The 4th EITI Global Conference in Doha, Qatar, on 16-18 February marked an historic moment for the EITI, with over 500 participants from 80 countries, 70 speakers, and with countless meetings taking place on the sidelines. The Conference marked the EITI's transformation from a start-up initiative to a global transparency standard. Furthermore, Azerbaijan has become the first country to achieve Compliant status. The level of interest and participation in the EITI continues to expand with pledges from new companies and countries to support the initiative, testifying to the growing consensus that the EITI yields genuine benefits in terms of improved financial management, accountability and business climate. The EITI Progress Report for 2007-2009 was presented to the Conference outlining the developments of the initiative since the last Conference.
Reflecting a widespread conclusion at the Conference, the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, highlighted in her opening statement that without strong political will in implementing countries, no EITI programme can be expected to succeed.
There was a general consensus at the conference among stakeholders that the current global economic downturn makes the EITI more important than ever. The steep reduction in international prices for oil, gas, metals and minerals translates into a sharp decline in government revenues in commodity dependent economies. The fundamental changes taking place in the international investment climate reinforce the need for transparency, as companies and investors have become increasingly risk-averse. As George Soros asserted, countries implementing the EITI have a competitive advantage over those outside the initiative in attracting greater investment in the current global climate. The high standards of accounting and reporting inherent in the EITI help to ensure greater openness and a more level playing field in the business environment. Royal Dutch Shell CEO, Jeroen van der Veer, also reminded us why the EITI is in the interests of businesses who want to behave transparently and honestly.
Norway's recent EITI candidacy as the first OECD country to implement the EITI is, together with last year's UN General Assembly resolution backing the EITI, an important step in widening the implementation of the EITI. There is hope that other developed and emerging economies will follow Norway's example in helping to boost the profile and legitimacy of the initiative.
I conclude with a broader reflection on the EITI. The current financial and economic crisis is ultimately one of governance, or lack thereof. At times, smarter regulations and improved government oversight is clearly required. This is not, however, the only way to improve governance. I believe that all of the statements at our Global Conference and in the Progress Report 2007-2009 confirm that a multi-stakeholder coalition like ours can strengthen the governance fabric. Let us therefore make sure that we continue to ensure that natural resource extraction really does lead to benefits for the citizens to whom the resources after all belong. Let us also make sure that we learn from the impact of the EITI when seeking to address the broader challenges of good governance.
You will find a list of some of the highlights from the Conference on this page.
Dr Peter Eigen
Chairman of the EITI
This letter also can be downloaded as a pdf.