17 November 2022
When Governments such as Zimbabwe make deals with investors to exploit publicly held natural resources, it is in the public interest to disclose to citizens the terms of such agreements. These terms are contained in contracts, licenses, legislation, and regulations. While legislation and regulations are usually open to the public, licenses and contracts are not.
For citizens, the disclosure of contracts and licenses facilitates the effective monitoring of extractive industry projects and discourages corruption to thrive. For governments, access to contracts increases public trust, provides valuable information that strengthens the government’s capacity to negotiate, monitor and enforce the rules, and ensures that all officials have access to the agreed terms relevant to their responsibilities. For companies, contract disclosure helps build a “social license to operate” and this can help build stronger community relationships that make projects more stable.
Contracts that are disclosed are easier to enforce, and government agencies and ministries become aware of the contract terms and can collaborate more effectively to ensure that the contract terms are followed.
It is encouraging to see that contract openness is in effect for nations like Ghana, where access to contracts is increasingly seen as being in the public interest. Governments, businesses, and the public society worked together to pave the way for contract disclosure in the nation. In February 2018, the Ghanian Government launched an online public register with 18 major petroleum contracts as a way of responding to increased calls for contract transparency. Access to contracts is increasingly regarded as being in the public interest.
The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) notes that minerals are distinct from other industries due to their finite nature. As a result, it is critical to continually raise awareness about the importance of managing these resources prudently, so that opportunities being presented by these minerals cannot be missed. On the 16th -17th of November 2022, the organisation brought together journalists and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) representatives to discuss these and other related issues. The participants were also encouraged to write accurate, balanced, and credible stories.
National and international organizations were able to share their knowledge; the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a major driver in spreading the norm of contract disclosure, also unpacked the EITI standard. It is our hope that the lessons shared will motivate CSOs and journalists to advocate and report effectively on the extractives sector.
 See Contract Transparency: Creating Conditions to Improve Contract Quality (NRGI, March 2015), 4, accessed 20 February 2017, http://www.resourcegovernance.org/sites/default/fles/nrgi_ContractTransparency.pdf