Global Conference on Beneficial Ownership on the cards

The EITI international, in partnership with the Government of Indonesia and partners, is planning to hold an international beneficial ownership conference in Jakarta, Indonesia from 23 to 24 October 2017. The objective of this conference is to bring together government representatives working on beneficial ownership reform to showcase best practices so far, discuss challenges, provide peer learning and exchange of experiences.

In April last year, the Panama Papers scandal broke, with 11.5 million leaked documents, implicating high level individuals with links to the extractive sector. The challenge became one of turning outrage into change. The Panama Papers point the finger at the use of anonymous shell companies to hide or launder money and conceal potential conflicts of interest. For citizens of resource-rich countries, the risk of losing out on extractive revenues is particularly acute.

The EITI last year agreed to adopt new rules on disclosing beneficial ownership for all extractive companies operating in its 52-member countries. By 2020, companies that apply for, or hold a participating interest in an exploration or production oil, gas or mining license or contract in an EITI country must report the name, nationality, and country of residence of the beneficial owner, as well as identifying any politically-exposed persons (PEPs). This means that countries that produce oil, gas and minerals will know who the owners of the companies that develop their natural resources are, regardless of how many layers there are between these companies and their ultimate beneficial owners.

By 1 January this year, the EITI implementing countries published roadmaps showing the steps that they plan to take to achieve beneficial ownership transparency by 2020. This includes building an institutional and legal framework, putting in place reporting processes and registers hosting the beneficial ownership data. It includes capacity building for government officials enforcing the reporting requirements. It also includes showing how companies can easily disclose their owners and help civil society to use the ownership information. Implementing countries will need substantial advice and political support in turning these commitments into reality.

The conference will mostly be run as a series of smaller parallel workshops, with a practical focus on specific topics. Each workshop would be facilitated by 2-3 people with expertise in the topic, presenting case studies and kicking off discussions. In addition, there would be a high-level opening and closing plenary. The conference is likely to be followed up by regional workshops with government and EITI representatives to measure progress in implementing the roadmaps and commitments made in Jakarta.

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