Important to distinguish resource nationalism from nationalisation - French official

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It is important to note that the concept of resource nationalism does not mean nationalisation, Geneviève Jean-van Rossum, special representative for bioethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR) at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs of the French Government, told Fin24 at the recent Mining Indaba in Cape Town.

"The general topic is that a big number of countries have a lot of natural resources underground and at the same time people must observe that some of those countries lack the financial means for development these resources," she explained.

"This topic has been discussed for over 50 years with the question posed why, after independence, many countries and their populations did not benefit from the extraction of its resources."

She said these developing countries have to face a lot of challenges and initiatives related to transparency in the mining industry is aiming at providing tools for sustainable business and governmental conduct.

For her the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is a good example of a programme aimed at providing such tools and guidelines for sustainable resource extraction. The EITI has already been endorsed by about 51 countries globally, of which 24 are in Africa.

Countries which join the EITI are audited and an inspector writes a related report. In the view of Jean-van Rossum, this also helps to strengthen the dialogue between the mining industry and civil society.

"What we are trying to do with the EITI is to ask all the different stakeholders to make public what has been going on in terms of revenues - profits for companies and taxes for governments - from natural resources and how it has been shared by different stakeholders," said Jean-van Rossum.

"Then everyone, including the public can see how the money earned in the mining industry was applied. So, by asking stakeholders to make public as many things as possible, including the contracts which have been signed by companies, then when a government publishes its own national budget, for instance, one would be able to have a precise look at weather all the money that came from resources were ploughed into public institutions."

The citizens of a country would then have access to information on commercial activities in the mining industry.

"Resource nationalism means you want the people of a country to benefit from resources. A country could, for instance, have a policy of taxes or a minimum contribution to public funds in this regard," said Jean-van Rossum.

"Ensuring transparency in the mining industry could involve additional costs to do reports, for instance, but listed companies already provide a lot of information in any event. At the same time, understandably, they may be reluctant to reveal certain information related to their core business and commercial activities due to a potential on their competition."

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