Mining Watch discusses next step following Afghanistan’s suspension from EITI

Wahaidullah Azizi, Integrity Watch Afghanistan | @WahidSays

Mining Watch Afghanistan (MWA) members expressed their concerns over the Government’s lack of meaningful progress in, and management of, the extractive sector, resulting in the suspension of the country from Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in its 20th February session.

Mujib Azizi, a researcher at Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) and a member of the MWA network said that lack of Government’s willingness to implement the needed reforms suggested by the key anti-corruption body and mismanagement of the sector resulted in Afghanistan’s suspension from the initiative. “With the current trajectory of the extractive sector, the chances are that Afghanistan may never get full membership status”, he warned. Others suggested that the Ministry’s leadership is another issue which hinders the sector’s development. Naser Timory, Head of Advocacy and Communications at Integrity Watch Afghanistan which is currently the secretariat of the network said that the continued running of the ministry by the Acting Minister raises a question about the political will to carry out reforms in the sector and this, in turn, discourages the long-term planning needed to transform the sector.

In late January this year, the EITI secretariat based in Norway announced the suspension of Afghanistan from the initiative citing lack of overall progress in the extractive sector. The body, however, encouraged the country to continue implementing the recommendations suggested by the EITI reports. For its part, the Government has promised to take whatever steps are necessary so that Afghanistan can rejoin EITI by June 2019.

The MWA members also discussed the new Mineral Law which was recently approved by the Present’s Office. However, members of the MWA network expressed doubts as to whether the new Law was aimed at combating corruption in the sector and improving transparency in the mining contracts. Abdul Mateen Shinwari, a member of MWA who closely worked with the government to improve the various provisions of the new Law said, “major recommendations aimed at ensuring transparency and fighting corruption have been ignored”.  “Instead of making new law with many vague and weak provisions, we suggested a number of amendments to the 2014 Mineral Law,” he added.

The MWA network agreed to continue its advocacy efforts around the new Mineral Law by suggesting in the following months a new set of recommendations to improve the transparency of the extractive sector to the parliament.

The MWA network is a coalition of civil society, activists and academics active in the extractive sector. Integrity Watch is hosting the network and has acted as its Secretariat for the past two years. In February’s meeting, the members voted to extend Afghanistan time as host of the network. Mining Watch Afghanistan came into being in 2015 as a result of a movement of Afghan and international civil society organizations which were fighting against abuses in the mining sector of Afghanistan.