The Democratic Republic of Congo must honour its transparency pledges by publishing details of major natural resource agreements, said Global Witness today. The call comes on the eve of a World Bank meeting that will consider whether conditions for lifting its freeze on new aid to the country have been met, as set out in an “economic governance matrix”, made public today by Global Witness.
Congo’s government has begun to introduce reforms that would increase transparency in its natural resource sector, including the timely publication of mining, oil and forest agreements. These improvements aim to meet the conditions set out in the matrix and, if implemented, could see hundreds of millions of dollars in World Bank aid unblocked.
“Congo’s natural resource sector has long been plagued by corruption and bad management,” said Lizzie Parsons, campaigner for Global Witness. “In the past the government has dragged its heels in publishing contracts, but these commitments set out in the matrix are a very positive development. Now it must deliver, and seize this golden opportunity to clean up the sector.”
Publishing details of its $6 billion resources-for-infrastructure agreement with China, in which Congo promised Chinese state firms millions of tonnes of copper and cobalt in return for infrastructure projects, would send a clear message that the Congolese government is taking its stated commitments seriously.
Global Witness recently highlighted the opacity of the Congo-China deal in its report China and Congo: Friends in Need. The report raised concerns that key aspects of the deal – such as the pricing of minerals - were undefined. A renegotiated version of the deal from 2009 has not yet been published, leaving the Congolese public in the dark over its full contents.
Following the publication of China and Congo: Friends in Need, the Congolese government gave Global Witness a list of finalised and planned infrastructure projects to come online within the first phase of construction.
“The sharing of information by the Ministry of Infrastructure and the recent online publication of progress in construction projects by its Infrastructure Unit are encouraging steps towards greater transparency”, said Parsons. “We hope to see similarly positive commitments in the country’s natural resource sector.”
Congo is poised to sign new deals with investors in its natural resource sector. In the past year, major new oil deals have handed blocks in northeastern Congo to Foxwhelp and Caprikat, previously unknown companies based in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands. It is crucial that these contracts are also published and that the true or “beneficial” owners of the companies, currently hidden from the public eye, are made known. The country has also recently signed an agreement with the China Development Bank covering, among other aspects, mining, oil and infrastructure. However, scant information regarding the agreement is available, including its financial value or the period over which the activities would take place.
“Proposed investments in Congo’s resource sector could transform the country’s future – but only if they are properly managed and subject to public scrutiny,” said Parsons. “The World Bank and other donors to Congo should urge the government to publish natural resource contracts. Such measures make it easier for Congolese people to better understand how their nation’s money is being spent and to have some assurance that their country’s rich resources will be used to drive development and fight poverty.”
Lizzie Parsons, +44 (0) 207 492 5865 and +44 (0) 7808 761572
Daniel Balint-Kurti, +44 (0) 207 492 5872 and +44 (0) 7912 517 146
Notes to editors:
1. Global Witness’ report, China and Congo: Friends in Need, was launched in Kinshasa on 8 March and is available in English, French and Chinese. Extra material is also available here, including copies of the September 2007 and April 2008 Congo-China agreements and relevant Chinese state guidelines.
2. A copy of the economic governance matrix in French, infrastructure information relating to the Congo-China deal (also in French), and cartographic information of planned infrastructure under China deal are all available here.