People’s rights to organise, speak out and take action are being extensively violated in a large number of member countries of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The CIVICUS Monitor, a new online tool to track and compare civic freedoms on a global scale, shows that the space for civil society - civic space - is currently seriously restricted in 38 of 51 EITI countries, as of May 2017.
Civil society organisations (CS0s) and human rights defenders in most EITI member countries face serious obstacles, including threats to their personal safety, denial of the right to protest, surveillance and censorship, as a direct result of their nonviolent activism. The fact that civil society’s fundamental rights are seriously violated in so many EITI countries is alarming, given that the EITI seeks to promote “accountability by government to all citizens” and explicitly recognises the “important and relevant contributions” of non-governmental organisations. The level of restrictions revealed by this report presents a direct challenge to the viability of the EITI and raises serious questions about member states that are routinely failing to protect CSOs and in many cases treating them as adversaries.
The EITI should recognise the threat the violations documented in this report offer to its credibility and viability as an international multi-stakeholder initiative. It should respond by taking increased steps to ensure that the protection of CSOs and activists becomes a priority in all its member countries.
CIVICUS recommends that EITI:
- Enhances its requirements for multi-stakeholder engagement in a way that contributes to the creation of a more robust civic space. In doing so, EITI should ensure that CSOs enjoy the “full, free, active and effective engagement” they are meant to have within country-level multi-stakeholder groups;
- Ensures that all member governments engage fully and meaningfully with CSOs and implement the recommendations made in the review of multi-stakeholder groups carried out by MSI Integrity in 2015;
- Applies existing requirements more strictly and consistently to make sure that conditions for meaningful civil society participation are met in member countries;
- Promotes an early validation process against the EITI Standard - the requirements that apply to all EITI member countries - for all those countries in which civic space is seriously restricted;
- Prescribes corrective actions to governments of countries where there are serious civic space restrictions and closely monitors their progress in implementing recommendations; and
- Credibly applies or threatens to apply sanctions, including suspension, towards countries failing to make discernible progress in upholding fundamental civil society rights