Author Archives: Harriet Macdonald-Walker

About Harriet Macdonald-Walker

I am a 28 year old woman from the East Midlands in Derbyshire. I live in South London and work in central London.

Extractives at the Open Government Partnership Summit – the Transparency Melting Pot and Joined Up Data – Guest Blog by Michael Jarvis, World Bank Institute


The movement for greater transparency in extractives has come a long way in the past decade. However, it is good sometimes to take a step back and see as part of a broader shift towards all things open.  The Open Government Partnership Summit in London last week offered the perfect reference point, convening government and civil society from 61 OGP member countries.

Among the 1300 attendees, transparency proponents from the extractives community mingled with self confessed experts on everything from open data to use of technology to budgets to procurement to access to information to whisteblowing to open aid. At least 13 of the now 61 OGP member countries have made commitments related to transparency of extractive industries – starting with the founding commitment of the United States to join EITI. Natural resource management was one of four identified themes of the Summit. In practice virtually every session of a packed agenda had some relevance to ongoing discussions around oil, gas and mining. Many of the new commitments have spillover benefits for extractives good governance.  Not least the showcase UK announcement for making its new registry of beneficial owners of registered companies be fully public.

How to take advantage of the OGP platform? The creation of an extractive industries working group, launched at the Summit and chaired by the government of Ghana and Revenue Watch Institute, can help at one level, but perhaps the real value lies in drawing on the learnings of the broader community.  Many of the discussions in London ended up focusing on how we get this all to “join up” – whether joining up data sets, joining up transparency initiatives, or joining the different communities of practitioners approaching similar issues from different vantages/priorities.  Jonas Moberg, head of EITI Secretariat, was wary of making connections not strictly relevant to EITI, which could become a distraction.  However, the power of at least being able to follow an information trail from contract details to beneficial ownership to payments made to  spending decisions to project implementation is clear.  It will help country stakeholders have confidence they are getting a reasonable deal and seeing real benefits.  Not all that info will neccesarily come from an extractives specific process, hence the value of the broader open government movement. One red flag for me in the conversations in London was an assertion in several sessions that civil society must shoulder the burden of showing it is using the data that governments are putting out to justify its continued disclosure.  Surely that should be a shared agenda? Truly accessible data, also facilitates analysis across government departments that are all too often siloed.  Governments should be looking at the implications for policy and accountability – having the data in the public domain should increase the onus to show how they are doing so.  That cannot be outsourced to NGOs and journalists, vigilant though they should be.  We still need a broader discussion on the implications of extractives “big data” and roles and responsibilities around its use.

Original post @


What’s the point of open data?- Guest Blog by Martin Tisne, Director of Policy, Omidyar Network

I’ve been puzzling for a while how the open data community can help the many great groups that have been fighting for transparency of key money flows for the past decade and more. I think one answer may be that open data helps us go beyond simply making information available. If done well, it can help us make it accessible and relevant to people, which has been the holy grail for transparency advocates for a long time.

The transparency community has focused too much on just getting information out there (making information available). But what’s the point of having information available if it’s not accessible? What’s the use of public reports that are only nominally ‘public’ because they languish in filing cabinets or ‘PDF deserts’ hidden within an obscure website?

If we can get this information more accessible, we can then work to increase participation and help people use it. This for me is what open data people are talking about when they talk about open formats. Machine readability and open formats matter because they are tools to increase access. I’ve seen too many techies talk about ‘open formats’ and activists’ eyes glaze over. But I think we’re both talking about the same thing we hold dear: improving access to vital data for all.

Likewise, it’s the connections between the datasets that are powerful and interesting. You may not care so much to know where most people under 15 years old live in your country, but if you’re told that those that live close to a nuclear waste disposal site happen to have the highest cancer rates, then it becomes seriously relevant. Same as above, techies often talk about technical data standards and get quizzical/skeptical – at best – looks in exchange. But technical data standards are the fuel that allows policy wonks to compare datasets, which creates relevant data. Connecting the dots makes it policy relevant – without data, you can’t make policy.

[availability of data] => [accessibility of data] => [comparability of data]

[availability of data] => [open formats] => [data standards]

Follow the Money groups do amazing work: extractives’ transparency advocates campaigning for vital releases of information on oil, gas, mining revenues into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Groups looking at curbing illicit flows of funds out of desperately poor countries via shell companies and phantom firms. Activists who scrutinize budgets, everything from big ticket national budget allocations, all the way down to very local issues like your local school spending on basic reading materials. And many more.

