Gendered change to transparency in extractives starts in West Africa

Making women visible and locating gender expertise in their own movements have put West African Publish What You Pay (PWYP) coalitions at the forefront of working with gender in extractives. But there is a long journey ahead before minds and work processes have shifted to more gendered ways of working.

How do you change a system that is largely ‘gender blind’? That is, if women are systematically underrepresented or absent from discussions, if gender is not on the agenda, and if women are made even more invisible by not gender disaggregating routinely collected data and using it for analysis.

For many (if not most) civil society groups seeking to influence the transparent governance of extractive industries in their countries, this is a reality. And it led to PWYP picking up the challenge to undertake some research, led by three PWYP coalitions in West Africa (Burkina Faso, Guinea and Senegal), with others joining (Ghana, Nigeria and Togo) to do a gender scan of their own coalitions and membership. These gender scans sought to answer: Where do women and men currently participate in our system? Where are there gender disparities and why? And where is there existing gender expertise among our members that we can collectively draw on?   

Gender ‘neutrality’ solidifies status quo

A wealth of literature points to inherent gender inequalities in the extractives sector, with benefits and risks unfairly shared. Consequently, gender blind policies and data (until recently considered ‘gender neutral’) actually create negative gender outcomes for women by helping to maintain, or further aggravate, existing power imbalances while failing to support women as a force for development.

Other factors may also play in. A predominantly male culture can make informal ‘pat-on-the-back deals’ between men more acceptable. To thrive in this culture, women may have to adjust to it rather than using their voice to express solidarity with more marginalized women. All this affects transparency, as exemplified across the PWYP coalitions’ reports.

Recently the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) has been more vocal on gender issues. However, it is up to EITI implementing countries to put a more transformative gender approach into practice. So far, much has remained aspirational, and a previous PWYP blog argues that women have largely been left behind. Three key takeaways from the West African gender research are synthesized below:

  • Make women – and gender disparities – visible

It’s easy to accept status quo for as long as women are mostly invisible and gender issues are not systematically analyzed. At present that is the case. A gender break-down of participation in governance and decision-making structures within the EITI universe is not easily available; neither is it always clear what percentage of participants were women or representing local women’s groups when validations of EITI reports took place locally.

Multi-stakeholder groups (MSGs) – with representatives from government, companies and civil society mandated to oversee the national EITI implementation – had a representation of women which varied from 7% to 20%. Some MSGs elsewhere have no women participating at all according to research by the Institute for Multi-stakeholder Initiative Integrity (2015).

Another form of making women invisible is not gender disaggregating data in the reporting. When it exceptionally happens, reported gender disparities are revealing. For instance, in Burkina Faso the 2016 EITI report showed that women held less than 3% of all jobs created by mining companies (with no further analysis included, or contextualized information from women’s groups on the ground). Moreover, a cross-country comparison is not possible since up until now, gender disaggregation of data is not required according to the EITI Standard.  

  • Make gender issues discussed and acted upon

But lopsided participation is only one side of the story. The sometimes astonishingly low level of participation of women in EITI processes is often symptomatic of broader, deeper, more structural gender inequalities and power imbalances. These need to be analyzed holistically, with a wider-angle gender lens.

Several of the coalition research reports found glaring gaps between the relatively good national policy framework for advancing gender equality (e.g. via national gender plans and strategies), and the complete absence of any references to gender in the frameworks regulating extractive industries. Local women’s groups as well as national public institutions mandated to promote gender equality (such as the Gender Ministry, the gender unit in the Ministry of Planning etc.) could play an important role in making such linkages clearer, with PWYP potentially helping to broker such knowledge.

Each of the participating PWYP coalitions could identify at least a few members with particularly relevant gender expertise. While some of them had previously been relatively inactive in the coalition, the ‘buzz’ of doing this research led to increased interest, with a few additional gender-focused groups wanting to join as members.

  • Get gender into the institutional DNA and culture

As part of the research, we developed a method for visualizing and tracking gender references across key documents (work plans, strategic plans, reporting etc.) to determine whether gender really was part of the institutional DNA or whether it was just mentioned in passing. Any reference (or dedicated publication) on gender issues was either classified as: aspirational – meaning that it constituted a recommendation or non-obligatory guidance, but had not yet happened; normative – indicating some sort of obligation (e.g. in a Code of Conduct); informational – stating a fact, announcing upcoming gender-focused events or providing a gender break-down of participation; results-oriented – accounting for gendered impacts or results (including analysis of such results); and community generated – representing feedback and data from those who are closest to the problem on the ground.

Even though coalitions often reported a complete absence – or at best aspirational or informational – gender references in key documents at this point, the idea is to continue to use this classification to track how it might evolve over time. It could also be a way to hold each other mutually to account for incorporating a gender dimension in the EITI multi-stakeholder partnership.

