Angel Yalartai from Liberia recently came to Trinidad with one mission — to transfer her knowledge and skills to the youths of this country on the management of the nation’s extractive resources and equip them to make wise decisions when they eventually become leaders in the society. Not an easy feat for a 16-year-old foreign pupil but Yalartai has proven to be quite capable — the eleventh grade student of St Teresa Convent High School in Monrovia, the capital of the West African country, was recently named most valuable debater at the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency (LEITI) Inter-high School debate after her school won this year’s debate competition. The LEITI competition was held under the theme: “Talking about our Resources”. Angel won a trip to Trinidad and a three-week internship with the Trinidad and Tobago Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (TTEITI) having led and starred in her schools senior debate team. The internship programme is the first such initiative for the TTEITI and the LEITI.
Established in 2002, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is a multi-stakeholder coalition of governments, private companies, investors, civil society organisations, and partner organisations, with 39 countries on board. The initiative aims at fostering transparency in extractive sectors, such as oil and gas, by disclosing key information to citizens, including company payments and reconciling them with government receipts.
Three point five billion people live in countries rich in oil, gas and minerals. With good governance of these resources, they can generate large revenues to foster economic growth and reduce poverty. However, when transparency and accountability is low, such resource revenues may result in poverty, corruption and conflict. The EITI (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative) aims to strengthen governance by improving transparency and accountability in the extractives sector. The EITI is a global standard that promotes revenue transparency. It has a robust yet flexible methodology for monitoring and reconciling company payments and government revenues at the country level. Each implementing country creates its own EITI process which is overseen by participants from the government, companies and national civil society. The EITI Board and the International Secretariat are the guardians of the EITI methodology internationally.
Yalartai recently participated in TTEITI’s youth advisory forum on “Communicating the EITI”, where she presented on the LEITI. She said having the opportunity to present and to learn was empowering, timely and an important experience. “For someone who wants to be a lawyer I have to be very informed. Coming to Trinidad has allowed me to be involved with workshops with NGC, UNESCO and BP. I have also been meeting with other organisations to learn about EITI. All these meetings and worships have been very informative. In Liberia part of what we do is mainly outreach programmes,” Yalartai said.
She said she felt comfortable addressing TTEITI’s youths. “I felt comfortable and I was able to get my message across. What the LEITI does is host programmes so that youths can get involved and be exposed to the industries and resources and the benefits of these resources. We are trying to get more youths involved back home in Liberia. One of the things I’m going to do when I get home is to try to get LEITI to reach out to more youths not only in the schools but outside of the schools in their communities and get them involved,” Yalartai said.
“So my goal is to encourage my colleagues to have that passion and drive about the extractive industries. It’s not just taking part in competitions and enjoying the prizes. I think it is important for us to go forth and put our all into it and spread the word about the EITI. In Liberia there is a potential for oil but our focus is on gold, diamond, iron ore, rubber and timber so the mining agriculture and forestry sectors are very important,” Yalartai said.
The government is accused of corrupt practices with the award of forestry and agricultural concessions. Therefore its membership of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, to which T&T has just become a signatory, is significant for the population. Yalartai, who is also part of her country’s e-club (Extractive Club Programme) which aims is to empower the youth, especially high school students, through education and awareness of issues within the country’s extractive sectors, explained, “In Liberia before a company sets up they sign a contract to give back to a community so they have to sometimes develop schools and hospitals and different things that the community needs so they will meet with the community representative to discuss ways in which they could provide the community needs,” Yalartai said.
The recent TTEITI session focused on effective communication techniques and how to interact with the media with tips for interviews. In October the TTEITI will have a fourth Youth Advisory forum for youths. TTEITI policy analyst Gisela Granado, said TTEITI has been working with the Ministry of Education to get more youths involved in its forums. “We have also been working with environmental NGOS and youth NGOS to get civil society involved. The EITI is triparted; it’s unique in that it involves government, private companies and civil society; they all work together. We want the youths to get interested in the extractive industry. Most youths don’t feel very connected to oil and gas because it employs a smaller number of persons, so we want them to get interested in it to start asking questions about its management to become informed about it,” Granado said.