OPEN DATA : the extractive industries case-study
A spate of scandals hit the headlines in 2016, revealing the way in which some major companies have been involved in corruption, money laundering or tax evasion. The lack of corporate transparency that enables these practices needs to be tackled urgently. The huge amount lost by developing countries – essential to their development – could be used to fund basic services such as education and health, and be reinvested in setting up efficient public services.
Greater transparency is a first and necessary step in the fight against corruption. However, behind this concept of transparency, real issues of accessibility and data quality are at stake. Publishing data in itself is not enough if access is restricted and the format inoperable. To take the process of transparency all the way, this information needs to be published in an open data format making it comparable with other relevant data and easily presented. The exercise of publishing data is not an end in itself, and taking ownership of this data, analysing and disseminating it is also an important issue for improving corporate accountability.
However, open data is often not mandatory, and that is the case of the requirements imposed on extractive industries. In 2016, for the very first time, extractive industries registered or listed in France had to disclose their payments made to governments, project by project, in every country where they have extractive
activities. The publication of these ‘payments to governments’ represents a considerable step forward in terms of transparency and accountability of French extractive companies. However, while citizens, members of Parliament, journalists and non-governmental organisations are gradually becoming aware that this data exists, a vital element is missing: the absence of a centralised register, in open data format, of these payments.
The 4th Global Summit of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which is held in Paris on the 7th, 8th and 9th of December 2016, is an opportunity to make progress on this issue. The participating countries of the Partnership, as well as actors from the private sector and civil society, will have to discuss transparency rules, exchange ideas and good practices and make commitments on open data. The key topics will include the transparency of the private sector, which should enable the Summit to highlight the necessity of creating a platform bringing together centralised, open registers of all data published by multinational companies about their activities.
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