In conclusion, isolated gender projects like this one clearly cannot do the job of gender mainstreaming the broader EITI process on its own. Nevertheless, this research – as part of a longer PWYP gender project funded by the Hewlett Foundation – can maybe be a first trigger. In addition to taking stock and providing a baseline, it illustrates how women are not just potential victims or passive beneficiaries of extractive resources or economic opportunities in the sector; they are also forceful change makers. That is when they are not excluded, and when deeper gender inequalities are not ignored.  

A gendered approach to transparently governed extractive industries may still be a distant destination, but at least in West Africa, the navigation for how to get there has started.

Rural Women, Empowerment and Mining in Malawi

The villagers of Mwabulambo in northern Malawi first heard about the arrival of a mining company in their area when large trucks came rolling into their dusty rural village. This unexpected arrival was the first news they received about a mining company coming to dig for coal on their land.

The rural women in the area hoped that this development would bring job opportunities and a much-needed healthcare centre to the area for their families. Yet in the space of half a year, these rural communities were uprooted by mining activities they had been completely unaware of. None of the villagers had been consulted about these changes and no consent had been given.

Because of Malawi’s significant mineral wealth, the government has actively promoted private investments in mining and resource extraction, trying to diversify its economy away from agriculture, in particular tobacco. A large number of licenses were issued all around the country, allowing oil and gas extraction to take place in areas around Lake Malawi, including protected UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Even Malawi’s newest draft law, the relatively-progressive Mines and Minerals Bill, exposes a significant administrative loophole: the lack of transparency about the mining-related risks. This means that local communities’ right to access information, obtain respectful resettlement agreements, and be informed about the benefits and risks of existing and future problems aren’t officially enforced.

“We need to support coalitions in helping women involved in mining, residing in mining communities or working in civil society to conduct their own research in the space they occupy and communicate their own stories using different media. Malawi is introducing a new Mines and Minerals Act which will include Community Development Agreements,” explains Rachel Etter-Phoya, Head of Accountability, Policy and Programmes at Citizens for Justice Malawi.

“This is an improvement of the 1981 Act that places minimal requirements on companies to engage with nearby communities. The PWYP Global Coalition and national coalitions can support us in learning best practice and how to ensure particularly women can advocate for themselves and their families in these agreements.”


“The PWYP Global Coalition and national coalitions can support us in learning best practice and how to ensure particularly women can advocate for themselves and their families in these agreements”


When mining has negative consequences like in Mwabulambo, rural women are disproportionately affected. Despite Malawi’s Constitution recognising women’s right to equal protection and non-discrimination, they are still affected by the socio-cultural gender biases and attitudes. This is a recurring theme found in many countries where PWYP members are based.

As a rural woman in a remote community, access to information about mining activities is a huge challenge. Their participation in community meetings about extractive activities is extremely limited; women are often excluded because of their educational abilities and strenuous daily schedules.

“Artisanal and small-scale mining provides an opportunity for much needed non-farm income and women make up the majority engaged in this sector. There has been some limited support for technical training and for establishing cooperative, but more work needs to be done in this regard,” says Rachel.

Communities like Mwabulambo are ingrained with patriarchal systems which give more decision-making power about land use to men. If this balance was equally shared with the women who most often work with the land, risks could be diminished as a family-first approach would be prioritised.

“Most of the land in the project impact areas is owned by men who mostly are the head of the households. However, in most instances, it is the woman who benefits directly from the physical resources like land and other natural resources,” says Cynthia Simkonda, Programme Officer at the Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy.

“But when mining operations start, they are the most affected as they would have to walk longer distances to collect firewood and other livelihood necessities due to displacement and pollution of river systems.”

In order to solve the issues rural women face from extractive activities, impacts on their livelihoods and social environments must be monitored and addressed. It is vital to ensure that free, prior and informed consent is prioritised above anything else to protect communities from these potentially harmful situations.

Paying special attention to rural women and the impacts mining has on their daily lives is the key to protecting villagers from losing their land, water supplies, and sustainable futures. Giving families the compensation they deserve is another important factor which would allow communities to relocate and rebuild in a safe environment.

It is crucial that rural women are empowering to work in small-scale mining because it can transform their skills into well-being and sustainable development. By empowering women, this in turn empowers communities to make the most of male and female workers.

Ultimately, governments must adopt a community-centric approach to dealing with how women should be integrated into decision-making processes and ensure they are protected against exploitative developments by extractive companies.


rural-women-1

Civil society leader and leading human rights activist attacked in Equatorial Guinea

Plain-clothed security officers in Equatorial Guinea have reportedly severely beaten and stabbed Alfredo Okenve, a leading civil society activist and Vice-president of the Center for Development Studies and Initiatives (CEID). Okenve said the men forced him out of his car at gunpoint on 27 October and carried out a prolonged attack, before abandoning him on deserted land.

Article 19, CIVICUS, EG Justice, Global Witness, Human Rights Watch, NRGI, Oxfam America and Publish What You Pay (PWYP) join other international organisations including Amnesty International in strongly condemning this brutal assault.

“Alfredo Okenve is a prominent anti-corruption and human rights activist with a track record in promoting good governance, including in the extractive sector. He and CEID have the right to carry out this important work unimpeded,” said PWYP’s Executive Director, Elisa Peter.

Equatorial Guinea’s government has not responded to requests for comment on the allegations. Alfredo Okenve said the attackers appeared to have been targeting his brother Celestino, head of an opposition political party, but continued to beat him even after confirming his identity – the latest in a string of assaults and harassments he has endured on the part of the authorities.

Equatorial Guinea has twice attempted to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) – a leading multi-stakeholder initiative for transparency and good governance in the extractives sector. These applications, in 2010 and 2014, were both rejected due to unjustified crackdowns on civil society activists, including Alfredo Okenve, whose organisation was suspended in 2016 and who suffered arbitrary detentions in 2017.

The country is applying for a third time to join the EITI this year, as a precondition for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to consider giving the government a loan. We urge the EITI to consider this new application only if the government of Equatorial Guinea addresses civic space issues seriously and consistently, and brings those responsible for the recent attack on Alfredo Okenve to justice. We also call for oil companies operating in Equatorial Guinea – especially on the EITI Board – and other EITI-supporting companies to immediately denounce this attack as unfit for a country wishing to rejoin the initiative.

“While PWYP welcomes Equatorial Guinea’s efforts to join the EITI, the government‘s continuing repression of civil society suggests a lack of genuine commitment to the principles of citizen participation and accountability in the governance of the country’s oil wealth,” said PWYP Africa Steering Committee Chair, Tiemoko Sangare. “At a time when the country is reapplying for EITI membership – albeit linked to conditions for an IMF loan – the government is clearly violating the EITI Standard, which requires it to provide an enabling environment for civil society.

PWYP calls on Equatorial Guinea to commit in deed as well as word to the EITI Standard, starting with allowing civil society activists to play their oversight role free from abuse.

We will continue our practical and moral support for civil society in the country – and all other countries where PWYP members face repression in their efforts to ensure that natural resources are used for the benefit of all citizens.”

Signed by

Article 19

CIVICUS

EG Justice

Global Witness

Human Rights Watch

ICAR

NRGI

Oxfam America

Publish What You Pay

 

Niger: Civil Society activists released after 4 months in prison, but challenges continue

On Tuesday 24 July, fifteen members of civil society were released following their arrest and imprisonment four months ago for protesting against a new Finance Law in Niger. Of these fifteen, Ali Idrissa (Coordinator of PWYP Niger, Board member of Publish What You Pay, and Coordinator of the Niamey-based civil society organisation ROTAB), Moussa Tchangari (Secretary General of Alternative Espaces Citoyens) and Nouhou Arzika (President of Mouvement Pour la Promotion de la Citoyenneté Responsable) were each given a 3 month suspended sentence for “illegal assembly”. They will be released today as they have already served four months in prison since their arrest on the 25th March. The other fourteen activists were released without charge.

While Publish What You Pay welcomes the news that fifteen members will be released today, concerns remain about the state of civic space in Niger and ongoing persecution of members of civil society.

Six more activists – Abdou Salihou Halarou, Moctar Oumarou, Abdoul Djawel, Hamey Abdou Beidou, Hamza Haroun Abdoul Kader, Aminou Dayabou – remain in prison for two more months as they were each sentenced to six months in prison and each given an additional six months suspended sentence.

Four others – Maikoul Zodi, Ibrahim Diori, Karim Tanko, Maiwanzame Issoufou – remain in prison awaiting trial for protesting the 2018 Finance Law of Niger.

Lirwana Abdourahmane, also remains in prison after he was sentenced to 12 months plus 12 months suspended for “contempt of court”.

Publish What You Pay calls on the Government of Niger to expedite the trials or drop the charges against these individuals who remain in prison.

Publish What You Pay Executive Director Elisa Peter said:

“We applaud the Judiciary of Niger for the release of these social justice activists today. Yet PWYP condemns the arrest and intimidation of citizens, social justice activists, lawyers and journalists, some of whom are still in prison for their participation in a peaceful demonstration against the country’s new finance law. They must be released immediately. We also call on the Government of Niger to ensure the protection of fundamental liberties for all citizens, including freedoms of expression & peaceful assembly”

See below a list of statements released on the issue over the course of the four months since the arrests:

PWYP Africa Steering Committee to African Union: For the fight against corruption to be won, threats to civic space must be condemned

Niger: 25 May marks two months since 26 activists and civil society members have been detained

Joint Press Release: Niger – Diplomatic representatives must act for the immediate release of arrested human rights defenders

Open letter for the release of Human Rights Defenders in Niger

Africa Steering Committee of Publish What You Pay strongly condemns arrest of members in Niger

PWYP Africa Steering Committee to African Union: For the fight against corruption to be won, threats to civic space must be condemned

25 March to 25 June 2018: Civil Society leaders in Niger are still imprisoned for having mobilised against a tax law that is deemed unfair and encourages corruption

Arrestation Ali Idrissa

The 31st Summit of the African Union (AU) will start on 25 June 2018 in Nouakchott, Islamic Republic of Mauritania. The theme of the Summit is the fight against corruption: “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”

Publish What You Pay, a global network of civil society organizations working to promote good governance in the extractive industries sector, welcomes the importance given to the fight against corruption by African leaders on the occasion of the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union.

According to OECD figures, one in five cases of transnational corruption occurs in the extractive industries sector (mining, oil and gas). The huge amount of money lost by resource-rich countries could be used to fund basic social services such as education or health, and be reinvested in the development of effective public services to address inequities. Instead, Africa loses more than US$ 50 billion a year due to illicit financial flows, according to the OECD’s report on illicit financial flows.

The fight against corruption that the African Union wants to prioritize can only be won if citizens can get involved and express themselves freely and fully on these issues. The African Union must take a firm stand on the growing and frequent attacks against citizen participation, a key element to promote transparency and accountability, and make this agenda a reality as soon as possible.

Indeed, the 25 June 2018 marks the three months detention of 26 members of the Nigerien civil society for having protested against the Finance Law adopted in November 2017 by the Nigerian Parliament to set the state budget in 2018. Since November 2017, citizens and civil society in Niger have continued to mobilise to express dismay over a law they deem unfair as it may provide a series of tax concessions to high level officials and thus facilite corruption.

Our civil society colleagues in Niger, including several leaders of organizations such as Mr Moussa Tchangari (Alternative espace citoyen); Mr Ali Idrissa (The Organisation for Transparency and Budget Analysis, ROTAB); Mr Nouhou Arzika (Patriotic Movement for Responsible Citizenship, MPCR) and Mr Abdramane Lirwana, a human rights lawyer, as well as other civil society activists, have been charged with “organising and participating in an unauthorised protest”, “complicity in violence, “aggression” and “destruction of property” and imprisoned in various prisons throughout the country. On 15 April, another five activists were arrested and accused of the same charges. We consider these accusations unfair and unfounded.

The African Union Summit is an opportunity for us to raise again our serious concerns about the deterioration of the civic space and the threat to human rights in general in many countries in Africa (Niger being one of the most recent examples) and the freedom of peaceful assembly and association in particular.

Thus, in order to show their commitment to the fight against corruption initiated by the African Union, whose aspiration clearly highlighted for the 2063 Agenda is “an Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law”, we appeal to the Heads of State and Government to make concrete commitments to ensure the respect of human rights and freedom of expression and association and to call on their Nigerien counterparts to release civil society actors immediately and without conditions.

Publish What You Pay
Africa Steering Committee
Publish What You Pay Africa Steering Committee

  • Anglophone West Africa: Erisa Danladi, PWYP Nigeria
  • Central Africa: Dupleix Kuenzob, PWYP Cameroon
  • East and Southern Africa: Mutuso Dhliwayo, PWYP Zimbabwe
  • Francophone West Africa: Tiemoko Sangare, PWYP Mali
  • EITI International Board representative: Moses Kulaba
  • EITI International Board representative: Brice Mackosso
  • EITI International Board representative: Faith Nwadishi

—–

Media contact West Africa:

M. Demba SEYDI, Regional Coordinator – Francophone West Africa

Mobile: (+221) 77 344 59 59

Telephone: (+221) 70 866 02 44

Skype: demba.seydi

Email: dseydi@publishwhatyoupay.org

Niger: 25 May marks two months since 26 activists and civil society members have been detained

10 organisations call on authorities in Niger to stop prosecution of activists and civil society members and release those detained

Two months after 26 civil society activists were arrested in the capital, Niamey, at peaceful demonstrations against a new finance law, Oxfam and Amnesty International alongside eight other NGOs are calling on the authorities of Niger to release the detainees and bring an end to the prosecutions civil society.

The civil society activists were detained on March 25 2018 in various prisons in the country for “organising and participating in a prohibited demonstration”, “complicity in violence”, “aggression” and “destruction of property”. The 26 arrested include three leaders of civil society organisations: Moussa Tchangari, Alternative espace citoyen (Alternative citizen spaces); Ali Idrissa, Rotab; and Nouhou Arzika, Mouvement pour la promotion de la citoyenneté responsable (Movement for the Promotion of Responsible Citizenship). Five other protesters including Ibrahim Diori (Alternative espace citoyen /Alternative citizen spaces), Maïkoul Zodi (Tournons la Page,) Abdourahamane Idé Hassane (Jeunesse pour une mentalité nouvelle /Youth for a New Mentality) were later arrested on April 15 and prosecuted for the same charges.

“This situation is of deep concern for international human rights and development organisations who believe that civic space does not pose a threat to the government, but instead allows citizens to engage in a constructive dialogue with the authorities,” said Adama Coulibaly, Oxfam West Africa Regional Director.

“The right of civil society organisations to engage in peaceful activities is protected by international law. These people play a vital role in the protection and realisation of human rights and democracy. They should not be seen as a threat, but rather as actors of dialogue with whom the State should engage.”

The organisations call on the authorities in Niger to immediately release the activists and to drop all prosecutions against them. They ask the authorities to also begin to have constructive dialogue with civil society organisations about their right to protest on any matter of national interest immediately.

“Instead of deploying strategies to attack civil society activists and human rights defenders, the authorities in Niger should recognise their legitimacy by respecting their work, providing them with the necessary space for their activities, and protecting them against threats,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

“On no occasion should Niger seek to demonstrate its position in West Africa by reducing the space of civil society. It is high time these detainees all arrested in connection with the 2018 finance law protests were released,” said Melanie Sonhaye Kombate of the West African Human Rights Defenders Network.

——

Signatories:

  1. Oxfam
  2. Amnesty International
  3. Front Line Defenders
  4. Publiez Ce Que Vous Payez
  5. Tournons La Page
  6. FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders” and World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  7. West Africa civil society Institute
  8. Centre for civil and Political rights
  9. CIVICUS
  10. West Africa Human Rights Defenders Network ROADDH/WAHRDN

How can we ensure stronger civil society voices?

Lessons from the PWYP coalition in Senegal

With the support of the FORD Foundation, the PWYP Secretariat, has been working with members in Senegal to facilitate awareness and build the capacity of civil society to ensure they can participate in the EITI implementation process in a more effective and qualitative way. The project came at a crucial time when the government initiated a revision process of the oil and gas law due to the discovery of abundant oil and gas reserves.

Two years later, as the project ends, Demba Seydi, Regional Coordinator for Francophone West Africa shares with us some key take away points.

Who has been impacted as a result of this project?

A diverse range of citizens benefited from the awareness raising and capacity building efforts. They include communities affected by extraction, members of parliament, local leaders and media. In addition, as a result of our awareness raising efforts, PWYP Senegal welcomed more than 25 civil society member organisations, including women and youth organisations, to its coalition in Saint-Louis, the northern coastal region where Cairn Energy and Kosmos Energy confirmed the discovery of abundant reserves of oil and gas.

What were the main outcomes?

PCQVP Senegal For Foundation
A significant outcome of the project is that the coalition in Senegal is now in compliance with the MSG governance requirements. They did this by drafting and adopting a code of conduct, and by designing an EITI oriented strategic plan based on PWYP’s Vision 20/20. The coalition also contributed to ensuring that MSG representatives are accountable to the wider civil society community. As a result, the coalition has been really engaged in the validation process, participating in all meetings, including with the Independent Validator who assesses a country’s progress towards EITI validation.

By increasing their capacity, the coalition alongside the EITI secretariat, was able to facilitate knowledge and information sharing within local communities by organising community forums in all extraction regions where EITI 2015/16 reports were disseminated and discussed.

In addition, to support widespread knowledge about extractives, an Association of Journalists specialised in extractive sector was created. As result of their being included in coalition activities and field visits to extraction regions, various programs have been made for radio, TV and online platforms covering extractive activities in the country. This has also contributed to enhanced visibility and the positioning of the coalition as a key player on issues related to extractive governance in Senegal.

For other PWYP coalitions considering a similar project what are some key points worth considering?

PCQVP Senegal For Foundation

  • It is key to consider activities which foster engagement at community level. For example, the coalition in Senegal focused on working at sub-national level, which meant that civil society could really be close to the communities. The result of this was that they were better able to engage with them and understand their perspective on key extractive activities.
  • Secondly, it is important to design activities which enable participation of the affected communities. For example in Senegal, efforts were focused on building the knowledge and capacity of communities in both Cayar and Saint-Louis as these communities are both heavily dependent on fishing, a livelihood that might be threatened by the extraction of the gas reserves discovered in the areas.
  • And finally, taking an inclusive approach is vital. As well as including media and women and youth groups in our activities, the coalition also focused efforts on fostering dialogue to bridge the gap between communities and companies. Knowledge and information sharing activities were designed to mitigate conflict between extractives companies and communities in the Bargny and Rufisque constituencies.
  • Urgent: Free our colleague Ali Idrissa, jailed for doing his job

    MineArlit1

    Our colleague and friend, Ali Idrissa, is in jail. By using spurious charges against him for the third time, the government of Niger pursue their disgraceful harassment of the anti-corruption movement. I urge them to see sense and free Ali and his fellow campaigners immediately.

    One of the world’s largest exporters of uranium, Niger has a vital role to play in upholding the transparency of extractive industries. Fresh from its exit from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) last year (the world’s top anti-corruption programme for the mining, oil and gas sectors), Ali’s arrest marks a new phase. The government is no longer backsliding, it is in free-fall.

    Ali coordinates the national chapter of Publish What You Pay (PWYP) in Niger and sits on the PWYP Board. I was last with him in Brussels in October last year, at our Board meeting. A few days later, Niger was suspended by the EITI over its failure to ensure the vital civic space – a free press, unrestricted civil society – that countries need for transparency to thrive; to protect a trillion dollar sector from international corruption.

    At the time, Ali worried things would only worsen. He was clear-eyed and correct, as usual. Following its suspension from the EITI, the government dramatically withdrew from the initiative altogether. And today Ali sits in a prison cell, where the government have now held him for 47 days.

    Authorities claim Ali, together with 26 others, are guilty of organising an unlawful gathering to protest a new finance law – a law which experts and civil society say is regressive and opaque. The fact the government have used stalling tactics against the right to protest; that Ali was in his office, as usual, when police seized him; that they have denied him bail, and set no date for his trial; that his radio station was shut down (a decision quickly overturned by a judge) – all point to one clear conclusion: this is judicial harassment.

    While this is shocking, it is barely surprising. The government have used this tactic against Ali twice before, in 2014 and 2017. Nigeriens and international actors, including the EITI, have called on the country’s leaders to show better leadership time and time again.

    Moreover, the case of Ali and his fellow campaigners shows a broader, worrying pattern of governments spurning the norms and principles they claim to stand for.

    As it happens, this week marks the annual civil society gathering of another inter-government transparency body: the “OpenGov Week” of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Fittingly, its themes this year include ‘fighting corruption’ and ‘protecting civic space’. Meanwhile, crises from Niger and beyond vividly illustrate just how vital these goals are.

    A curious assortment of countries – Azerbaijan (who also jailed activists and journalists, and shut down media outlets), Niger, and the current United States administration – exited the EITI last year after their commitment was questioned.

    In Mexico, civil society groups collectively walked out of the OGP process last year, arguing their government was not honouring their pledges.

    Also last year, in September, the government of Tanzania withdrew from the OGP, all while creating an extremely difficult climate for civil society.

    In the Philippines, the government publishes a “terrorist list” that includes a number of indigenous activists and leaders. These leaders are known to be involved in many important anti-mining campaigns. The Philippines president, Rodrigo Duterte, has also warned journalists that they “are not exempted from assassination.”

    This threat has an ominous ring. Freedom of the press – and safety of journalists – is in acute crisis as civic space continues to erode. The heroic Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was murdered in a targeted car bombing last year after having uncovered a vast network of corruption involving Maltese and Azerbaijani officials. Reporters without Borders report a rise in hostility against the press and innumerable pressuring tactics.

    And last month, back in Niger, TV journalist Baba Alpha was jailed, wrenched away from his family, stripped of his citizenship and forcibly exiled to Mali: all for doing his job.

    Clearly there are hard, urgent discussions required within the EITI and OGP, if their mandates are to resonate where activists need them most.

    But today, I have one urgent call. Niger must release Ali and his compatriots.

    The government of Niger is violating human rights. And by cloaking its uranium dealings in suspicious secrecy, it hurts its citizens’ chances of prosperity and opportunity, and the global drive for a transparent mining, oil and gas sector.

    Niger’s leaders are losing stature on every single count. Its people – and the world – are literally poorer for it.

    Urgent: Free our colleague Ali Idrissa, jailed for doing his job

    ali idrissa

    Our colleague and friend, Ali Idrissa, is in jail. By using spurious charges against him for the third time, the government of Niger pursue their disgraceful harassment of the anti-corruption movement. I urge them to see sense and free Ali and his fellow campaigners immediately.

    One of the world’s largest exporters of uranium, Niger has a vital role to play in upholding the transparency of extractive industries. Fresh from its exit from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) last year (the world’s top anti-corruption programme for the mining, oil and gas sectors), Ali’s arrest marks a new phase. The government is no longer backsliding, it is in free-fall.

    MineArlit1

    Ali coordinates the national chapter of Publish What You Pay (PWYP) in Niger and sits on the PWYP Board. I was last with him in Brussels in October last year, at our Board meeting. A few days later, Niger was suspended by the EITI over its failure to ensure the vital civic space – a free press, unrestricted civil society – that countries need for transparency to thrive; to protect a trillion dollar sector from international corruption.

    At the time, Ali worried things would only worsen. He was clear-eyed and correct, as usual. Following its suspension from the EITI, the government dramatically withdrew from the initiative altogether. And today Ali sits in a prison cell, where the government have now held him for 47 days.

