Can transparency and accountability initiatives improve natural resource governance?
Resource-dependent countries often fail to benefit from their natural resource wealth. Countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria have vast quantities of natural resources, yet their per capita incomes are among the lowest in the world. Transparency and accountability initiatives (TAIs) in the natural resources sector are often proposed as an antidote to the resource curse, but evidence on their effectiveness is remarkably sparse.
To help fill this gap in evidence, 3ie supported seven innovative bottom-up TAI interventions in Ecuador, Ghana, India, Mozambique, Peru, Tanzania and Uganda. These programmes worked directly with people to increase their awareness of how much revenue is generated from extractives industries, how it is spent by the government, and what the environmental implications of resource extraction are. Five of the programmes also included some form of deliberation to provide a platform for people to engage, process, and understand the information, weigh alternative preferences, and voice their opinions.
What did we find
- Providing information alone to the public does not seem to change their knowledge and awareness of the revenue and management of the sector.
- People demand more transparency and act collectively when the information campaign is combined with deliberation.
- Information provided to the political elites alone does not trickle down to the general public. However, providing citizens’ feedback to the elite helps create an accountability loop, in which the elites align their views with citizens’ preferences.
- These studied found little evidence that TAIs affect development and environmental outcomes.
What should policymakers do?
Information should be combined with deliberation. These studies show that information alone may not be sufficient to increase awareness or accountability. Platforms for deliberating the new information help transform citizens’ knowledge into collective action and demands for accountability. Similarly, legislation alone may not work. Implementing agencies should aim to strengthen effective information flows and deliberations rather than merely enacting new laws and policies.
Interventions should reduce information asymmetry between the elite and ordinary citizens. These studies show that information in the hands of leaders and local elites does not trickle down to the general public. However, when information is shared with the public and elites alike, and complemented with deeper stakeholder engagements, our studies showed higher levels of trust between elites and the public. Therefore, TAIs have the potential to reduce information asymmetry between local elites and the general public and help the elites understand the preferences of the majority.
Interventions should provide clear steps citizens can take. TAIs should provide, or help communities decide on, clear action points for citizens to pursue in response to the information they receive and discuss.
What should the donors do?
Support studies on long-term impacts. The relatively short time span of the studies in the 3ie TAI evidence programme made it difficult to assess the long-term impact of the interventions, and little other evidence exists. Six of the seven studies did not evaluate long-term development outcomes. A follow-up survey of select studies from the evidence programme could shed more light on the development impact of TAIs and the sustainability of impact.
Support studies on different modes of providing information and deliberation. We know very little about the relative importance and effectiveness of various modes of information disclosure and deliberation. Future studies should evaluate the relative importance of different forms of information sharing (e.g. infographic, videos, and pamphlets), information channels (e.g. theatre, information and communication technology, and mainstream mass or community media), and deliberation (e.g. workshops, stakeholder forums at the local level, and nationally representative deliberative polling).
Use technology and big data to implement TAIs and measure their impact. Newer technology (e.g. satellite images, remote sensing and mobile devices) can be used successfully in implementing TAIs and impact evaluations to gather data innovatively and cheaply to measure the outcomes.
Support more gender-responsive and equity-focused evidence. There is a substantial evidence gap on the differential impact of extractives on women, for whom the presence of local industry carries disproportionate social, economic and environmental risks. There is also limited evidence on what works for them in ensuring equitable access to resources from the extractive industries.
To read the full synthesis paper, click here.