Together, these groups share one big thing in common – they are all seeking to follow the money. In other words, they are all trying to understand how money either gets in to government coffers, or how it fails to get there, and then how and whether it is spent for the good of the many, rather than the few lining their pockets.

To succeed, we all need data that’s not only public (e.g. public registries of beneficial ownership) but also accessible (in open formats) and comparable to other money flows.

Let’s work together to make it happen.


G8 Launches Partnerships on Extractive Industries Transparency and Governance – Matteo Pelligrini, Revenue Watch Institute

This past weekend, I participated in the “Open for Growth” event organized by the UK government ahead of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland. The event, known as the “G8TTT,” was an opportunity to illustrate and debate the UK’s G8 agenda for international growth, prosperity and economic development, including advancing Trade, ensuring Tax compliance and promoting greater Transparency.

The meeting brought together hundreds of representatives from business, civil society and governments to discuss how to collaborate to promote and practice fairer trade, proper taxes and more transparency in data, oil, gas, minerals and land investment.

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron opened the event, making the case that aid alone cannot end poverty: “Poverty eradication requires that developing countries get the revenues and the benefits of growth that are rightfully theirs. And three vital things are needed to make that happen: fairer taxes, greater transparency and more trade.”

Conversely, he stated that bad governance and corruption destroy lives and made a commitment not to provide aid to notoriously corrupt regimes, using Equatorial Guinea as an example. He also reiterated the need to scale up support to those countries and governments making genuine efforts to address corruption but lacking the capacity and systems to harness the benefits of extractive industries. He singled out Guinea Conakry as one country pushing for bold reforms, mentioning its public database of mining contracts that RWI helped to build.

To support countries reforming their extractive sectors, the G8 announced partnerships with Burkina Faso, Colombia, Ghana, Guinea, Mongolia, Myanmar, Peru and Tanzania that will see increased collaboration around natural resource management. RWI prepared a briefing for the event to outline our work in those partnership countries.

The Prime Minister’s speech was followed by a panel with Ghana, Guinea, Tanzania and Burkina Faso’s heads of state and four breakout sessions including one on extractives chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and attended by Ghana and Guinea’s heads of state. A number of representatives from companies, governments, and civil society made short interventions. Here some highlights and messages I took away from the event:
•Consensus on the crucial role of international standards: all heads of state and high-level officials made a strong plea for international standards that enable national reform and help prevent or address corruption. President Condé pointed to the precious help of U.S. authorities in uncovering illicit behavior around mining concession awards in Guinea. A Colombian representative called for the development of exhaustive accounting standards for the mining industry, a longstanding battle of RWI. Many welcomed Canada’s announcement to join the U.S. and EU in requiring companies to report project -level payments to resource-producing countries.
•Capacity development is central to harnessing the benefits of extractives. President Kikwete of Tanzania called for scaling up support to governments in negotiating mining contracts. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Finance Minister of Nigeria, seconded this point and suggested the launch of “tax inspectors without borders,” which he would welcome to Nigeria to help with extractive industry accounting. In response, Julie McCarthy of Open Society Foundations announced the launch of the Transparency Champions Challenge to empower reformers around the world to improve government responsiveness and accountability.
•The shift in discourse is historical—with some exceptions. All comments from high-level officials and heads of state echoed the convictions that have motivated RWI, and me personally, to work on improving resource governance for close to a decade. Issues like contract disclosure, countering illicit financial flows, and disclosing company’s beneficial owners were until recently the battleground of NGOs, but they are gradually becoming part of a global agenda shared with governments and forward-looking companies. Sam Walsh, CEO of Rio Tinto, made a statement supporting the emergence of a global transparency standard and encouraged Australia to look closely at Canada’s steps. Simon Henry, CFO of Royal Dutch Shell, said that disclosure of beneficial ownership of companies was a “no brainer.” This is a testimony to Publish What You Pay’s extraordinary progress in bringing these issues to the forefront of the international agenda.