    Authorities claim Ali, together with 26 others, are guilty of organising an unlawful gathering to protest a new finance law – a law which experts and civil society say is regressive and opaque. The fact the government have used stalling tactics against the right to protest; that Ali was in his office, as usual, when police seized him; that they have denied him bail, and set no date for his trial; that his radio station was shut down (a decision quickly overturned by a judge) – all point to one clear conclusion: this is judicial harassment.

    While this is shocking, it is barely surprising. The government have used this tactic against Ali twice before, in 2014 and 2017. Nigeriens and international actors, including the EITI, have called on the country’s leaders to show better leadership time and time again.

    Moreover, the case of Ali and his fellow campaigners shows a broader, worrying pattern of governments spurning the norms and principles they claim to stand for.

    As it happens, this week marks the annual civil society gathering of another inter-government transparency body: the “OpenGov Week” of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Fittingly, its themes this year include ‘fighting corruption’ and ‘protecting civic space’. Meanwhile, crises from Niger and beyond vividly illustrate just how vital these goals are.

    A curious assortment of countries – Azerbaijan (who also jailed activists and journalists, and shut down media outlets), Niger, and the current United States administration – exited the EITI last year after their commitment was questioned.

    In Mexico, civil society groups collectively walked out of the OGP process last year, arguing their government was not honouring their pledges.

    Also last year, in September, the government of Tanzania withdrew from the OGP, all while creating an extremely difficult climate for civil society.

    In the Philippines, the government publishes a “terrorist list” that includes a number of indigenous activists and leaders. These leaders are known to be involved in many important anti-mining campaigns. The Philippines president, Rodrigo Duterte, has also warned journalists that they “are not exempted from assassination.”

    This threat has an ominous ring. Freedom of the press – and safety of journalists – is in acute crisis as civic space continues to erode. The heroic Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was murdered in a targeted car bombing last year after having uncovered a vast network of corruption involving Maltese and Azerbaijani officials. Reporters without Borders report a rise in hostility against the press and innumerable pressuring tactics.

    And last month, back in Niger, TV journalist Baba Alpha was jailed, wrenched away from his family, stripped of his citizenship and forcibly exiled to Mali: all for doing his job.

    Clearly there are hard, urgent discussions required within the EITI and OGP, if their mandates are to resonate where activists need them most.

    But today, I have one urgent call. Niger must release Ali and his compatriots.

    The government of Niger is violating human rights. And by cloaking its uranium dealings in suspicious secrecy, it hurts its citizens’ chances of prosperity and opportunity, and the global drive for a transparent mining, oil and gas sector.

    Niger’s leaders are losing stature on every single count. Its people – and the world – are literally poorer for it.

    Why is Tax Justice central to the accountability agenda in the extractives sector?

    On 20 April 2018 PWYP hosted a webinar on tax and extractives as part of our ongoing engagement with PWYP members around the world to inform the PWYP 2020-2025 global strategy.

    Kwesi Obeng kicked off the conversation with a presentation of the key ideas in his discussion paper, with respondents Daniel Mule (Senior Policy Advisor on tax and extractives at Oxfam US) and Mona Thowsen (Secretary General PWYP Norway) picking up and exploring some of those themes in the context of their work at national and global levels.

    Following the webinar, Elisa Peter, Executive Director and Stephanie Rochford, Director of Member Engagement, sat down to discuss what we learned and how some of the discussion might be reflected in PWYP’s strategic planning for 2020 to 2025.

    – – – – –

    Stephanie: Tax Justice is an umbrella concept that covers a wide range of issues – from the misguided use of tax incentives by governments to attract investment, to the need for cost-related data disclosure (in addition to payment data), to the use of tax havens by multinational companies that divert potential tax revenues, to questions relating to mineral quality and quantity, to the rights of communities (who are the ones most impacted by extractive activities) to access services and livelihoods. What are the themes that you felt resonated most strongly with our members during the discussion?

    Elisa: Well it’s clear that members already see PWYP’s work to date as a contribution to a broad Tax Justice movement, given PWYP’s mission to ensure that any benefit (including tax revenues) derived from resource extraction is shared sustainably and equitably. I think that really came out clearly in this conversation – PWYP’s work at national and global levels is happening in the context of a Tax Justice agenda. This includes not only our flagship PWYP campaign on payment disclosure, but also the more recent push for beneficial ownership data, including through the EITI Standard; as well as the calls of many of our coalitions in the ‘home’ countries of multinational extractive companies for more transparency on tax through extended country by country reporting, as Mona from PWYP Norway pointed out. So, really, the question is not so much if but rather how PWYP can situate itself more strategically to work with other actors in the Tax Justice movement in a way that will enhance our respective impact and build on PWYP’s strengths as a global network of civil society activists.

