On behalf of the State Department, and as the U.S. representative at the international EITI Board, I would like to give a very warm welcome to you as the members and alternates of the new USEITI Advisory Committee. Your inaugural meeting today represents a huge milestone for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and for progress towards the vision the President put forward in September 2011 when he declared the United States would pursue full participation in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative as an example to the rest of the world.
The collaborative process you begin together this morning is a valuable public service. Your efforts will bring further sunshine to help Americans better understand how revenues are collected from the extraction of our country’s natural resources. Your work here highlights as well a sense Americans have long shared, i.e., that no matter how well we’re doing, we can do better.
Your work to implement the EITI here in the United States bolsters too our efforts to support and advance good governance abroad. The U.S. commitment to implement EITI at home sends the strong signal to our international partners that this transparency initiative is valuable for countries at all levels of development, and in all regions. The United States has long supported transparency as a critical component for sound governance of a country’s extractive sector. Such transparency, such good governance, these are essential for helping ensure the people of a country can see the benefits of their country’s natural resources. Now when our diplomats go out and talk about the importance of transparency and accountability in avoiding the resource curse, their words are backed by the United States’ own domestic decision to take on the disciplines inherent in EITI implementation. We will be the second OECD country, and the largest oil producer by far, to implement the EITI.
I want to congratulate and deeply thank our colleagues from the U.S. Department of the Interior for the incredible effort that went into taking us this far, led by Assistant Secretary Rhea Suh and her team. Not only did they take on this task with tremendous efficiency and dedication, but with great enthusiasm and an understanding of the importance of the work they were undertaking.
The State Department has been closely involved with the EITI for many years because of the United States’ role as a donor and through our seat on the international EITI Board, and through our role in advocating for human rights, good governance, sound business practices, and increased prosperity. And it is from this perspective that we have seen the EITI’s multi-stakeholder process at work in many different countries, from Afghanistan to Norway to Zambia, and have seen what EITI can do, including in terms of helping fight corruption and building an attractive business climate as well as in strengthening governance structures.
In working with EITI around the world, we have seen the value of bringing together diverse constituencies and interests. We have seen the different elements, who certainly might have disagreements, come together and find ways ahead, building on mutual good faith, and our American vision of responsible, transparent, and accountable government. As you carry out your work together in the multi-stakeholder group, you will reinforce this sense and provide an example for how people with different perspectives and with diverse sets of expertise, insights, and connections to communities and businesses can come together to build a success and improve things for the people of their country.
In that spirit, I would like to share a greeting from the head of the EITI’s International Secretariat, Jonas Moberg:
“Thank you for the opportunity to address your inaugural meeting. This is an exciting step for the EITI in the United States, and an important development for the EITI internationally.
I commend the U.S. government’s leadership in promoting transparency and openness, at home and abroad. I am in little doubt that implemented well, the EITI in the U.S. can contribute towards improved natural resource governance. It can contribute to the rebuilding of trust in offshore activities, towards natural resource governance without corruption and with greater certainty about companies paying the taxes and royalties they should be paying. An added bonus for the rest of us is that you send a clear global leadership message, demonstrating a willingness to practice what you preach. This global message is particularly important if we are to work together with the world’s large growing economies on improved natural resource governance.
Thirty seven countries are implementing the EITI, and so you are joining a global community of multi-stakeholder groups that are working on these issues. Each country and indeed each stakeholder comes to the EITI with different objectives and expectations. The multi-stakeholder group’s function is to work openly and collaboratively to develop an EITI process that meets stakeholder’s demands for timely, comprehensive and reliable information. These groups are also charged with exploring opportunities to ensure that this information increases the quality of public debate. The interest around the world in what you are doing is considerable.
Along the way there are some key decisions that need to be taken: on how the MSG will function, the scope of the reporting, the government and private sector entities that should participate, defining materiality and agreeing how much detailed information should be disclosed. Each step will bring challenges, but international experience shows that none of these are insurmountable where stakeholders maintain a spirit of respectful and constructive dialogue.
As the EITI approaches its tenth birthday, the EITI Board is exploring changes to the EITI Standard that will reinforce the role of the multi-stakeholder group in overseeing EITI implementation. MSGs around the world are already developing innovative approaches to enhance transparency and accountability beyond revenue transparency. Our expectation is that the new EITI standard will further incentivise and recognise countries that seize the opportunities to ensure that their EITI process is fit for purpose and adds value.
The international EITI community looks forward to hearing more about how you plan to take the EITI forward. I hope your first meeting is success, and that the U.S. will soon be in position to apply for EITI candidate status. The EITI Board and International Secretariat stand ready to support your efforts.
EITI International Secretariat”