south sudan rainbow

Briefing / Jan. 30, 2017

Revenue disclosure laws – Cardin-Lugar and the global transparency standard

Global Witness has successfully campaigned for laws to make oil and mining companies publish their payments to governments for over 15 years.

In the US, the adoption of the Cardin-Lugar anti-corruption provision in 2010 paved the way for the EU, Canada and Norway to introduce matching legislation and create of a global standard for revenue transparency.

These laws are game-changers. For decades, corruption in the oil, gas and mining industries has helped keep poor countries poor, propped up dirty regimes and created risks for investors. 

Take Nigeria. Despite a 50 year oil boom that helped it grow into Africa’s largest economy, 8 out of 10 citizens still live on less than $2 a day. An estimated $400bn in oil revenues has gone missing because the deals were done behind closed doors, while international aid too often pays for things like schools and hospitals. 

Sadly, this situation is far from unique. Payments for natural resources need to be brought into the open so that citizens, journalists and MPs know how much money is going in, and can hold their governments to account for how it has been spent.

Global Witness has campaigned for this kind of transparency for many years. Our investigations into oil industry corruption led us to co-found the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) coalition, a global civil society movement whose campaigning led to the establishment of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a voluntary scheme implemented in 51 countries for extractive companies to declare what they pay to governments, and for governments to declare what they receive.

This paved the way for the creation of a ground-breaking law in the US, the Cardin-Lugar anti-corruption provision, which requires oil, gas and mining companies that are listed in the US to publish their payments to governments wherever they operate in the world. These include major US companies such as ExxonMobil and Chevron, as well as foreign giants such as PetroChina and Petrobras.

After its introduction in 2010, the Cardin-Lugar provision inspired the EU, Canada and Norway to adopt matching laws, meaning that most of the world's biggest oil and mining companies are now required to declare what they pay to governments in return for specific natural resource extraction projects.

In the US, however, the Cardin-Lugar law is under attack from Congress and a small number of big oil companies acting through the American Petroleum Institute.

Although the laws have met with fierce resistance from opponents of greater transparency, the world increasingly recognises that doing deals in the open is good for society and good for business.  Global Witness is now pushing for a global standard based on these principles, and for complimentary measures to stop the corrupt hiding their activities behind anonymous companies.

This timeline sets out the key moments in the campaign so far: