Mining oil and gas companies to face tougher rules on disclosing payments

LONDON — Canada is adopting a G8 initiative that would require companies to disclose any payments they make to governments, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Wednesday in London at a meeting with oil, gas and mining executives.“In advance of the G8 summit, I’m pleased to announce that Canada will establish new, mandatory reporting standards for payments made to foreign and domestic governments by Canadian extractive companies,” Harper said.“With 70% of the world’s mining companies listed in Canada, and 70% of the world’s free-enterprise oil located in Canada, our participation will help transform the way industry reports payments worldwide.”Leaders of the world’s eight richest countries pledged after their 2011 meeting in Deauville, France, to consider new rules that would allow for greater scrutiny of companies’ payments to governments. Critics say such measures are badly needed to expose corruption in countries with an abundance of natural resource riches.Other countries, such as the United States and Hong Kong, already have similar measures in place.Canada is a major player in the extractive industry, with hundreds of companies operating thousands of projects around the world.Half of the mining that takes place around the world is done by Canadian companies. Sixty per cent of all the world’s mining and exploration companies and 35% of all oil and gas companies are listed on Canadian exchanges.Anthony Hodge, head of the International Council on Mining and Metals, an industry group that represents some of the biggest mining companies, said the rules are needed both inside and outside Canada.“This is not limited to out of Canada. There are issues inside Canada that are a real concern on this,” Hodge said.“But the issue is when you find yourself in a culture different than a Canadian culture where that kind of activity may be more common practice. And that’s tough to deal (with) when you’re a Canadian company trying to understand that culture and trying to bring to the table a less corrupt approach to doing business.”While there are already some standards and mechanisms in place for companies, these new rules would be enforceable by law.“Now, obviously, this regime has been subject and will be subject going forward to additional consultations within Canada, but this is a direction we’re determined to pursue because this information is essential for citizens to hold their governments accountable,” Harper said.“We’ll obviously be working closely with the partners in the developing world.”The federal government will now consult with the provinces and territories, First Nations and aboriginal groups, industry and civil society organizations as it sets up its reporting regime. A senior Canadian government official, speaking on the condition his name not be used, said he expects it will take about two years to hold consultations and develop a framework for the new reporting regime.Details such as how the reporting regime would be policed, and by whom, along with potential penalties for any companies that do not report their payments to other countries, need to be ironed out. It’s possible provincial securities regulators could play a role, the official said.The government is also trying to avoid burdening companies with too much extra paperwork, he added.Transparency is at the top of the agenda at the coming G8 summit in Northern Ireland. British Prime Minister David Cameron wants to leave the lakeside Lough Erne resort with an agreement on tougher transparency measures in hand.“As you know, my trip here and around Europe this week is in advance of the G8 meetings next week. Prime Minister Cameron, as we know, has identified a number of priorities for the G8 this year, and one of those is transparency in the extractive sector, specifically in the mining and energy sectors,” Harper said.“This has long been a priority for Canada. We put great emphasis in Canada on corporate social responsibility, and through our various foreign-aid programs, we have assisted transparency in the extractive sector around the world.”But Cameron is reportedly encountering some resistance to a proposal that would force companies to reveal who actually owns them. Some might consider it somewhat embarrassing to the British prime minister, who is chairing the G8 summit, if he fails to seal a deal on ownership-disclosure rules.Beyond talks about the economy and financial issues, the G8 is also expected to focus on international security, particularly the Syrian conflict, Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs and anti-terrorism measures in Africa’s Sahel region.The G8 summit comes as Canada and the European Union are trying to conclude lengthy negotiations on a free trade agreement. The Prime Minister’s Office has sought to play down any expectations a deal will be announced while Harper is in Europe this week, saying an agreement at this juncture is unlikely.Canada is under pressure to conclude a deal before the European Union turns its attention to free trade negotiations with the United States this summer.Among the issues believed to be on the negotiating table are financial services, Canadian beef exports, country-of-origin rules for vehicles, procurement limits for provinces and municipalities and drug patent protection.Meanwhile, sources tell The Canadian Press the Conservative government has agreed to smooth the way for more takeovers of Canadian companies by European firms in one of several concessions during free trade talks.Canada has also agreed to open up parts of its hydro-electric sector to a limited amount of foreign investment, say sources in Canada with intimate knowledge of the talks.Canadian negotiators have also agreed to a provision to raise the threshold for reviewing foreign acquisitions from Europe to $1.5 billion, sources say. All acquisitions under that value would not be subject to a government assessment about whether they create a net benefit for Canada. read more

