Iraqi Civil Society Joins Government-Led Transparency Initiative

By Ali Al-Mawlawi, Iraqi Institute for Economic Reform

The Iraqi Ministry of Oil hosted a symposium on Sunday as part of efforts to include Iraqi civil society organizations in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The event was organized by the head of the Iraqi EITI, Alaa Mohie El-Deen, and brought together NGO’s nationwide, including representatives from the Kurdistan region and southern provinces.

The EITI is a global standard for transparency in the oil, gas and mining industries that seeks to reconcile payments made by resource companies to governments. An independent validation process is overseen by a multi-stakeholder group comprising government, private sector and civil society representatives. Iraq’s 16-member committee includes senior officials from the oil, finance and industry ministries, the Integrity Commission, the Supreme Board of Audit and a member of the Iraqi parliament. Shell, Exxon Mobil and CNPC were also chosen to represent the international oil companies following a workshop held in Dubai last June and Iraq’s unions and professional guilds are represented by the journalists, accountants and lawyers unions.

Sunday’s event sought to introduce civil society activists to the EITI process and to establish a mechanism for selecting Iraqi NGO’s to join the multi-stakeholder committee. Mr Mohie El-Deen explained that Iraq’s implementation of the EITI was only the first step towards creating an open and transparent oil industry. Further efforts are required to enhance public accountability, including full disclosure of federal budget allocations and revenue sharing legislation.

A supporting committee will now be formed consisting of Iraqi NGO’s that are engaged in transparency and anti-corruption work. Three organizations will then be selected to work on the multi-stakeholder group, which will be tasked with monitoring and evaluating the EITI process.

Iraq was officially accepted by the EITI as a candidate country in February this year after Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki expressed the Iraqi government’s interest in joining the process. With Yemen being the only other country in the Middle East to gain candidacy in the initiative, Iraq is set to become the largest oil producing country to implement the EITI. It now has less than two years to fulfil the validation criteria, which include ensuring that payments made by international companies to the government are independently audited according to international standards.

Currently, only Azerbaijan and Liberia are EITI-complaint, with Peru expected to become the third shortly. If Iraq is successful in implementing the EITI, it could create pressure on other oil-rich countries in the Middle East to open up their industries to public scrutiny.

Ali Al-Mawlawi,
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