Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Keynote Remarks -Ambassador Deborah R Malac, USA Ambassador to Liberia @ "Empowering the Media to Play Active Watchdog Role over Mining, Oil & Gas Revenue and Resources in Liberia”


Keynote Remarks for Ambassador Malac

ILab-Liberia (Big Star Building: 20th Street & Payne Avenue)

September 30, 2013 at 9:00AM


Event:  "Empowering the Media to Play Active Watchdog Role over Mining, Oil, and Gas Revenue and Resources in Liberia"



Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today about my country's commitment to and experience in promoting good governance and transparency in the extractive industries. 




First, let me applaud all of you for taking part in this media training workshop. Throughout my first year here, I have been impressed by the incredible energy of the Liberian media. 


Information is power.  By choosing careers in journalism, you have embraced the admirable responsibility of sharing information to help empower the Liberian people.


The press has an extremely important role to play in promoting good governance and responsible natural resource management.  Thorough and thoughtful media coverage of the extractive industries is important to raise public awareness and facilitate constructive discussions about the desired path forward.


Incomplete or inaccurate reporting of developments in these sensitive sectors can sometimes inadvertently inflame tensions and complicate reaching consensus.  Your participation here today demonstrates that you understand the importance of "getting it right." 


Why is it so important to focus on extractive industries like mining, oil, and gas?


Let me share a few points to help frame the conversation.


Governance Challenges:  Revenues from the oil, gas, and mineral sectors are notoriously difficult for governments to manage effectively, transparently, and inclusively.  Lack of transparency can lead to undesirable macroeconomic impacts like currency appreciation and commodity price fluctuations.  Likewise, it can impact the political economy by encouraging rent-seeking behaviors and corruption, and making it difficult for populations to hold their governments accountable.


The scale of the problem:  The Africa Progress Panel estimates that Africa loses more every year in illicit outflows ($63.4 billion) than it receives in aid and foreign direct investment combined ($62.2 billion).  Global Witness estimates that in 2010 the value of oil, gas, and minerals exported from Africa were nearly 7 times the value of international aid received.


Public Resources should provide public benefit:  Among Africa's "traditional" oil and gas producers, large percentages of the population are still living on under $2 per day including: Angola (66.3%), Cameroon (32.1%), Chad (81.7%), Nigeria (45.35%).


This is inexcusable.


The need here is especially great:  The UNDP Human Development Index Ranks Liberia at 174 out of 187 countries in terms of life expectancy, education and income. 


As an emerging producer in the extractive industries, Liberia has an opportunity to ensure that the natural resource revenues are managed for the benefit of its people.


The United States Government has put good governance and transparency right at the center of the work that we do in diplomacy and development.  It is in our shared interest to reduce poverty and spark economic growth around the world -- this will create greater security, prosperity, and even peace.


And we know that corruption and the lack of transparency eats away like a cancer at the trust people should have in their government, and at the potential for broad-based, sustainable, inclusive growth.


Corruption stifles entrepreneurship, and siphons funding away from critical services.  Poor fiscal transparency makes it impossible to hold governments accountable. And if these problems go on long enough, if they run deep enough, they literally can and have been shaking societies to the core.  Liberia's own history shows this to be true.


But how do we produce concrete changes in people's lives? 


Global transparency and governance initiatives play a vital role in helping countries – especially those with emerging energy sectors – ensure that extractive industry revenues are acquired transparently, in order to hold governments accountable for how they are spent.


The United States joined with several other countries to launch the Open Government Partnership in September 2011.  It is a network of support for government leaders and citizens working to bring more transparency and accountability to governments.  To become an official member of OGP, as Liberia did in April 2013, participating countries must embrace a high-level Open Government Declaration, deliver an action plan, and commit to independent reporting on their progress moving forward.


Active in Liberia and a few other select countries, the U.S. Department of State's Energy Governance and Capacity Initiative (EGCI), represents another part of the Obama Administration's effort to help bring the benefits of energy resources to the citizens of the countries where they are found.  EGCI's goals are country-specific, but the program broadly tries to ensure sound and transparent energy sector governance, primarily through government to government engagement.


An important partner in this effort is the U.S. Department of Treasury. By partnering with Treasury, EGCI is able to bring in government experts in revenue management and budget and financial accountability and facilitate the longer term partnerships and programs that we hope can facilitate sound financial oversight.


We recognize that our credibility depends on practicing what we preach, so we are trying to up our own game. In 2012, we announced our intention to follow Liberia's example and implement the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in the United States.  As many of you may know, this effort requires disclosure of payments made by companies to the government and of payments received by the government from companies. 


We salute Liberia's EITI implementation, which has been on the cutting edge by going above and beyond the basic requirements of the initiative, and encourage Liberia to continue to try to adopt the challenging procedures that will enable the process to deliver the transparency results to which the country aspires. 


Additionally, Section 1504 of the United States' Dodd-Frank Act set a new, higher standard for transparency in the extractive industries, and has been a valuable tool in promoting increased transparency around the world.  This legislation requires certain publicly traded extractives companies to report their payments to governments around the world.


We believe transparent reporting of payments made to governments for the commercial development of oil, natural gas, and minerals at the project level will empower investors to have a more complete view of the value of their holdings, while empowering citizens to hold their governments to account for the decisions made in the management of valuable oil, gas, and minerals resources and revenues.


The European Union and G8 leaders have followed the United States' lead and endorsed "project by project" reporting requirements.


Countries don't need to lower their standards to achieve economic development. We need to work together to raise the bar for everyone.  For any of these transparency initiatives to succeed in the long-term, however, we must work together to build responsive institutions.  Our focus is therefore not only on helping partner governments, but civil societies get the tools needed to hold their governments accountable.


Accurate information is a powerful tool to promote constructive change.  And that's where you come in.


Thank you again for the invitation to join you this morning.  I look forward to continuing to benefit from your thoughtful media coverage of these very important extractive industries!

International Institute for ICT Journalism

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