Libya needs to move ahead now or risk division and collapse UN

“It is with a very heavy heart that I begin my briefing to you noting that humanitarian situation in Libya has deteriorated further, against the background of poor funding for the humanitarian response,” Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), told the 15-member Council.Libya is a country of six million people, with significant resources. But, across the country, the UN estimates that 2.4 million individuals are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance. In addition, more than 40 per cent of the health facilities in Libya are not functioning, and over one million children under the age of five are at risk of being affected by a vaccine shortage.“It is now imperative that Libyan political actors take responsibility in the higher interest of the Libyan people to stop human suffering,” urged Mr. Kobler, adding that the process towards a democratic transition has continued to meet a number of milestones but at the same time remains precarious.No effective State institutionsTwo weeks ago, on 17 February, Libya marked the fifth anniversary of the 2011 revolution which toppled the dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi. However, five years on, the UN envoy highlighted that the current political and military vacuum “is allowing terrorist groups and criminal networks to establish deep roots,” as Libya has “no effective state institutions.”According to the Special Representative, the overwhelming majority of the Libyan people are in favour of the Libyan Political Agreement, and support the formation of a Government of National Accord that can effectively address the existing threats.“The overwhelming majority want and deserve peace – now,” Mr. Kobler insisted. “Some of those politically responsible on both sides, however, still refuse to listen to the voices of the Libyan people and pursue their own narrow political interests. In my last briefing to the Security Council, I promised to broaden the basis of support to the Libyan Political Agreement.”He underlined that with his colleagues and the international community, they have persistently reached out to those who are opposing the Libyan Political Agreement. “However, until now we are unable to convince them to go the way of peace and unity,” he reported.Latest political updateOn 15 January, the Presidency Council presented a cabinet for approval by the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives voted to endorse the Libyan Political Agreement in principle, but it requested the Presidency Council nominate a new and smaller cabinet, he said.After days of deliberations, on 14 February the Presidency Council finalized a new list of candidates for a streamlined cabinet. On 22 February, the House of Representatives met to consider the Presidency Council’s second cabinet. However, its session was interrupted by a minority of parliamentarians who opposed the vote, and who, Mr. Kobler explained, resorted to threats and intimidation preventing the majority to freely express its vote.“Nonetheless, this majority gathered 100 signatures in support of endorsement of the newcabinet and its programme,” he continued. “I am convinced that a positive vote could have taken place on 22 February, had the leadership of the House of Representatives shown the resolve and determination to put the Government of National Accord to a vote.”Mr. Kobler informed the Council that he has written to the Speaker of the House of Representatives to register the will of the democratic majority, and formalize its endorsement of the unity government. “Failing such recognition and a positive endorsement by the House of Representatives by early next week, Libyans have to go on. I intend to reconvene the Libyan Political Dialogue to explore the way forward in line with the Libyan Political Agreement,” he noted, highlighting how he intends to proceed.Terrorist groups taking advantage of vacuumOn the security front, Mr. Kobler said that Da’esh, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is taking advantage of the political and security vacuum and is expanding to the West, East and to the South. “While Libya’s financial resources are dwindling, the criminal networks, including human smuggling, are booming,” he warned.During an assault last week, Da’esh reportedly killed 17 people, beheading several of them. The terrorist group has also continued to carry out multiple beheadings and atrocities in their stronghold, Sirte. “Da’esh in Libya constitutes an urgent and growing threat to Libya, the region and beyond. However, the fight against violent extremism can only be sustainable if it is led by a national unity government that puts in place and prioritises a national agenda to address the country’s most immediate challenges and works to meet the aspirations and expectations of the Libyan people,” stressed the UN envoy.On the issue of gender equality, Mr Kobler told the Council he has continued to strongly advocate increased women participation in Libyan political life, in particular by calling for a 30 per cent share of ministerial posts in the Government of National Accord. “Sadly, my calls have not been heeded,” he said.Finally, he underlined that Libya’s neighbours, are suffering direct consequences of the country’s instability and that he is committed to fully engage with them in reaching a political solution to the crisis. read more