More must be done, however, to encourage participation from all governments in transparency efforts and ensure good corporate behavior across the globe. Too many governments still lag the average on basic accountability standards within oil, gas and mining industries, as Revenue Watch’s 2013 Resource Governance Index makes clear. Meanwhile major oil companies, including Shell, are working hard to undermine global consensus on transparency through a lawsuit filed against the foundational legislation passed under Section 1504 of the U.S.’s Dodd-Frank Act.

I was at once excited and humbled at the exposure RWI and our projects received at the event. Specifically, Rio Tinto’s representative stressed the important work we do in Guinea. The Public Interest and Accountability Committee of Ghana that RWI supports was also singled out as a good practice for revenue management. DFID also set up an “open data” desk and showcased videos of the work we do with them, the World Bank Institute and Omiydar on making extractive data accessible and interactive to generate public interest and ease civil society oversight.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg closed the ceremony highlighting that for the first time we are all pointing to the same destination, some want to move faster, others slower but, for the first time, we are on the same journey. The statement accurately reflected of feelings in the room.

The UK must now add to the momentum it has generated on transparency and work to consolidate agreement on strong standards for addressing ‘Tax, Trade and Transparency’ issues by:
•Continuing to pressure G8, G20 and other governments to implement strong transparency standards for oil, gas and mining companies, state-owned entities and natural resource funds
•Taking firm steps towards the development of a common, public registry of company beneficial ownership information and urging other G8 members to do the same
•Formalizing plans for a system of automatic exchange of tax information that would cover UK’s overseas territories and crown dependencies, among which are many tax havens—and serve as a model for broader G8 and international action to create a multilateral system
•Supporting funding for the development of increased capacity in resource-rich countries for the sovereign, sustainable management of resource assets.

An Open Data Standard – Blog from Adam McGreggor, Principal, Rewired State

Open data is sometimes a really challenging thing, particularly when different organizations are involved, where there are multiple partners with competing agendas.

Often documents are created with the sole purpose of being read by humans, with no thought to data reuse.
In many cases, this approach makes data analyses impossible. One option to improve analysis is to publish data in appendices with the main report.

If a sector can agree on consistent standards for data reporting, this then opens the door for simple comparisons, with little effort t needed by data analysts. This data standard needs to be negotiated and tested, and it needs to work for the industry, regulators, data scientists, hackers, civil society, armchair auditors, and governments.

Imagine our data challenge for this task: getting raw data which the hack events could work from. Finding comparable data within one country across a number of years is a challenge in itself. Getting data from a range of countries across a twelve year time period added an even greater challenge.

Extracting the extractives data was not, what one may call an easy task. Our rather ambitious aim, to be able to machine-read Extractives Industry Transparency (EITI) reports and put it into one structure fell at the first hurdle. We found that common reporting elements were defined differently in different countries. The measurement units also differed. Language and translation also added complexity.

We concluded that using machines to extract the data from the reports was not an option. The simplest way, it transpired was to manually type the figures: quite a labour intense task.

In order to make the most of the EITI reports, we needed a sound level of numeracy and industry knowledge. As the Extractives Transparency sector evolves, it is clear that the capacity needs to be built around data: data collection, analysis, and communication.

Rather than letting the work we did (in partnership with the excellent Open Knowledge Foundation) go to waste, today we are making it available online as open data set, for use by anyone.

Open standards are essential. When adhered to they make cross- industry, cross-border, cross- machine, data comparisons possible.

Elsewhere, standards have proven to be a huge benefit — for developers, data scientists, researchers, business analysts, and for curious people with an interest (!). For publicly funded projects, along with interoperability issues, it’s nonsensical to not standardise and mandate this as a condition of funding. No adoption, no funding.

We want the applications developed to have a future and be updated and developed as more data becomes available. If the extractives industry worked towards an open data standard, this task would be achievable.
Data tools need to be contemporary, not historical.

The risk we face is that new efforts go un-noticed, un-questioned, un- praised, un-accountable.

My call to you is to publish those SQL dumps. Publish Excel workbooks. Publish exports from Oracle. Please.

