United Kingdom: narrowed
United States of America: narrowed