Category Archives: Reflections

EITI’s Governance Structure – Helpful or Harmful?

Christina Toepell, MAAPPS // May 2, 2015

The FIFA scandals of the past weeks have shown that certain governance structures are detrimental to organizational processes. Luckily, EITI is far away from these scenarios, but its international and national governance structure might also serve as a cause for some of its challenges. On the top governance level, EITI international is providing recommendations and implementation guidelines to the country offices. On the national level, a multi stakeholder group (MSG) consists of mining companies, government officials and civil society initiatives. It is supposed to gather in general assemblies to inform on the progress of the national EITI office, current measures taken by all participating groups and communicate new initiatives.

Setting up this particular governance structure for EITI was important to foster international acceptance of the standard and support its acceptance of all stakeholders. EITI international’s relative detachment of the national offices is relevant and needed to include local specificities while still enforcing fair and equal measures across all member countries. The governance structure of having a multi stakeholder group is important when trying to integrate an organized measurement of control into the EITI structure of the country. The MSG further allows all partners to be equally involved and guarantees a shared feeling of responsibility for the success of the project.

This governance structure, however, inevitably leads to a lack of ownership, which Bulgan also mentioned in her post on the relevance of EITI. The international EITI secretariat provides hard requirements but leaves full independence in implementation. In Mongolia, the EITI secretariat consists of three members. These agents are working on combining the requests and requirements of at least four parties: Mining companies, government officials, civil society groups and EITI international. Personal conversations have revealed that national coordinators often spend more time on harmonizing these different mindsets, opinions and incentives than working on true progress for EITI. If the MSG as a “principal” cannot agree on feeling shared responsibility and the EITI national office is a mere “agent”, where is the sense of ownership that brings EITI forward?

The differing incentives of individuals lead to internal governance deadlock. Our meeting with the MSG in Ulaanbaatar exposed diverted civil society ideas with representatives sometimes showing higher interests in opposing each other than interacting on a positive basis. Proposed progress of EITI in certain aspects might raise strong opposition, which then leads to a compromise consisting of no progress at all.

The question remains, what governance structure would be more ideal? Where is the Mongolian optimum in the trade-off between an inclusive EITI process and real progress for mining transparency? Should there be a stronger sense of ownership by the EITI office? A clearer mandate for the EITI national office with simultaneous implementation of an increased importance on the MSG control mechanism might be a first approach.

Reflections on Team Work within the Asia Pacific Policy Project 2015

Christina Toepell, MAAPPS // May 21, 2015

13 students. 13 backgrounds and disciplines. One goal? While the past four months working on the policy project educated me tremendously on policy making, mining and the Mongolian economy, one of my most enriching learning experiences took place on the personal level: It is possible to overcome stagnation and to develop an own team structure that performs successfully.

One of our biggest assets – and certainly also challenges – was our diversity in backgrounds and objectives. We had varying levels of professional experience, came from diverse cultural settings and different disciplines within the academic context of UBC. On top, our motivation to join the project and expectations within the project were not aligned either.
By analyzing Tuckman’s stages of group development – forming, storming, norming and performing, I feel the theoretical concept is fully applicable to the experience of our UBC policy project team of 2015. After our first euphoria in early January, my personal stage of confusion and frustration was quite long and strenuous. Our different objectives and backgrounds started to become rather hampering than empowering.

To me, the big group size coupled with a lack of pre-defined objectives was the main challenge during the first months. Communication got difficult as the myriad of emails and changing availabilities increased inconsistency. Although I was continuously aware of the character-building benefits of a lack of leadership, I got frustrated by the absence of guidance and wished more than once that we had implemented a clear organizational structure from the start. My own personal background didn’t help: Being raised in Germany, I soon realized that I had been shaped more by its straightforward and hierarchical working culture than I would have liked to admit.

Eventually, we found the clue to my perceived paralysation in mid-March: Reducing the size of the group by dividing the team into two equal parts. We now had working topics we were passionate about; we could use our background of country case studies and were able to apply our own research foci to the EITI topic. Communication got easier as the objectives grew clearer. The final announcement of knowing we would be able to experience the country and EITI structures we had worked on first-hand let my motivation catapult. The lack of guideline was finally for our benefit – we were forced to built our own structure but showed ourselves that we can overcome the “storming and norming stage” even with our diversity. Observing the final outcomes, the tangible indicators might have been more impactful if we had started our “serious” work earlier, but the facts I learnt about team culture in diverse teams were so much more meaningful for my long-term development.

Source: Tuckman, Bruce (1965). “Developmental sequence in small groups”. Psychological Bulletin 63 (6): 384–99.

Found the answer to my question

Bulgan Batdorj MASc candidate in Mining Engineering // May 20, 2015

From my trip to Mongolia, I have found the answer to that hard question of whether EITI is needed in Mongolia or anywhere else. The answer was yes, EITI is a one of a foundation block for the transparency, accountability and good governance. It was a piece of a big jigsaw puzzle, that is exactly why without the other matching pieces, it did not make sense.

It was rather discouraging to see the many defficiencies of applied EITI in Mongolia. On the good note,  all of these defects were brought up by the representatives of civil society, professional association, media and international organisations in Mongolia. Their critics were that EITI was not easily accessible by media, civil society organisations and public (mind you, us graduate students did not fully get our heads around it) because of its heavy numerical technical reports. Secondly, the reports are not timely as they are produced almost a year and a half later.  This flaw of the EITI does not make it any attractive to media and civil society organistaions to make the time to dig a deep in this ever-changing world of today. Thirdly, because most of the EITI countries are not bearing the financial responsibilities, the ownership is not there, meaning an international initiative funded by foreign money. This lack of ownership leads to a lack of accountability. Many countries are even lagging behind the reporting deadlines or the reporting quality is not up to the standard (the standard that could make a difference to that certain country).  We could identify these shortcomings in the many countries that we have worked on.

On the other hand, the EITI did make a sense, it was that puzzle which was right, which could change the color of the whole picture. This is exactly why our presentations were well received and well attended in Mongolia while the highly controversial Tavan Tolgoi and Oyu Tolgoi discussions were taking place live. The civil society organisations, media, professional associations, the mining ministry and donor organisations took their valuable time to listen to our research findings. Each organisations have been generous with their praise and critics. They even had feisty discussions of the future, present and past mistakes and successes of EITI in Mongolia. One of the comments was that Mongolia needed other benchmark countries to improve the quality of its implementation. The others demanded the CSO and media to play their role in advocating transparency to the public and demanding accountability from the government and some critiqued the leadership of the EITI secretariat. In general, all were actively engaged in improving and knowing more of EITI.

This is an important year for EITI in Mongolia. Once the EITI law is approved, the secretariat will have bigger resources to deliver on the much needed public advocacy of EITI and will get more opportunity to communicate to the general public the successes that they built. Also, the year is waiting Ms. Claire Short’s visit in July and validation report in October to come. These milestone events are just a start of whole new Mongolian EITI wave.

The Trip to Ulaanbaatar: An Unforgettable Journey

Justin Kwan, MAAPPS // May 13, 2015

After 19,308km of traveling from Canada to Mongolia, the Asia Pacific Policy Project team has finally returned back to the University of British Columbia. The journey to Ulaanbaatar has been an amazing experience, to say the very least. Nine days in Mongolia’s capital city has created a fresh viewpoint not only on the way I view policy making, but the real struggles that occur between different interest groups in the negotiation process.

The beginning of the trip started with the participation in the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) Conference, with a keynote opening speech by Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, the President of Mongolia. While freedom online and the EITI subnational reporting project may appear to be completely unrelated, President Elbedgdorj acknowledged that beyond mining, he wanted his country to expand its investments and businesses into the IT and software industry. Perhaps a subtle, but clear sign that that Mongolia is looking to diversify its investments, and perhaps has too heavily relied on the extractive industry to support its economy.

A reoccurring theme throughout the trip however has been the frequent discussion of the mismatch between our “words and deeds.” A FOC panel discussing future internet trends noted the question of double speak and the distance between practice and implementation in policy making. After team discussions and reflections upon our trip, we agreed that the coined term could most appropriately be used in our meetings with government and civil society organizations.

Throughout the trip, three perspectives about the future of subnational reporting emerged from out meetings. On one hand, I can see great optimism about Mongolia’s future and EITI subnational reporting. In our meeting with Mongolia’s EITI secretariat office, it was indicated that already, 19 out of 21 Aimags are reporting at the subnational level through electronic online surveys. This is something that we were pleasantly surprised to learn about and that future training workshops will be providing this upcoming year to help facilitate the transition.

