Guinea is Progressing with EITI, but Civil Society Must Catch Up

Country: Africa, Guinea
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Guinea’s President Alpha Conde has reiterated his commitment to good governance and accountability following his reelection in November 2015, and appointed a reform-minded minister of mines; there is now more than ever a space for Guinean citizens to contribute to the agenda of mining sector governance reforms.
 
But that potential mustn’t be squandered. Over the last five years, there has been a growing disconnect between the ambitious reform objectives set by the government, and the stagnation in the promising multi-stakeholder platform created by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). It is time for Guinean civil society organizations to shake up their own internal governance system and engage positively in a reform process that could improve the lives of millions of their fellow citizens.
 
In May 2013, after wide consultations in resource-rich countries participating in EITI, new standards to join EITI and remain compliant were agreed upon. These new standards go beyond the initial focus on revenue transparency and include contextual information about fiscal regimes, relevant laws and regulations; revenues not included in the national budget, total production volumes and the value of production; as well as a number of non-revenue disclosures such as license registries.
 
The implementation of these standards can make a big difference in the amount of information available to citizens to hold their governments accountable for the sound management of non-renewable public resources. But such an improvement in public accountability can only come from EITI implementation if there is an effective participation and representation of all stakeholders involved in a country’s EITI process.
 
While mining companies in Guinea are subject to increased transparency standards under the 2013 mining code, and the government has made progress in its mining sector governance agenda, civil society has lagged behind. The EITI platform represents the best opportunity for civil society to monitor government’s and companies’ activities, and to hold open discussions about how the mining sector can contribute to the country’s economic and social development. Yet the EITI international board of directors expressed a strong concern relative to the participation of civil society within the country’s EITI multi-stakeholder group, even as it declared Guinea to be in compliance with all the pre-2013 requirements.
 
Civil society participation in the multi-stakeholder group has been beset by issues. There is currently no mechanism by which civil society representatives can report to their constituencies—i.e., other civil society organizations in their coalition. There are no clear rules and procedures for the designation of civil society representatives and for the duration of their mandate. These representatives have therefore isolated themselves from their constituencies, raising questions about their legitimacy. This has resulted in disinterest in EITI on the part of many civil society actors and Guinean citizens more broadly, as well as lack of coordination among CSOs. A natural result is that Guinea EITI has been limited in it ability to push for and implement reforms.
 
But there are options for reinvigorating the participation of civil society in the Guinea EITI process. For instance, a code of conduct for civil society participation within the multi-stakeholder group should be developed and agreed using a participatory process that includes all civil society actors working on mining governance and other related issues. This has worked well for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where civil society has faced similar challenges. With its code of conduct DRC civil society has succeeded to structure and organize their participation to the EITI, and become a strong contributor to the process.
 
This code of conduct, to be subject to regular review by the same constituency, should address a comprehensive set of internal policies, procedures, and expectations for civil society participation in the implementation of EITI in Guinea. Critically, it should define the mandate and independence of civil society representatives. This would include clearly defining the selection process, the roles, and the responsibilities of these representatives, and creating a space to address grievances related to governance rules, or breaches of members’ responsibilities. The code of conduct should be made public, so that all Guinean citizens can be confident that the civil society movement is working in the interest of the people.
 
Well-coordinated engagement of the civil society constituency in the EITI is possible in Guinea, as is proven by the declaration produced after the publication of the 2013 EITI report by a group of civil society members of the multi-stakeholder group, as well as the EITI monitoring action plan drafted by a group of civil society actors and media in August 2015 (with NRGI support).
 
Eric Bisil is an Africa program officer for NRGI.