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Members of Congress Urge Secretary Rice to Fully Support the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

WASHINGTON – oday, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), along with Helsinki Commissioners Senator Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT), Senator Russell D. Feingold (D-WI), Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR), and Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis (D-CA) as well as Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), Congresswoman Gwen S. Moore (D-WI) and Congresswoman Diane Watson (D-CA), sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, expressing strong support for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and urging the Bush Administration to take concrete steps to make certain that the process of EITI validation is credible and effective. In particular the Members of Congress encourage the Secretary of State to take the following steps. (Please find below a copy of the letter)

· Designate a high-level U.S. representative to the EITI Board; and

· Ensure that the EITI implementation criteria are adhered to strictly during the forthcoming validation exercise. Specifically, no country should be allowed to attain the status of “EITI candidate” or “EITI compliant” unless the criteria have been fully met. To do otherwise would not only undermine the credibility of the process but would also discount the progress made by countries like Nigeria and Azerbaijan.

In August, Hastings introduced an amendment that passed the House of Representatives unanimously as part of the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 3221), which has now been placed on the Senate legislative calendar for consideration. The amendment calls on the United States to further efforts regarding global energy security and promotes democratic development in resource-rich foreign countries. Furthermore, the amendment requires that the U.S. Secretary of State submit an annual report to Congress on the progress made in promoting transparency, including detailed descriptions of U.S. participation in the EITI to deter kleptocracy and promote transparency in the international energy market. The Hastings amendment reflects the culmination of a series of hearings on energy security held by the U.S. Helsinki Commission including, “Pipeline Politics: Achieving Energy Security in the OSCE Region,” on June 26, 2007 and “Energy and Democracy: Oil and Water?” on July 23, 2007.

About EITI: The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) supports improved governance in resource-rich countries through the verification and full publication of company payments and government revenues from oil, gas, and mining. The Initiative works to build multi-stakeholder partnerships in developing countries in order to increase the accountability of governments.

September 19, 2007

The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Rice:

We write to express our support for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and to urge the Administration to take concrete steps to ensure that the process of EITI validation is credible and effective.

Five years after its start, EITI has become an important international mechanism to combat corruption in the oil, gas, and mining sectors. It has facilitated the publication of data on energy revenue payments for the first time ever in Nigeria, Azerbaijan, and several other countries. This process of transparency paves the way for citizens of resource rich countries to hold their governments accountable for this key source of revenue. Helping countries such as Nigeria combat corruption and poverty is not only beneficial for the citizens of those nations, but also contributes to U.S. energy security.

On September 27, the EITI board will meet to establish the process of validation for EITI implementation. This meeting is one of the first critical tests of the integrity of the EITI process. Although 26 countries have committed to EITI verbally, many of these countries have yet to meet the basic entry criteria to become a candidate under the Initiative. The board’s decision on whether or not to remove countries that have not conformed to EITI standards from the EITI list will greatly impact the credibility of the EITI program and its future success.

We urge the United States to redouble its efforts to ensure the validation process is credible. Specifically, we encourage you to take the following steps:

1. Designate a high-level U.S. representative (at least at the level of Assistant Secretary) to the EITI Board; and

2. Ensure that the EITI implementation criteria are adhered to strictly during the forthcoming validation exercise. No country should be allowed to attain the status of “EITI candidate” or “EITI compliant” unless the criteria have been fully met. To do otherwise would not only undermine the credibility of the process but would also discount the progress made by countries like Nigeria and Azerbaijan.

Looking beyond the board meeting, we ask that the United States offer increased assistance to promising candidate countries to aid them in implementing EITI properly and obtaining, in due course, the status of “EITI compliant.” One important aspect of that assistance is building the capacity of civil society groups in EITI implementing countries that can interpret EITI revenue data and ensure real accountability in the energy sector. This includes actively supporting the protection of civil society in resource rich countries, including taking concrete diplomatic action when these civil society members, such as EITI board members or Publish What You Pay campaigners, are arrested.

The upcoming EITI board meeting is a critical juncture in the future of EITI and we urge the Administration to use its position on the board to ensure the integrity of the EITI validation process. Thank you for your work in this important aspect of U.S. energy security.
 

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