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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute

Past Events

Find out about some of the previous events held by Durham Energy Institute:

The promise of transparency: the making of UK policy for accountability in extractive industries

19th May 2016, 13:00 to 14:00, E245, School of Engineering & Computing Sciences, Taras Fedirko

The last decade has seen a rise in international campaigns and policies that seek to promote transparency
and accountability of extractive industries, in particular in developing countries. Transparency promises to break the spell of the ‘resource curse’, bring more and better economic development, and make the oil, gas and mining
sectors more accountable. But how exactly is this promise to be realised, and why should we believe in it in the first place?

Taras Fedirko’s talk will examine how Whitehall civil servants and representatives of UK civil society and extractive corporations wrestle with these questions as they collectively negotiate and implement two policies: the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), and the Reports on Payments to Government Regulations (RPGR).

He will analyse the two policies in order to explain their cultural logic — that is, how the promise of transparency is ultimately rooted in distinctive Euro-American ideas about democratic citizenship, personal agency and public information, which do not necessarily hold in non-Western socio-political contexts. Taras will then proceed to trace out the entanglement of different, often conflicting rationales guiding the implementation of EITI and RPGR, in order to argue that the practical realisation of transparency’s promise rests on much more mundane kinds of aspirations and agreements. He will use examples from his ethnographic research within the UK Department for Business in order to demonstrate that while EITI and RPGR are formally separate, they are in fact highly interdependent because of intricate social relationships among the people who implement them. Taras will conclude by arguing for the role of anthropology in understanding policymaking in the extractives and energy sectors, and beyond.

Taras is a PhD fellow in the Durham Energy Institute. His doctoral research explores how and why British NGOs, civil servants and extractive companies seek to prevent the ‘resource curse’ in ‘developing countries’ by negotiating transparency policies that increasingly bind the governance of natural resources with the audit of resource revenues.

During his 14-months’ fieldwork in London, he has followed civil servants, campaigners and corporate representatives in their negotiations of domestic and international policies on disclosure of payments that businesses make to governments for extraction. Taras seeks to analyse how, and to what effect, policy-makers and their stakeholders articulate ideas of ‘natural resource’, ‘transparency’ and ‘corruption’ in different contexts. Taking a close-up view of the ‘social life’ of transparency policies allows me to look into ideas, commitments and social arrangements through which these people imagine and pursue ‘accountable’ relations between governments and oil, gas and mining companies.

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