Opening Extractives: Registering the Beneficial Owners of Oil, Gas and Mining Companies.

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Thom Townsend and Mark Robinson · Apr 2020

OpenOwnership, the world’s leading experts on beneficial ownership transparency, and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), the global standard for the good governance of oil, gas and mining, are teaming up to tackle corruption and open up ownership in the extractives sector.

Challenges and opportunities

It is no secret that anonymous companies make it harder to address money laundering and corruption. They enable corrupt and criminal actors to hide behind a chain of companies registered in multiple jurisdictions. Without beneficial ownership disclosure, it is difficult to understand the flow of capital and to know who controls companies. This is particularly true for the oil, gas and mining industries, where citizens of resource-rich countries have often been left footing the bill. Two recent cases – the LuandaLeaks and 1MDB scandals – provide reminders of how revenues can be siphoned out of resource-rich countries using opaque company structures.

Due to the magnitude of the challenge and with civil society pushing for more transparency, corporate and government commitment to ownership disclosures is on the rise. In total, 90 countries have committed to beneficial ownership transparency globally in some form. Of these 53 implement the 2019 EITI Standard which requires extractive companies to name their beneficial owners. Myanmar, Nigeria, the UK and Ukraine have already started disclosing beneficial ownership data through registers. Companies too, such as BHP and Rio Tinto, have either made statements supporting beneficial ownership transparency or made disclosures. These government and industry champions know that equipping countries with beneficial ownership data helps ensure natural resource wealth will help curb corruption, ultimately benefiting all citizens.

Why now, why us?

Despite the evident need, beneficial ownership transparency reform remains new territory for many governments that are already overburdened and daunted by the technicalities. In response, OpenOwnership and the EITI are joining forces to deliver beneficial ownership transparency reforms at scale in the extractives sector. Our programme will see us working intensely with 10-12 countries that are committed to reform by providing hands-on technical assistance to make ownership data open and accessible. We will widely disseminate the lessons learned to help make beneficial ownership transparency in the extractives sector a reality within five years.

Our two organisations are uniquely positioned to make this happen. The EITI enhances and enables OpenOwnership’s technical ability to support implementation of beneficial ownership registers going beyond the extractive industries. OpenOwnership and the EITI have been working together since 2016 to support implementation of beneficial ownership transparency at the national and global level. We are already working together to provide support to many of the 50+ EITI countries. This programme marks a deepening in our collaboration to deliver beneficial ownership transparency to the extractive sector, as a first step to economy-wide disclosures.

Working together

Our organisations are committed to transparency, consultative design and inclusive development. These principles will guide us as we produce useful, quality data and systems that all citizens can access. Together with our partners, we will build capacity in and outside of government to analyse and use beneficial ownership data.

We recognise that we cannot accomplish these ambitious objectives alone. We will leverage our networks and transparency champions to ensure commitment and momentum is sustained. In developing effective disclosure frameworks, our countries will have the support from our pooled resources, staff and skills, each step of the way. Our collaboration will help both OpenOwnership and EITI gain new insights, share knowledge, and develop innovative tools. As we document our impact, we will adjust our strategy and feed results to the wider community. To this end, we will build on our existing partnerships with Open Government Partnership (OGP), Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), Transparency International’s Mining for Sustainable Development (M4SD) program, The B Team, BHP Foundation, industry champions and the Beneficial Ownership Leadership Group.

The extractive industries and resource-rich governments are among the first to tackle sector-wide beneficial ownership transparency. We commit to helping them achieve their goal. This is just the start.

Mark is the Executive Director of the EITI since 2018, leading the organisation’s engagement on extractives transparency and managing the International Secretariat. He is a political scientist with over 30 years of international leadership experience in governance, climate and international development, spanning the worlds of policy-making, research and philanthropy.

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