On the other hand however, there is another perspective from other civil society groups that the EITI project has failed to reach out and properly inform citizens about transparency in the mining sector. According to them, there is no desire to make this information accessible to ordinary citizens, and the project has wasted millions of dollars. With the fact that EITI Mongolia is still in the process of securing donor funds for the next year, it would appear that the initiative may be in limbo for the upcoming months.

A third and final perspective from EITI civil society stakeholders reveals the passion and desire to create a robust civil society that will protect the country’s interests. There is a legitimate desire amongst these groups to encourage the population to become more involved, and there is a legitimate sense of frustration and debate as to how these ideas can be fully implemented. While many ideas were exchanged, it was surprising to note that a rather important voice remained silent throughout these discussions, perhaps one of the most important voices for inciting real change in Mongolia.

From this trip, we have realized that although our desires to encourage EITI policy recommendations have somewhat fallen on deaf ears, there is still hope. Indeed, there is a complete disconnect between policy theory and policy implementation, and the actors who can make the most difference prefer to keep the status quo. However, trips like this showed us some of the most real-time up-to-date information about subnational reporting that no literature was able to provide. The Ministry of Mining of Mongolia also revealed that the extractive industries transparency legislation has been drafted and is seeking approval from parliament. Although frequent election cycles have created a lack of continuity in policy making in Mongolia and perhaps a somewhat unstable political environment, I still look at this situation with a great sense of optimism because the hopes and aspirations of the people in Mongolia are strong. While I myself may be aspirational in my outlook, I look at the desire for change as one of the greatest motivators for continuing to strive for success.

Reading about Mongolia is one experience, living it and experiencing it first hand is completely different – something I truly believe everyone should try at least once in their lifetime.

presentations well-received in ulaanbaatar

Harry Li, MAPPS // May 12, 2015

I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to Mongolia for this project. It was life-changing and broadened my professional and educational viewpoints beyond expectation. I would like to acknowledge the hardwork our teammates contributed. Although not all of us could be physically present in Ulaanbaatar, their dedication was essential. On May 7th and 8th, our team presented and engaged with the following organizations,
· University of Mongolia, mining and technology department
· Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit(GIZ)
· EITI secretariat, Mongolia
· Ministry of mining Mongolia
· Mongolian national broadcaster
· Mongolian journalists, NGOs, and other stakeholders
· Mongolian mining journal
· IRIM Mongolia
Overall, our comparative analysis on EITI sub-national implementation, and policy recommendation were well-received. The presentation from the paper group and policy group were combined. One of the restraints of our research was that it was primarily a secondary literature review, with limited knowledge on the reality of local situation. However, our team constantly improved the policy analysis and recommendations after receiving updates on local situation, as well as critiques from various stakeholders.

For the policy group, our key recommendation is to disseminate EITI information in a simplified manner. Although each year, EITI Mongolia is one of the firsts to report, over 120 pages of statistical and financial report is extremely difficult to decipher for regular citizens. Therefore, we have finalized the communication venues for simplifying and disseminating EITI sub-national reporting into three aspects: banking system (Khan Bank), schooling system (vocational mining schools) and posters ( Zuom healthcare centers, gas pump stickers, citizen halls and national libraries) . During the EITI seminar, Mongolian NGO representatives, mining journals, GIZ and other stakeholders were highly engaged in our recommendations.

Recognizing the potential conflict of interest, as Khan Bank is a corporate entity, using Khan Bank as a communication venue is suitable because it processes the widest expanding banking network in Mongolia, with 503 branches in total and 409 in the rural areas. Teaching mining students about EITI is a long-term strategy in engaging future stakeholders. The idea of putting posters at various locations seems increasingly plausible due to the expanding use of internet and mobile devices in Mongolia. According to the statistics provided by the Freedom Online Collation, 67% of Mongolians are using internet and every 2 in 3 Mongolians process mobile devices. The president of Mongolian heavily emphasizes on the importance in this trend. Thus with more cyber-engagement, the uses of internet and mobile devices are great potential communication venues for disseminating simplified EITI information, especially on sub-national reporting.