Registration to PWYP Africa Conference 2021

Adapting for resilience and collaborating for impact on natural resource governance

24 and 25 March

The 2021 PWYP Africa Conference will consider how the resource governance movement can build resilience and collaborate for impact in Africa, in the face of big global challenges like the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and energy transition, and threats on civic space.

The conference, held every three years, is the principal space for PWYP members, along with the wider natural resource governance movement in Africa, to strategise, discuss and exchange experiences, and to learn from one another.

pictures of attendees at the PWYP Africa Conference

The conference will be the first Africa-wide PWYP gathering since the adoption of the five year global Strategy, Vision 2025 – A people-centred agenda for the extractive sector. It will also be the first PWYP Africa Conference to be held virtually, a necessary measure resulting from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Each session will feature a panel discussion/presentation from speakers for 45 minutes, followed by a 30 minute question and answer session. All sessions will be recorded and made available online following the event.

Please note that by registering for this event you are committing to abide by the PWYP code of conduct.

Agenda

Download a PDF of the Africa Conference 2021 Day 1 and 2 Agenda

Statement: Civil society crackdown undermines Equatorial Guinea’s ongoing efforts to re-join EITI

Statement on Equatorial Guinea – Suspension of CEID – Statement

PWYP is extremely concerned about the suspension of a leading independent civil society organisation, Centro de Estudios e Iniciativas para el Desarrollo (CEID), in Equatorial Guinea by the Minister of Interior who is also the country’s first Vice Prime Minister. Under an order issued by the Minister of Interior, CEID must halt all activities until further notice, including its important actions towards supporting the country’s attempts to re-join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Guaranteeing a civic space in which CSOs can operate freely is a requirement that needs to be met by any aspiring EITI country. Hence, the government’s decision to suspend CEID is incompatible with Equatorial Guinea’s ambition to re-join the initiative.

The Ministry of Interior and Local Corporations, which is the regulatory body for civil society organisations in Equatorial Guinea, has recently decided to suspend CEID based what the Ministry has described as comments inciting young people to violence and civil disobedience at a Youth Forum at the end of January in Bata. Inconsistent and unsubstantiated, these accusations are illustrative of the government’s constant crackdown on independent voices in the run-up to the Presidential elections, planned for April 2016. In Equatorial Guinea, CSOs must be registered with the Ministry to operate legally, so the suspension means that CEID is no longer properly registered, making its operations illegal. In order to comply with the suspension order, CEID has to cease all its activities and close down its office space, which has been the only meeting space available for civil society actors in Bata, the largest city in the country.

In an already restrictive environment as the one in Equatorial Guinea, this incident will have serious implications for civil society at large. Through training and by actively facilitating the establishment of coordination networks, CEID has played a crucial role in supporting independent local civil society actors. In early 2015, CEID was elected as the civil society representative to the multi-stakeholder group (MSG) which is the coordinating body of the EITI in Equatorial Guinea.

CEID’s suspension will therefore particularly affect the country’s ongoing efforts to re-join the EITI. After having been delisted from the initiative in 2010 amid concerns about the government’s failure to facilitate genuine civil society participation in the national EITI process, Equatorial Guinea announced mid-2014 that it intended to seek admission again. Since then, and under the leadership of the Minister of Mines, the government has been working with various actors to prepare the steps necessary to seek readmission. Building on its expertise from having been involved previously in the EITI, CEID has been spearheading civil society’s engagement in these preparation activities. This has included raising awareness about the EITI among wider civil society in Equatorial Guinea, organising a series of capacity building workshops over the course of 2015, assisting with the elections of civil society representatives to the local multi-stakeholder group and coordinating civil society positions on matters relating to the EITI. Without their legal registration, CEID will have to withdraw from all those activities, depriving the government of a key civil society interlocutor, confirming wider concerns about civil society actors’ ability to participate freely in the EITI in Equatorial Guinea. CEID’s suspension goes directly against the EITI Standard which requires any country wanting to become a member to work constructively and openly with the private sector and with civil society actors, ensuring that they benefit from an adequate enabling environment. Under these circumstances, Equatorial Guinea’s eligibility for EITI membership is highly problematic.

PWYP urges the Ministry of Interior to lift CEID’s suspension without delay as a first step towards welcoming civil society as equal partner to the negotiating table. PWYP further asks that the Minister of Mines, in his capacity as Head of the EITI multi-stakeholder group, implements reforms to remove all obstacles to civil society’s full, active and effective participation in the EITI, in line with the Civil Society Protocol adopted by the EITI in 2015 which defines how EITI rules on civil society participation are to be interpreted, including for countries seeking admission to the initiative.

Equatorial Guinea and EITI candidacy, slow but steady progress?

Far from the buoyant football stadiums hosting the Africa Cup of Nations, civil society groups gathered in Equatorial Guinea’s main cities, Malabo and Bata, to elect their representatives to the local EITI decision making body. PWYP was present during those unprecedented elections and reports back.

The morning was long – and sweaty. The civil society activists that gathered that Saturday to elect their representatives had the privilege of being hosted by the Delegation of the Ministry of Mines, Industry and Energy but had to go without air conditioning as the room came without electricity. Indeed Equatorial Guinea is known for its many paradoxes, notably the paradox of plenty. Despite its natural riches Equatorial Guinea fails to provide basic services – such as running water, a functioning health or education system, reliable infrastructure and others – to its citizens. Poor governance of oil revenues, which make up to 90% of the national budget, has led to little development for the 740 000 citizens who live in Equatorial Guinea.

It is in this context that international actors such as the World Bank, transnational oil companies including Exxon Mobil and Hess Corporation, as well as members of the PWYP coalition, have called on the government to implement the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) as a first step towards a more accountable governance of oil resources in Equatorial Guinea. After announcing its intention to join the EITI in 2006, Equatorial Guinea effectively implemented the EITI between 2008 and 2010. But in April 2010, the EITI International Board decided that the country was not meeting the requirements, particular with regards to ensuring the free participation of local civil society. When delisting Equatorial Guinea that year, the international Board encouraged the government to re-apply as quickly as possible. It took a few years but the Ministry of Mines, Industry and Energy has been taking the lead over the past months in preparing the country to re-apply and a series of informative workshops were organised in Malabo and Bata last autumn.

The next step was the establishment of the local multistakeholder group (MSG), which would be responsible for the implementation of the EITI at the national level. Representatives from extractive companies, state agencies involved in the EITI implementation and from local civil society, all have an equal say in the decision-making process. Yet, while in 2008, the government unilaterally nominated civil society representatives to sit on the MSG in Equatorial Guinea, it was clear that this approach would not be an option in 2014. Not only did the rules of the EITI change in 2013 with the adoption of the new Standard, which proscribes any government interference in the selection process of civil society and company representatives to the MSG; local civil society groups have also coalesced in 2011 to form a coordinated network, the Coordinadora, thereby forming a united front. This is how the member organisations of the Coordinadora refused to recognise the government appointed civil society representatives in 2012 and succeeded in obtaining the cancellation of the initial nomination, in favour of an open and independent selection process.

The latter was carried out by the coordinating entities of the Coordinadora. The EITI workshops, to which many CSOs were convened, were used as an opportunity to consult on selection criteria and process. Seven criteria, including having EquatorGuinean citizenship, having received training on EITI or not holding a high position within an extractive company or the state administration, were collectively approved and a call for application was broadcasted on national television and radio. Turn-out in Malabo and Bata was good with a total of approximately 50 people, representing around 30 different organisations. Five civil society representatives were chosen in each city and the ten selected representatives will have the opportunity to vote and choose who amongst them will have a full and alternate position.

The ability to hold independent elections represented a victory for local civil society and was perceived as important progress towards ensuring a free, effective and independent civil society participation in the EITI, which is still seen as the key sticking point of a renewed candidature.

Indeed civil society activists face significant legal and practical obstacles to being able to operate independently in Equatorial Guinea. Gatherings of more than ten people require obtaining official permission, as does work with local communities for instance. Availability of funding is very scarce – while an official support fund worth millions of dollars does exist, an opaque management does not allow to track how those funds are being allocated and for what purposes. Moreover, foreign funding remains officially banned. Equally, if not more worrying are the arbitrary detentions and retributions to individuals who dare speak up against the regime. In April 2010 Alfredo Okenve voiced concern at a conference in Washington about how the government was handling its oil wealth, as a result he was immediately sacked from his university post. These types of retributions have had a chilling effect on the freedom of expression in a country where state-controlled media are almost the only source of information.

Publish What You Pay welcomes the encouraging but small strides made by the Ministry of Mines towards preparing for renewed EITI membership. Yet it urges the government to implement more substantial reforms to allow for an environment in which civil society can fully and actively contribute to the EITI process.