PWYP members respond to Clare Short’s open letter on Ethiopia candidacy to EITI (11/03/14)
Madam Chair of the EITI International Board
Dear Clare Short,
We received your letter in which you shared your views on Ethiopia’s candidacy to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. This letter gave rise to several concerns that we outline below.
1. Our role on the International Board.
We have been selected by our civil society colleagues to represent African civil society on the International Board. As representatives, we are duty-bound to consult with our colleagues and report back to them on all matters discussed at the Board level. Ethiopia’s application is part of these civil society level discussions, and has been since 2009.
Ethiopia’s application to join EITI was not on our agenda at the regional PWYP meeting in Pointe Noire, although the issue did come up when we held our session on the enabling environment.
We had decided to discuss the enabling environment for civil society so as to gather the thoughts of our colleagues’ on this topic, and then share these with the International Board when the question – which is of great importance to us – was on the table. As African representatives, we constantly endeavour, despite the important communication challenges we are facing on our continent, to foster an autonomous debate among our constituency and to defend our colleagues’ views at the Board level.
Two schools of thoughts emerged from our exchanges in Pointe Noire. The first was to oppose Ethiopia’s candidacy into the EITI, for the same reasons that led the International Board to reject Ethiopia’s application back in 2010. The other was in favour of admitting Ethiopia to EITI, provided that the country produces a workplan that takes into account all the concerns expressed on the ability of civil society to engage in independent, active and effective participation. Indeed, the EITI Standard states that: “The government must ensure that there is an enabling environment for company and civil society participation with regard to relevant laws, regulations, and administrative rules as well as actual practice in implementation of the EITI. The fundamental rights of civil society and company representatives substantively engaged in the EITI, including but not restricted to members of the multi-stakeholder group, must be respected.” (§1.3 (b))
Even if – as you suggest - the EITI has a low threshold for candidacy, we believe it is evident that the workplan remains a crucial tool to evaluate progress and to assess Validation, including with regards to the enabling environment.
The question of Ethiopia’s workplan therefore remains to be debated, given that it does not allow for an effective implementation of the EITI under the provisions of the new Standard, nor does it adequately address obstacles to local civil society’s participation in the EITI process. The EITI indeed requires that “The government must ensure that there are no obstacles to civil society or company participation in the EITI process.” (§1.3 (c))
2. Your neutrality.
You have openly taken a position in favour of admitting Ethiopia as an EITI candidate country, going against the principle of neutrality that should characterise your chairmanship. The trust from which you benefit as a chair is grounded in this essential principle.
Your neutrality is a guarantee that allows us to believe that our Chair will guide the debates impartially and will help the different constituencies, when positions diverge, to find a consensus that will advance our common agenda. On this point, article 12 of the Articles of Association specifies that “The EITI Chair shall seek to foster collaborative relationships between EITI stakeholders.”
Your intervention in the debates that take place between and within constituencies, and adopting a stance in favour of one specific group or another, is a genuine hindrance to free debate and to the search for consensus among Board members. It creates a detrimental precedent that we hope will be avoided in future.
3. The publication of the letter on the EITI website.
On this issue, we would like to note that we do not understand to what end the letter was made public when it was only addressed to a few people.
We hope that you will take all necessary measures to allow for a harmonious debate at the next Board meeting. We would also appreciate if our letter, like yours, would be published on the EITI website. In addition to that, it will be made available to our coalition members on the PWYP-International website.
To conclude, we would like to re-emphasise our firm commitment towards reinforcing the EITI as a thriving initiative in Africa, based on strong national ownership and on the full implementation of the EITI Principles and Standard.
In the spirit of true collaboration.
Jean Claude KATENDE