Finding New Ways to Drive Change

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The coronavirus pandemic means adapting PWYP’s ways of working, while continuing to focus on our long-term goals, says Chenai Mukumba, Chair of PWYP’s Global Council

The COVID-19 pandemic means we must all do things differently. For Publish What You Pay (PWYP), it means we need to adapt our ways of working, so we can continue to develop our network and advance our advocacy agenda. But we also need to maintain continuity – in our core principles and our strategic approach to making natural resource governance open, accountable, sustainable, equitable and responsive to all people.

As members of PWYP’s Global Council, we’re committed to providing strategic stability, while helping our network adjust in response to the global health crisis. There is widespread uncertainty about the medium- and long-term impacts of the pandemic, but its rapid spread is already disrupting lives in unimaginable ways. Resource-rich countries dependent on revenues generated by extraction face critical economic challenges. Public debts are mounting and commodity prices increasingly volatile, with demand for oil crashing as gold soars. Governments, companies and civil society groups are struggling to respond and reallocate often-scarce resources, while communities are becoming isolated without opportunities for meetings and consultation. 

As a result, transparency, accountability and citizen participation are at risk – which means that PWYP’s agenda to put people at the centre of oil, gas and mineral governance is more important than ever. 

Creative ways to implement our strategy

PWYP began implementing Vision 2025, our new five-year strategy, in 2020, with a clear focus on advocacy to achieve our goals. But the COVID-19 crisis has profoundly disrupted activities, from local to global levels. Many of our members are grassroots organisations working with remote communities, currently inaccessible. Face-to-face advocacy is difficult, if not impossible, while strict travel limits mean events such as PWYP’s Africa Conference must be postponed. 

Yet despite clear risks and uncertainties, now is also a time for opportunity and innovation. The disruption caused by the pandemic offers a unique chance for PWYP to push for economic diversification and an equitable transition to a low-carbon economy. By investing more in research to build a strong evidence base for advocacy, we can demand government accountability for extractive revenues, so they are used to provide basic social services and build economic and environmental sustainability. 

PWYP will carry on developing ambitious plans to launch a global campaign for implementation of the new contract transparency requirement in the EITI Standard, finding creative ways to make ourselves heard. We will also continue to promote women’s rights and gender equality, and to hold companies and governments to account for the social and environmental impacts of extraction. 

Protecting our members 

As governments worldwide have taken measures to curb the pandemic, the risk to fundamental freedoms and the harassment of civil society activists and journalists have increased. Members’ safety remains a leading priority. Several PWYP members have faced increasing pressure and serious threats in recent weeks. This makes it harder for us to stand up for transparency. If we can’t participate, we can’t influence what happens around extraction.

PWYP’s new strategic framework on civic space is now especially pertinent, outlining steps for prevention of closing civic space, protection of members and activists, and advocacy to secure their rights. As a council, we will support the Secretariat to ensure that the pandemic doesn’t undermine PWYP’s united front to safeguard activists’ freedoms. Together, we will coordinate members’ advocacy and provide support to those under threat. 

Staying connected and united

Even where civic space is secure, COVID-19 means we need innovative ways to remain a connected movement, drawing on each other’s strengths. Although we must cancel events, PWYP will still bring together members across the world in other ways, to debate, share experiences and learn from each other. Through optimum use of online platforms, webinars, videos, digital training tools and impact stories, we will ensure members stay connected and are supported during the crisis. Keeping in mind the existing digital divide that exists, however, we will also look at developing innovative ways to overcome this constraint.

The Global Council will also use digital means to keep consulting PWYP’s membership, so that our actions reflect voices from across the network. To inform our strategic response to COVID-19, we will meet digitally more often in the coming months, welcoming members’ inputs and ideas. Through consultations and convening in innovative ways, we will ensure that the voices of our members and the communities they work with are still heard – keeping people at the centre of PWYP’s agenda for change.

A steady hand

While we can’t fully envisage the changes ahead, the crisis will inevitably have a significant impact on members, communities, and the role and nature of the extractive industries themselves. This means long-term implications for PWYP’s mission, vision and strategy. 

There are widespread global calls for countries to “build back better” after the crisis, protecting the environment and supporting the world’s poorest people. During this time of flux, PWYP must be responsive and adaptable so we can seize new opportunities. But we must also hold on to the global goals of Vision 2025, to be informed, influential, heard and connected. With over 700 member organisations, PWYP’s diversity is our strength, but it also means many competing priorities, so we must retain our clear overview and focus.

The Global Council is committed to showing thought leadership and ambition as we implement Vision 2025 during and after the pandemic. We will watch closely to see how the crisis evolves, continuing to help everyone work together effectively, so PWYP can maximise its ability to drive change. As council members, we aim to provide a steady hand, helping to steer PWYP’s work for an extractive sector that benefits everyone, today and tomorrow.

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