Information is key for a sustainable future

By Aroa de la Fuente López, RLIE on December 18, 2021

Photo by Maina Kiai available under a Creative Commons license

Just last week the COP21 finished in Paris with a binding agreement to reduce the increase in global temperatures which has reached all-time highs — 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. In this context, the international negotiations must focus on the need to take dramatic action in order to cut back on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by setting a 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming target. Moreover, the summit and aftermath must set a serious course of action to mitigate the effects that the change in temperature is having on territories, the environment and the population living in different corners of the planet.

The above means a readjustment in the economic growth model also in light of the commitments of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. In Latin America, just as in other regions and countries, it must include analyses and proposals that allow for a rethinking of the traditional extractive model in order to shift toward more sustainable economic, social and fiscal options. To make this possible, the society needs to have clear, useful and adequate information on the social, environmental and climatic implications of the oil, gas and mining activities that need to be part of a collective decision-making process. The information has to be made available to the populations that are directly affected by the projects and also to society in general in order to allow for standard and broad participation processes.

Furthermore, due to the consequences of extractive activities, this access to social and environmental information has become an increasingly strong claim in Latin America, in particular given the marked opacity in the matter. Beyond knowing what the exploitation of minerals and hydrocarbons contributes to the State’s coffers or how these resources are spent, people are asking to know in advance about the effects of the extractive industries on their environment, their lives and the climate. This request for more transparency has gone through different channels, including information requests to governments, boosting binding mechanisms such as the Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, which seeks to establish concrete measures to warrant the access to information, as well as participation and access to justice for environmental issues in the region, and, more recently, through international initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

In the particular case of the EITI, the civil societies of several countries, such as Peru, Colombia, Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago, have been or are currently pushing for, not without difficulty though, the inclusion of commitments which would make it possible to disclose socio-environmental information. This has already happened in other places such as the Philippines, Mongolia and Norway, among other countries. On the other hand, in Honduras and Guatemala an important number of social stakeholders have chosen not to take part in the EITI national processes since they don’t perceive the initiative as a space to broaden the debate on the viability and desirability of extractive activities in each country. This is due, in part, to the initiative’s focus on providing information on the friendly side of extractivism (the revenue it generates and its uses for government spending purposes) and not on its negative impact.

In light of this situation, several organisations and networks, such as the Latin American Network on the Extractive Industries (RLIE), Publish What You Pay (PWYP) and the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) have launched a set of actions aimed at including socio-environmental issues in the international standard of the EITI. If we really want to succeed in making this initiative useful for the region and the countries where this information is being demanded by the society, it is highly important to respond to the existing requirements of transparency and to the global context where sustainable growth and the fight against climate change are high priority issues.

To explore these opportunities, these organisations, along with Oxfam France and the Climate Finance Group for Latin America and the Caribbean (GFLAC), created a space for reflection at the People’s Climate Summit held in the margins of COP21. More actions will follow in the next few months, and the EITI Global Conference being held in Lima on February 24 and 25 is a key moment, which also represents an opportunity for the region to make its voice heard clearly and loudly, alongside allies from international coalitions. We invite you to join us on this journey and get in touch!

This blog was authored by Aroa de la Fuente López, Researcher at Fundar, Center for Research and Analysis where she serves as Coordinator with the Latin American Network on the Extractive Industries (RLIE). She is also a member of the PWYP Board and Global Council (PWYP)