Sunshine Week: In Celebration of Transparency

Ed. Note: This post is part of a Sunshine Week series on Sunshine Week is a national initiative to celebrate and focus on government transparency and open government.

Sunshine Week is about the importance of transparency, and the public’s right to know what its government is doing. That philosophy has been at the core of the Obama Administration from Day One, and over the last four years we’ve let a lot of sunshine in—including in some domains that are not widely known to the general public but are nonetheless important and deserving of illumination.

In one representative example, the U.S. Government in September 2011 committed to implement the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)—a voluntary, global effort designed to increase transparency, strengthen the accountability of natural resource revenues, and build public trust for the governance of these vital activities.  Sunshine Week is a good time to reflect on the notable steps the Administration has taken in the last year-and-a-half to fulfill its commitment to implement EITI, which was launched as part of the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan.

In the true spirit of EITI and the Open Government Partnership, we endeavored from the start to undertake this effort in a collaborative and inclusive fashion, engaging government, the private sector, civil society, and the public. We began with a comprehensive stakeholder assessment, which involved two public comment periods, a webinar, a public workshop, and public listening sessions in Anchorage, Denver, Houston, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C.  We conducted tribal consultations at meetings of the National Congress of American Indians, the Alaska Federation of Natives, and tribal advisory committees, and we met with individual tribes engaged in resource extraction. We also consulted with and learned from our counterparts in other countries who have already implemented EITI, to garner best practices. 

As a result, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar last July established, and sought nominations for, a Federal Advisory Committee to serve as the U.S. EITI multi-stakeholder group tasked with overseeing U.S. implementation of EITI. Through October, government agencies and Members of Congress, as well as companies and industry associations, academics, and public interest organizations nominated representatives to serve on the Committee. And in December, Secretary Salazar appointed 21 members and 20 alternates, culminating our efforts to bring together representatives of very diverse constituencies, with a wide range of experience for the common purpose of promoting extractive revenue transparency for the American people. 

Last month, Secretary Salazar hosted the inaugural meeting of this multi-stakeholder Committee, marking the beginning of an intensive, multi-year process in which we will jointly develop standards and mechanisms for publicly reporting extractive revenue data in ways that are meaningful to the public we serve. The Administration is fully committed to supporting the EITI multi-stakeholder process and working collaboratively toward full implementation of this important initiative in the United States.  In so doing, we will foster a more participatory, transparent, and accountable government.

Lisa Ellman is the Chief Counselor for the Open Government Partnership at OSTP

Rhea Suh is the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget at the U.S. Department of the Interior.  She serves as the USEITI National Coordinator and Chair of the USEITI Multi-Stakeholder Group

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