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Transparency in the Extractive Industries: Getting serious about politics to get serious about impact

Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment

For the last 20 years, fostering greater transparency in the historically opaque extractive industries has been a governance priority in the sector. It is now time to build on the progress made and unlock greater gains from it. Achieving this requires getting serious about politics.

The extractive industries (EI) are at a critical juncture, confronted with major contextual upheaval. 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.

Work on EI transparency has achieved important successes over the last two decades. For example, significant commitments to disclosure have been secured, the volume of publicly available information about critical activities has increased considerably, and norms around certain information being in the public domain have been established. There is also a growing library of use cases for this information. However, technical and political factors have–and continue to–limit the full range of benefits that can flow from data disclosures. Unlocking the potential of this critical work will require identifying and reckoning with these factors head-on.

This brief is part of the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment's PLUS Politics series, a multi-part series of briefs from CCSI that aims to encourage practitioners to apply a more systematic political lens to their work on governance in the extractive industries.

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Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment
Published Here
April 13, 2021