Step 1:

Selecting the best civil society representatives

Context and challenges

The multi-stakeholder group that will take key decisions about a country’s EITI reporting is usually made up of three constituencies: government, business and civil society. Once the allocation of seats to each is settled, the government is responsible for inviting the other two constituencies to self-select their representatives. Each constituency is entirely free and autonomous in deciding its selection process. Any suggestion of coercion from the other constituencies defies the EITI Standard1 and would be flagged during the country’s Validation process, if not before. Inappropriate interference could include direct appointment of a representative, establishment of a quota system with predefined categories within each constituency, or offering personal or financial advantages or threats.2 A lack of understanding of civil society dynamics, or eagerness to submit an EITI application to satisfy a political agenda or meet administrative requirements, can lead other stakeholders to unnecessarily rush the civil society selection process. Unless civil society agrees that using a window of opportunity justifies short timeframes, CSOs are encouraged to resist such pressures and take the time they need to carry out a solid, open and transparent selection process.

eiti_stages_landscape

The EITI Standard does not prescribe term limits for members of national multi-stakeholder groups. This gives rise to widely varying term limits, from annual rotation of representatives in some contexts to seemingly limitless tenure in others. In the absence of clear guidelines, civil society in many EITI countries struggles to replace long-serving multi-stakeholder group representatives, which can reduce accountability and undermine its credibility in campaigning for an inclusive and democratic public debate about the management of natural resources.

Decisions on who should represent civil society in the EITI multi-stakeholder group are often not straightforward. Although it is clear that civil society is meant to represent citizens’ views, demands and interests, which may be different from those of the private sector and government, there is no universally accepted definition of civil society. A country’s civil society constituency will need to agree collectively what is most suitable for its national context. On the international EITI Board, for instance, investors sit among the company constituency, while in the United States, civil society argued in favour of including an ethical investor among its representatives in the multi-stakeholder group.

The success of civil society participation in multi-stakeholder group negotiations starts with the selection process for its representatives. Legitimacy is essential for civil society representatives to be considered authoritative. They must be understood as giving a voice to those directly affected by extractive activities, while also bringing sufficient relevant technical expertise to the table.

Recommendations

Drawing on the research conducted by the Institute for Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Integrity (MSI Integrity) and the insights gained by its members over the years, PWYP recommends several key steps to help civil society select the best range of representatives for multi-stakeholder negotiations.3 In the EITI context, these include:

Commit time and resources to wide consultation

Consultations about the selection process should be led by an organisation or a group widely trusted by independent CSOs, or otherwise by an independent external party. In the US and Mexico, for instance, the government appointed the Consensus Building Institute to help civil society organise consultations on its selection process. The leading organisation, or group of organisations, should ensure adequate financial means, time and resources for a comprehensive consultation process – including sub-nationally – so the selection mechanism can be determined through extensive consultations of relevant stakeholders. In places such as the Philippines, Colombia and Mexico, local CSOs conducted targeted fundraising activities that allowed them to undertake outreach activities without government support. Bilateral donors are often open to funding this type of activity through their local embassies.

Initial consultation methods might include online platforms such as webinars, surveys and social media, provided that relevant stakeholders have access and feel comfortable engaging via these channels. Ideally, however, the consultation should include a series of face-to-face meetings to allow deeper trust to be built among members of the constituency and equip future representatives with greater legitimacy.

Involving a wide range of actors in this way enables the establishment of a cohesive group of interested parties from the beginning. As this can also require significant time, it is important for the lead organisation to agree realistic timelines with the government. It should also explain that ample consultations are essential to establish a transparent selection process that prevents concerns about bias or exclusion. This confirms representatives’ right to speak on behalf of a wider group and helps them negotiate effectively with government and business, enabling a productive dialogue in the long term.

Choose an appropriate selection mechanism

For credibility and accountability, civil society representatives on the multi-stakeholder group should be selected through a clearly defined, transparent and inclusive process. Selection mechanisms can include election, nomination by a selection panel or a combination of both. Civil society representation needs to offer the right balance between technical expertise and giving a voice to those affected by extraction. A selection panel can assess candidates’ individual strengths and weaknesses to create a group of representatives with a balanced skillset, but safeguards must be established to prevent accusations of bias. Selection panels should be bound by clear and objective criteria and strict conflict-of-interest policies that prevent certain candidates being unduly favoured. Elections can create a positive, inclusive dynamic, especially when it comes to holding civil society representatives regularly to account. However, they can also be resource intensive and risk becoming popularity contests that bypass the most competent and committed candidates. External election observers can help demonstrate openness, as can publicising the results – including lessons learnt.4 Whatever method CSOs favour, mechanisms must be put in place to guarantee the integrity of the process.

All consulted parties are strongly encouraged to agree a code of conduct or constituency guidelines outlining the selection process in writing (see the CSO guidelines here). This makes it easy to share the selection procedure widely, ensuring the process is as transparent as possible. It also facilitates subsequent reviews to adapt the process to changing contexts or integrate lessons learnt, and provides a benchmark for assessing possible complaints.

Define qualifying criteria for potential candidates

CSOs should agree a clear set of qualifying criteria for candidates to represent civil society. This fosters transparency and rigour in the selection process, helping ensure that representatives are as qualified and competent as possible. Selection criteria should allow multi-stakeholder group members collectively to deliver the right balance between representativeness and technical expertise. Such balance will vary between national contexts, making it important for a country’s CSOs to discuss what qualifications candidates require to perform well in the multi-stakeholder group. MSI Integrity concludes that eligibility criteria should be context-specific and address:

  • Independence and accountability
  • Availability and commitment
  • Standing and legitimacy to speak on behalf of civil society
  • Expertise and experience
  • Gender, cultural or ethnic, and geographic diversity (quota systems could be necessary)

Criteria for candidates should also define who cannot represent civil society. PWYP recommends excluding publicly elected officials with a political affiliation, and individuals or members of any organisation that advocates on behalf of the extractive industry or the national government, or directly benefits from either. This includes local government officials, parliamentarians, business associations and consultants linked to extraction, even if in a non-profit capacity.

Agree suitable term limits

Experience has shown that even if the multi-stakeholder group as a whole does not prescribe term limits for its members, CSOs should decide appropriate term limits for their country context, in terms of duration and how many terms an individual can serve. A higher turnover rate brings a bigger pool of civil society actors into EITI deliberations, increasing collective knowledge and authority, and refreshing the multi-stakeholder dialogue with new thinking and energy. When Azerbaijan was still part of the initiative, civil society representatives had one-year terms, renewable only once consecutively. This high rotation yielded strong expertise as demonstrated by sophisticated analysis of EITI reports by Azerbaijani civil society. However, such extremely high rotation was very specific to that national context and would generally not be advisable, as it increases the risk of losing valuable experience. Civil society needs strategies to retain the expertise gained by individual representatives, such as keeping former multi-stakeholder group members involved in discussions about the EITI, pairing them with new representatives through a mentoring system, or involving them in induction sessions for their successors. Depending on the multi-stakeholder group’s rules and policies, future representatives could also attend group meetings before becoming full members, either as observers or alternates.5

Four steps to stronger Civil Society participation in the EITI

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