Minister of Energy and Water Nada Boustani will be hosted as a keynote speaker on the first day of the EITI Global Conference. The Lebanese Oil and Gas Initiative commend this step taken by Minister Boustani and stress the importance of Lebanon using this opportunity to show case transparencies win. However, for this win to be authentic, the Minister needs to present to the international community a tangible accomplishment done in support of implementing EITI in Lebanon. This win can include: MSG formation, and declaring that Lebanon will be implementing Beneficial Ownership disclosures to include subcontracted companies.
Civil society organizations in Lebanon are still waiting for the nominations committee tasked with organizing the civil society representatives on the EITI multi stakeholder group to publish the elections timeline. There is no reason why elections cannot be completed, and the MSG formed before minister Boustani leaves for the EITI conference.
Political risks are high in Lebanon and have definitely affected sector progress.
Going forward, the Lebanese government must draw lessons from this experience. Its political parties must ensure an enabling environment for oil and gas investment in the future.
Transparency is not enough if there is no vision or strategy or public consultation for the use of natural resource revenues for sustainable development. These are the main issues now.
The EITI is one of the most important global standards that contribute to the improvement of natural resource management and that allow the representation and participation of different stakeholders in the oil and gas sector so to further promote transparency, accountability and good governance in natural resources in Lebanon.
In their release on March 2019, LTA, LOGI, Kulluna Irada and OPES stressed the Lebanese Cabinet to take some further step to implement full EITI standards:
“Having Lebanon present in such a major event is very important. But more significant is ensuring that Lebanon reframes a win during this conference. With Lebanon desperately trying to unlock billions of concessional loans, promised during the CEDRE conference, through trying to implement structural and governance reform prerequisites, it is quite evident that Lebanon indeed desperately needs a win to showcase in front of the international community.
Becoming a member of the EITI would be a win that would surely enhance Lebanon’s image. Our concern lies with maintaining the authenticity of this image.
There are three steps required for Lebanon to be officially declared a candidate country implementing the EITI Standard. The first step, already completed in January 2017, is for the Lebanese government to publicly declare its intention to implement the EITI. The second step is to assign a champion and a national EITI coordinator who will be responsible for the unfolding of the EITI process in Lebanon. Both the energy and water minister and the chairman of the Lebanese Petroleum Administration respectively, have been assigned these roles. The third step is for the multi-stakeholder group - MSG - to be formed. Indeed, last March the of energy and water minister called upon civil society to elect their representatives for the EITI Multi Stakeholder group. Civil society is proceeding to the elections in conformity with a code of conduct that has been developed by civil society through a long and inclusive participatory process.”
Finally, and before any other step, the elections of the MSG is becoming crucial. To complete Lebanon’s candidature to the EITI, Lebanon should form the Multi Stakeholder Group (MSG) which is composed of the Government, companies operating in the host country, in addition to civil society representatives. As per the EITI’s requirements, civil society is to choose its representatives in the MSG in an independent manner without any interference. Therefore, building on the above, Ministry of the energy and the cabinet should fix the elections date and the process to be followed.
As per MSG expert, the Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA) will participate in the elections commission as an observer. The election commission will be composed of two international organizations, namely Publish What You Pay (PWYP) and the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), as well as the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections. We welcome the initiative and we are pleased with the support provided by these organisations, hence allowing Lebanon to join the EITI.
The Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative is an international transparency standard that governments voluntarily decide to implement to promote better governance of its natural resources. Stakeholders in a country (government, companies, as well as civil society, and in some countries the Parliament acting as an oversight body), produce an EITI report with sector-specific information that can be used to push reform and sound management of the extractive sector.
Time to move forward
If serious effort is exerted from all the stakeholders, then Lebanon could be put on an accelerated path to join the EITI. This would require doubling down the efforts to initiate the MSG work before the minister goes to Paris in June, where she could proudly announce at the EITI global conference that the first steps to achieving an EITI candidacy have been completed with the formation of the MSG.
As the electricity sector has found its path to solution with the approval of electricity plan in April, and with the ongoing works in our Offshore O&G exploration, it is time that we send additional positive vibes to the Lebanese people with this important step toward the institutionalization of multi-stakeholder platform for debate and consultative reform, and re-assuring to the international community that this sector cannot be managed with anything else than complete openness and transparency for the best of the country’s current and future generations.