Over the last few weeks’ dramatic revolutionary movements have risen up across Northern Africa challenging and overthrowing their dictatorial leaders. First in Tunisia, Egypt and now taking place in Libya and Bahrain, citizens have turned to the streets demanding an end to the corruption, mismanagement and poor living standards in their country.
Critical in this process are the wider political and economic reforms that will improve transparency and accountability. For too long, leaders within these and many other countries have been able to use the wealth generated by natural resources as a private piggy bank instead of investing in the development of their country.
As we wrote recently, a quarter of Egyptians continue to live in poverty while their ex-leader, Hosni Mubarak amassed a personal fortune estimated at $70 billion. And it’s the same story in Libya with it being estimated that one third of the population continue to live in poverty.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
We can play a significant role in increasing the information available to citizens in countries rich in natural resources empowering them to hold their governments to account.
This year real momentum is building around a push towards greater transparency standards for oil, gas and mining companies. In fact, last year the US passed landmark new legislation requiring that all companies involved in extractive activities had to publish what they pay in taxes, fees and royalties to governments for the right to operate in their territory.
Now it’s time for the UK and Europe to do the same.
Indeed, just last week, Transparency International released its latest report rating 44 oil and gas companies on their levels of transparency representing 60 per cent of global oil and gas production. The report evaluated the companies in three areas:
- Reporting on anti-corruption programmes
- Organisational disclosure
- Country-level disclosure
By disclosing data in these three fields, the information released makes it harder for corrupt leaders and officials to steal the profits enabling citizens to hold their governments to account.
The good news is in the three years since their last report transparency standards have improved significantly with only 8 of the 44 companies scored zero for reporting on anti-corruption programmes. This is down from 21 of 42 in 2008.
However whilst, standards of disclosure are getting better there is still much to be done. Huguette Labelle, Chair of TI said;
“It is good news that transparency is improving, but too few companies publish what they pay governments in each country where they operate. Two thirds of the world’s poor live in resource rich countries. They have a right to know how much money their governments get from companies to exploit these resources.’
And here’s where we can play a part.
The report pointed out that EU oil and gas companies have a poor track record of transparency and accountability in their operations in Egypt and Libya. Of the 8 companies included none reveal the payments they make to these countries. By revealing their payments the information released makes it easier to prevent the misappropriation of these funds.
That’s why we’re supporting Anas Sarwar’s 10 Min Rule Bill and pushing for a law to be passed in the UK requiring oil, gas and mining companies to publish what they pay.
As we wrote at the time, Anas Sarwar has recently spoken at length in the House of Commons about the need for greater transparency for oil and gas companies and the potential this has for helping citizens in resource rich countries demand better services from their governments and lift themselves out of poverty.
If you’d like to get involved and learn more about this issue sign up to our movement for Justice.