A G20 stock take

We may be heading into the UK Summer and you are thinking about your (hopefully) sunny holidays, but for a second I’d like you to think about November – because it’s important.

In November G20 countries are meeting in Brisbane, Australia to discuss ‘big global issues’. During the months leading up to this G20 Summit there are numerous negotiations, preliminary discussions and various groups all trying to influence the agenda.

That’s what I’ve been working on over the past few months – trying to make sure that decisions  made by the G20 bring justice for the world’s poorest communities.

As part of Tearfund’s Secret’s Out campaign we have been calling for the G20 to prioritise tackling corruption and enhancing transparency – particularly in the extractive industries, a sector prone to corruption.

Secret's out

A year ago the EU passed legislation requiring oil, gas and mining companies to publish what they pay to foreign governments on a country-by-country and project-by-project basis.  Then at the G8 Canada made a commitment to follow suit and also implement equivalent legislation to the EU and already existent US Dodd-Frank legislation. Now Norway has joined in too and Switzerland is taking strides in the same direction.

Once implemented, this will mean that citizens in resource-rich countries will be able to follow the money and hold their governments to account for how the money is spent – helping to ensure that natural resource revenues are directed towards healthcare and education and not lost to corruption.

But we need this to be truly a global standard, so that all companies are covered and required to make this information public – and this is why November and the G20 are key.  Other G20 countries, such as Australia, Brazil and South Africa have sizeable extractive industries listed on their stock markets and still need to commit to legislation.

So I thought I would do a stock take: how are we getting on at ensuring that the G20 make commitments on extractive transparency?

  • Anti-Corruption is an aspect of Australia’s ‘Building Economic Growth and Resilience’ agenda.  But to be honest it needs to be given a higher priority – for it to be on the political agenda and discussed by the Finance Ministers and not just seen as technocratic issue. Failure to prioritise it risks the G20 agenda having a ‘gaping hole’.  Corruption undermines economic growth by diverting resources away from their intended destination, undermines trust and weakens investor confidence.
  • The current G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan will come to an end this year and we need a new one to be agreed.  The current plan has been a useful tool that has encouraged countries to make new commitments to tackle corruption and for their progress to be monitored by other G20 governments and civil society.  The G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group are deciding whether or not to issue a new Action Plan – this needs to happen and for G20 countries to include tangible, measurable commitments to transparency in the extractive industries.  For example, to commit to national consultations on the introduction of extractive transparency legislation.
  • The C20 (the civil society forum to engage with the G20) has put ‘Governance’ as one of its top asks of the G20 this year– including calling for progress on natural resource transparency.  So the call for a global standard on extractive transparency is being sent by civil society groups from across the globe.  This is great, but we still need the G20 to listen and respond to these voices.
  • Although we have the Dodd-Frank legislation in the USA, there continues to be a strong anti-lobby by some companies and the API lawsuit has delayed implementation.  We need the SEC to quickly re-issue a strong implementing rule for Section 1504 so that nothing halts the transparency agenda from moving forward.
  • The UK continues to champion extractive transparency, but some countries remain hesitant and risk blocking progress.  Today Prime Minister Cameron published this article in the Wall Street Journal reinforcing his support for extractive transparency.  But we still need Australia, as the G20 President, to take up the leadership mantle and commit to domestic legislation and encourage others to do likewise.

So what next?

Depending on whether you are a ‘glass half-empty’ or ‘glass half-full’ type of person, will no doubt affect how you view the current state of play.  But either way there is a need for us to keep up the pressure and not let our foot slip off the pedal.

And that’s why I’m asking you to think about November now.  Together we need to find creative ways of demonstrating to Australia the importance and the urgency of the issue – for Australian businesses and investors, and for citizens in poor but resource-rich countries.  The months ahead are an opportunity for us to put tackling corruption firmly on the global agenda.  So, will you join me and Tearfund’s Secret’s Out campaign and call on the G20 to prioritise action to tackle corruption?


  1. […] understand that the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group will issue a new Action Plan – something we called for earlier this year.  That’s a very mini-success.  Reportedly, extractive transparency has been discussed within […]

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