While treaties, laws and other legal documents defining the relationship between governments and private companies are public, contracts between governments and oil, gas and mining companies are often shrouded in secrecy. They are usually unavailable to citizens in the countries where mining and drilling take place, and they often contain confidentiality clauses that explicitly limit public access.

There is a growing international call to make the terms of industry contracts publicly available, and establish new norms for what deal information is and is not disclosed. A small but growing number of countries has responded to this pressing need by publishing contracts, including Liberia, Timor Leste and Ghana. But in far too many places opacity remains the norm.

Contract transparency is essential to ensuring that all parties benefit from these industries. Disclosure of terms is necessary for effective government management of natural resources and allows citizens to ensure that companies fulfill their environmental and social commitments.