Designing a 21st Century Summit- Guest blog by Hannah Ryder, Team Leader, Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, DFID

The coverage of the Tax, Transparency and Trade “Three T’s” agenda for the G8 over the past few days has been excellent. On my twitter feed I’ve seen many commentators, Non-Governmental Organisations and others welcoming the outcomes. As a civil servant, I know that my fellow colleagues have worked really hard behind the scenes to prepare for the G8 Summit and consider the various inputs from other governments, NGOs and others on the substantive issues.
And that’s because when designing a summit, event or any other conference, there are two routes you can take. The traditional route consists of sending invitations to governments, working through diplomatic channels to ensure that governments attending know what to expect and what is on the table to discuss and agree, and making sure the logistics are in place for VIPs to make speeches and announcements. There may also be a number of “side events” where other interested parties can showcase their work, bring government representatives onto panels to push them to take more action and/or discuss their announcements, and so on. This route does take a good deal of careful preparation and negotiation, and it is fairly well trodden – I saw it used countless times during the years I spent working on UN climate change negotiations, and I still see it.
But there is another less traditional route that civil servants are increasingly taking to design summits and events which is also delivering results. This route draws inspiration from dynamic conferences such as TED talks, or from global trends such as crowd-sourcing. Importantly, this route reflects a genuine need to better include the public in international debates and agreements rather than leave them to small cohorts of experts or diplomats.

So, kids, what do you think about the G8's agenda this year? Credit: DFID, 2013

So, kids, what do you think about the G8’s agenda this year? Credit: DFID, 2013

This more creative and inclusive route was taken by the G8 teams this year. For example, one of the teams, focused on transparency in oil gas and mining, began building momentum well before the final event. They worked with the Open Knowledge Foundation to run a “data expedition” in London in April with key partners such as the Revenue Watch Institute, Publish What You Pay, and many more in order to start the conversation. Through this, the #followthedata brand was born. They then organised a “hackathon” in London in May, and another in Lagos. A hackathon is when a group of data analysts, economists, civil society representatives and journalists come together to develop new ways of showing or manipulating information to provide some sort of benefit. In this case, the hackathoners came up with five data tools or demonstration “apps” that can all be viewed here. One Lagos group built ‘Atare’ to help citizens understand the purchasing power of oil revenue, relative to their real life needs. Users are able to email infographics to national representatives, and share them via social media.
A few weeks later, the team organised a further #followthedata event in the margins of the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) conference in Sydney, which attracted 130 people – mostly from governments, civil society and companies. This built further momentum for a major announcement in the margins of yet another multi-stakeholder conference held in France on 21st May, where the UK and France both announced their intention to implement the EITI.

By the time the “Open for Growth” trade, tax and transparency conference came up last weekend, a twitter hashtag was ready (#G8TTT), and world leaders took this opportunity to announce a range of new initiatives to improve transparency and take bold steps on open data before the actual G8 deal was done on Tuesday.
Being creative and inclusive was also something important to the teams working to support the UN High Level Panel to deliver their report on a post-2015 framework for development goals last month. They used tools like My World to understand the needs of people from all over the world, and organised various webcast “town-hall” meetings and “regional consultations” to discuss the major issues openly.
I think this kind of creative and inclusive route something the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation should also consider as it builds up to and delivers its first major summit. I bet that there will be no shortage of partners to work with to do so. Delivering a 21st century summit means to truly and creatively open up – I hope we do so quickly!

Dirty Money – Guest blog by Robert Barrington, Executive Director of Transparency International UK

Corrupt money flows through the UK – in particular through our financial services industry. Nobody knows how much, but it is almost certainly many billions of pounds each year. Some, perhaps a great deal, of those funds are then hidden in the UK’s Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories.
Why don’t we know how much money is laundered, or who owns it? There are three reasons. First, those who hope to benefit from the proceeds of corruption try very hard to hide their money. Secondly, some financial institutions and their host governments welcome rich customers, and don’t try very hard to find out where the money comes from. Thirdly, the system is shrouded in secrecy.
Developing countries lost $5.86 trillion in illicit financial flows in the decade spanning 2001-2010. That’s almost $6 trillion which could have been ploughed into healthcare, education, and water sanitation. We know from the cases that have come to light that some of it ended up funding the mansions and fast cars of the people who stole it. The UK and its fellow G8 members are not unsullied by this tragic statistic.