    Stephanie: Yes, PWYP’s strength and unique value absolutely lies in our member organisations – and many of them are human rights defenders. To what extent do you see an opportunity for PWYP to bring the rights of communities to the fore by incorporating aspects of the Tax Justice agenda more explicitly into our global strategy?

    Elisa: That’s something that I think is becoming more evident: there’s a clear demand to look not only at the revenue collection aspect of a fair tax system but also how those taxes are then spent in a way that meets the needs of citizens, acknowledging that those needs will be very different depending on gender, class, poverty levels and many other factors. The example of Oxfam’s “Even it up” campaign can be a really useful one for PWYP to take inspiration from! Even if a country is able to capture the fair share of revenues generated by extraction through a solid fiscal regime, it is essential that the spending of these revenues is then managed effectively to alleviate poverty and end extreme inequality. Only when all these pieces are in place can natural resource exploitation be a force for good.

    Stephanie: On that note, the question of the explicit link between tax and gender equality was posed during the discussion. Maybe that’s an angle where PWYP can add value at a global level?

    Elisa: I was really pleased that this question of how tax relates to gender came up, particularly in light of the recent launch of our gender and EITI pilot project, which recognises that the transparency and accountability movement as a whole has not paid sufficient attention to the different ways in which women and men are able to participate in calling for and using extractives data. Kwesi’s response clearly highlighted that tax is absolutely gender discriminatory: for example, when tax breaks are offered for the benefit of corporations and their investors, the result is a reduced provision of the services that women tend to rely heavily on (such as healthcare, etc). So I definitely would like to see us continue to reflect on how we can do more as a movement to recognise and address the specific ways in which women are impacted by seemingly far removed macroeconomics decisions like tax policies.

    Stephanie: Mukasiri Sibanda from PWYP Zimbabwe was unfortunately not able to join the webinar today, but he has eloquently expressed the need to ensure that the focus of PWYP’s work, as well as that of the Tax Justice movement, should be rooted in the rights of communities in resource rich countries to access services such as education, healthcare, infrastructure etc.

    Elisa: Yes, and Daniel noted that greater participation in, and oversight of, expenditure of extractive revenues is a critical aspect of PWYP’s larger theory of change; but there are also a lot of challenges for PWYP members when it comes to looking at extractive revenues.

    Stephanie: That’s true – unlike the issue of tax administration and collection, questions relating to expenditure of extractive revenues ultimately move into the realm of public financial management more broadly, since it’s rare to see ring-fenced budgets which would allow extractive revenue expenditure to be tracked. So the question of accountability here goes beyond extractives.

    Elisa: I don’t think there’s a clear answer on how to handle this challenge – as a movement we will need to wrestle with the extent to which PWYP should, or is in a position to, focus our efforts on wider questions of public financial management.

    Stephanie: And we have an all too timely example of why that’s not a conversation that PWYP can shy away from…

    Elisa: Yes, the arrest of PWYP Niger national coordinator and Board member, Ali Idrissa, came about as a result of peacefully protesting against a finance law that they argue will foster corruption and facilitate tax breaks for the elite. Ali’s arrest brings home the realities of the powerful interests at play when it comes to natural resource extraction, and that accountability – natural resource justice – is not yet achieved and is going to be a hard won battle.

    Stephanie: Yes, and this is something that we hope our new strategy will reflect as well – how PWYP members can create spaces to hold those powers to account. In terms of where we go next with our strategic planning in the context of Tax Justice in particular, what are some of the ideas that we want to bring to the PWYP Global Council when they meet in a couple of weeks to refine the 2020-2025 strategic priorities?

    Elisa: There were a few key ideas from each of the participants that I found really exciting. For example, thinking about how we can leverage the power of the PWYP collective to tackle issues relating to tax incentives (something that Don Hubert clearly identifies as an entry point for engagement in the PWYP Canada report, “Many Ways to Lose a Billion”). Equally, there seem to be a few windows of opportunity to engage with corporate actors (for example, building on the work of the BTeam to develop responsible tax principles); or with multilateral institutions like the World Bank who are in a position to influence discriminatory tax systems. And there was a suggestion to develop more case studies that evidence the ways in which tax evasion and abuse in the extractive sector is facilitated, and the impact it has.

    Stephanie: I agree, those were all really interesting aspects to consider. In addition, there was a clear message on the webinar that we need to capitalise on PWYP’s work over the past 16 years to make payment and contract information available, and to equip our members to use that information to make the evidence-based case for the equitable and sustainable management of the extractive sector.

    Elisa: Absolutely – and we will continue that call for transparency which is what provides us with the evidence base to push for change.

    – – – – –

    Thanks to all those who joined the webinar and contributed your questions and comments. You can find a summary of the first webinar on The Future of Extraction here.

    And if you missed the webinar you can catch up by watching the recoding below:

    Further webinars on tax and extractives are taking place in French and Russian this week.

    Further reading: