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Getting the Most Out of Extractive Industries Transparency: How a More Explicit Treatment of Political Considerations Could Strengthen the Impact of Transparency Efforts

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Document pages: 18 pages

Abstract: The extractive industries (EI) are at a critical juncture. A period of significant commodity price volatility is intersecting with the global energy transition and, more recently, the major social, political, and economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic – a combination of forces creating both uncertainty and potentially major shifts in how EI are developed and governed. As EI governance practitioners grapple with these shifts, and the challenges and opportunities they bring, transparency will be an essential tool. However, practitioners need to think—and work—more politically as they develop and deploy this tool moving forward to make the most of its potential.This discussion piece is one aggregation of perspectives, ideas, and questions coming out of several years of expert consultations, meetings, and interviews undertaken as part of the Executive Session on the Politics of Extractive Industries convened by the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment. The piece focuses on the ways in which political realities can shape the efficacy and impact of efforts to advance various goals through transparency of extractive industries (EI transparency). The authors suggest that more systematic integration of political considerations into the design and implementation of these efforts may minimize risks of “zombie transparency,” and reinforce ultimate positive impacts. It should help those seeking to use EI data for specific purposes, such as to reduce corruption and enhance benefit sharing; unpack monolithic terms; account for incentives along the transparency lifecycle; and realize yet more of the potential of information disclosures. This is an introductory piece intended to catalyze and provoke critical thinking, debate, further investigation, and, ultimately, practical experimentation. It will be accompanied by a series of blog posts authored by different members of the Executive Session and other EI experts to explore some of the themes touched on below in greater detail, e.g. through country- or sector-specific lenses.

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