To slow down the flow of corrupt funds, host governments and financial institutions at least need to be able to know who owns the money sloshing through the system. They need to be able to run sufficient checks on its legitimacy. That relies in part on being able to find accurate information on who the customers really are. However, the current system can make it almost impossible for a bank to find accurate information on who ultimately runs, owns, and profits from the company – the ‘beneficial owner’. If banks and governments do not know, then it is highly unlikely that ordinary citizens will.
Who owns a mansion in a street in Kensington? The chances are it is owned by a shell company with secret beneficial owners. The neighbours don’t know who owns it. The UK authorities don’t know. The estate agent doesn’t know. If it was bought with funds stolen from the health budget of an African nation, we would not know.

With an internet connection, a credit card, and as little as £590, it can take under 10 minutes to set up a shell company, perhaps using the services of professionals such as lawyers and accountants who will ask no awkward questions. Shell companies often only exist on paper and have no real employees or offices, hence are very difficult to trace. Identifying the beneficial owners of those companies is even more difficult. As a result, such shell companies have become prime vehicles for money laundering of corrupt funds.

British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies are often used as “secrecy jurisdictions” for those wanting to avoid tax or hide corrupt money. The recent British Virgin Island leaks give us more evidence than ever before that such secrecy has long departed from its ostensible purpose of protecting privacy – it has become a framework through which illegitimate funds can be laundered and hidden with consummate ease.

In order to take a strong international lead on transparency, the UK must put its own house in order. The Government must ensure that the beneficial owners of UK registered companies are declared in a register accessible to regulators, financial institutions, and the public. This would assist financial institutions in their checks on prospective clients, and give citizens around the world (whose funds end up London) the opportunity to hold their governments to account.
We need to make it harder to set up shell companies, and crack down on those who are abusing the system – not just the corrupt customers, but on any lawyers, accountants, bankers or other professionals who are deliberately allowing it to happen.

The Prime Minister has declared that transparency will be one of the three key themes of his G8 Presidency. This is a chance for him to live up to this promise. His government needs to make sure that neither the UK’s Overseas Dependent Territories or Crown Dependencies, nor the City of London, is able to be a safe haven for corrupt money. Transparency, including over beneficial ownership, is a key part of the solution.

Robert Barrington is Executive Director of Transparency International UK – the UK chapter of the global coalition against corruption


Making the Most out of Data on Extractives – Guest Blog by Michael Jarvis, World Bank Institute


The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Global Conference attracted 1300 people from around the world to a surprisingly rainy Sydney. Luckily, many of them were not put off by the weather and joined the #followthedata event ‘Making the most out of Data on Extractives’.

The cavernous Powerhouse Museum, with its exhibits of technical innovations, proved an appropriate place to be talking about the potential of the huge amount of data that is emerging in the Extractives Industry. There is clear excitement about the potential to better harness this data and to make it more relevant to citizens. This theme has carried over into the EITI conference itself. Clare Short, Chair of EITI, noted the coming ‘avalanche of data’ through not just the updated EITI standard, but also new rules in the US and EU. Marinke van Riet, International Director of Publish What You Pay, noted that finding ways to make this data more accessible and relevant to those communities affected by oil, gas and mining is a new priority for the PWYP coalition, of 700 plus civil society organisations worldwide.

Some of the lessons learned from the EITI experience to date have also reflected the importance of the Follow the Data agenda, including the need to unlock information from PDF reports and move towards more standardized data reporting. Dani Kaufmann, President of Revenue Watch Institute, rightly warned us that we shouldn’t be ‘frozen’ by the serious standardization issues, but should inform standardization conversations by demonstrating the value of data already available, for example by using it to create prototypes.

The event highlighted the following priorities that need to be taken in order for the wide range of data stakeholders to use data to its full potential:

– The importance of intermediaries to help sift out what is relevant to users and to make data accessible;
– The need to contextualize information, building capacity to use it; and
– The importance of having the raw data made available for anyone to use, play with and mash creatively – one cannot presume to know how it might be used.

Perhaps, the real value of the Sydney event lay in the chance to test some of the prototype applications resulting from recent hackathons. Many were impressed by what was possible to be developed within 36 hours. Among the feedback – a caution not to overload apps by trying to achieve too many things, and the need to back up the impressive visualizations with the underlying numbers/percentages. We got most excited about apps, such as Impact Project NG, that provided information but then connected the user to the related policy challenge, such as by asking the user to select how it would spend revenues across a range of priorities, and then compare to the reality. It was a good reminder that interesting and quality data is not the end goal in itself but a tool to illuminate and inform tough decisions and prioritising action across many needs.