Although the rules of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) include safeguards to protect civil society’s meaningful participation in the initiative, in many EITI-implementing countries, natural resource governance activists continue to risk persecution, intimidation, and harassment for their EITI-related work, without recourse to trustworthy mechanisms to report these breaches.
The report published today, EITI Accountability and Grievance Mechanisms: Perspectives from Civil Society and Natural Resource Governance Advocates details discussions from an August 2016 workshop on accountability gaps at EITI that brought together leading human rights and accountability mechanism experts, civil society representatives from the EITI International Board, and natural resource governance advocates from EITI countries. While the workshop focused on risks facing civil society, participants intended for the discussion to serve as a starting point for a broader dialogue with other EITI constituents who share concerns about accountability.
At the workshop, civil society advocates with direct experience of implementing EITI in their respective countries identified gaps in EITI’s accountability mechanisms based on first-hand experience. Participants then discussed examples of accountability mechanisms used in other initiatives and institutions, including the International Finance Corporation Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil complaints system, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development complaints mechanism, the World Bank Inspection Panel, the Asian Development Bank Accountability Mechanism, and the Fair Labor Association Third Party Complaint Process.
The workshop report highlights subsequent discussions, which culminated in design sessions to develop proposals for how EITI could close accountability gaps. Over the course of the two-day workshop, participants reported that:
- Threats to individuals and civic space are not being comprehensively detected by the EITI validation system, while the initiative lacks trusted processes for raising civic space-related complaints;
- EITI Board committees, such as the Rapid Response Committee, are underutilized and largely unknown outside of the EITI Board, and are not seen as effective tools for addressing either time-sensitive breaches of the EITI Standard or threats to civil society;
- Any new or reformed grievance or accountability mechanism should be designed to ensure that complainants are not exposed to further risk, while enabling and empowering stakeholders to raise concerns with EITI; and
- Any new or reformed processes must draw on good practice and lessons learned from other initiatives, which are presented in summarized form in the report.
Notably, some participants favored modifying existing EITI processes such as the Rapid Response Committee and improving the validation process to address accountability gaps, while others in the group believed these processes, by themselves, could not be sufficient to address harms experienced by individuals. As a result of these workshop discussions, participants agreed upon three mutually-reinforcing proposals for improving EITI’s accountability mechanisms:
- Prevention Mechanism – Establishing a system of national-level civil society monitors who report to a new Working Group on Civil Society Protection. The working group would proactively monitor the condition of civil society in EITI-implementing countries and respond to or provide feedback on in-country developments that threaten civic space and undermine the EITI Civil Society Protocol, which is part of the EITI Standard.
- Reforming Existing Oversight and Outreach Mechanisms – Strengthening existing EITI bodies and processes with a focus on updating the member application and validation processes, as well as the Rapid Response Committee, to better address civil society-specific needs and provide civil society protections.
- Remediation Mechanism – Developing a non-judicial complaints-filing process designed to address stakeholder grievances related to egregious breaches of the Civil Society Protocol such as rights violations resulting from natural resource governance advocacy.
The workshop was facilitated by Shape the Law, with assistance from MSI Integrity and financial support from the Open Society Foundations.