IIED urges G8 to see transparency as critical step on road to accountability

Transparency is one of David Cameron’s three big ideas for the world leaders to focus on when the UK hosts the annual G8 summit on 17-18 June 2013. The idea is that more transparency — for instance, in the deals that give companies access to land and natural resources in Africa, Asia and Latin America — can help to increase accountability, equity and sustainable development.
Press release, 14 June 2013

Drilling for oil in Mali.

Much secrecy surrounds these deals. They often create environmental and social problems for local communities or leave little in the way of benefits. The secret nature of the deals can encourage corruption and tax evasion. It excludes citizens from decisions about local natural resources. Rather than helping to tackle poverty, bad deals can impoverish local communities.

Over several years, IIED’s research has made big contributions to policy debates about transparency and governance in land acquisitions and extractive industries. IIED thinks that while the G8 can act to improve the current situation, the summit’s decision could also be weak and misguided.

IIED urges the G8 to see transparency not as a destination but as a critical step on the road to accountability and fair and sustainable development. Information alone is not enough. People need to be able to access and use the information and this is something the G8 leaders can promote and support in concrete ways.

Transparency in the extractive industries

Dr Emma Wilson, senior researcher at IIED, says: “A decade since the launch of the Publish What You Pay campaign and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), the question remains of how to make transparency work for sustainable development. G8 leaders need to see transparency not as an end-goal, but as the means to an end. Transparency needs to increase accountability in natural resource management.”

“Transparency needs to empower local people affected by resource extraction projects,” says Wilson. “Ultimately it must promote sustainable development based on effective management of those resources. New US and EU legislation – the US Dodd-Frank Act and the EU transparency and accounting directives – will enter into effect in the coming years. This means that a lot more information will become publicly available. People affected by resource extraction projects or land investments need to be able to access the information that the various transparency initiatives gather.”

“Online access to company and government reporting is a good start, but efforts need to be made to create compelling and easy-to-understand information for local populations, so that they can use it to hold industry, investors and government to account. Civil society organisations have a critical role to play in this, and donors and governments should support these efforts. An important new pathway for transparency initiatives is to make linkages with other environmental and social development initiatives, including government programmes, international campaigns and development programmes, and local civil society initiatives promoting protection of the environment, local livelihoods, human rights, and access to land and resources.”

Related IIED reports:

Transparency in large-scale land deals

Dr Lorenzo Cotula, senior researcher at IIED, says: “European and North American companies drive much of the land acquisition underway in lower-income countries, so G8 leaders have an important responsibility. Their interest in tackling large land deals is a step forward. But while transparency is crucial, it is not enough. Public decisions on agricultural investments such as large-scale land deals should reflect local aspirations about rural development. This requires effective arrangements and robust capacity for bottom-up deliberation on which investments to promote and how. It also requires public accountability throughout investment processes. And as competition for land and resources increases, it is critical that local people have strong rights and means of redress, which can balance and complement the effective protection available to foreign investors.”

Related IIED reports:

For more information or to request an interview, contact Simon Cullen: 
+44 7503 643332 or [email protected]