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Commissioners Draw Link between Energy Security and Human Rights

WASHINGTON–Leaders of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today marked Earth Day by underscoring the need for greater transparency in the international energy sector and calling for better disclosure of payments made to foreign governments for their natural resources.

Commissioners praised the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) as a model for addressing the challenges seen when governments receive a windfall of revenue from their resources but fail to pass along that benefit to their citizens. (See a video about energy security here.)

“The transparency initiative has brought us much progress in terms of creating a global standard for transparency, but revenue transparency is just one step in the process. The ultimate goal is less corruption and better governance,” said Commission Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD).

“A lack of transparency within governments and the energy sector poses a threat to energy exports and the ability of governments to properly manage revenue for their citizens,” said Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL). “These governments are not accountable to their citizens and have taken advantage of national resources in pursuit of the self-interest of a few corrupt leaders.”

Chairman Cardin’s bipartisan Energy Security Through Transparency (ESTT) Act now pending in the Senate would require companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges to disclose in regular SEC filings their extractive payments to foreign governments for oil, gas and mining. The bill would also commit the Department of Interior to disclose extractive payments received for resources derived from federal lands, and it would call on the Administration to implement EITI in the United States. EITI currently has more than 25 implementing countries.

Corruption not only serves as a source of volatility in global energy markets, but also contributes to a degradation of human rights. Today’s hearing — “The Link between Revenue Transparency and Human Rights” —focused on programs that support revenue transparency and promote human rights in resource-rich countries. Commissioners assessed the role civil society plays in these programs, and whether or not increased transparency of payments will translate into concrete improvements in the implementing countries.

The Commission heard testimonies from Daniel Baer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; Max Bokayev, chairman of the Kazakhstan-based NGO “Arlan”; Ian Gary, Senior Policy Advisor for Extractive Industries at Oxfam America; and Anthony Richter, Chairman of the Governing Board of the Revenue Watch Institute.

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