The interest that some key stakeholders use to support mechanisms for transparency are not always proportional to their power. The experience from some Latin American countries can be crucial to understand the relation between interest and power.
The invited representatives of the TRACE 2014-2015 Program organized by Publish What You Pay Norway made a Stakeholder Analysis about their countries. The exercise was based on defining the interest and power that different key actors have in each country about supporting mechanisms of transparency. Each country provided contrasting results; in the following paragraphs we describe some of the most interesting.
In Guatemala lobby groups that represent large companies were defined as very powerful, politically, economically and even culturally; however, they were characterized by usually not having interest in endorsing transparency. It was discussed that in many cases they are related to actors known to be involved with illegal activities and are therefore very unlikely to enhance transparency mechanisms. In this sense, drug traffickers were defined as major players, but with no interest to gain political power or get involved with society. The church was discussed as an actor who fulfills a major role in organizing and strengthening social organizations, especially in relation to human rights. However, it was said that when it comes to confronting the elites related to extractive industries in Guatemala, social initiatives are known to not have any political power.
Lack of an opposing force
In Bolivia the government was criticized because of its inability to follow its own transparency policy, due to the lack of an independent political force that could create the needed pressure to do so. It was said that such situation is mainly because social organizations have lost their political power over the past years, and are now dependent to leaders who are closely related to the government. Moreover, private oil and gas companies were defined as dependent to the government given that the state has economic and political power over all type of contracts. Furthermore, the political forces of opposition in Bolivia have not been able to address the need of more transparent information. This has been because their discourse has mainly focused on criticizing each other for political reasons, rather than providing new perspectives for policy making. Consequently and regardless its major importance, topics like corruption or abuse of power have not been taken as an important issue when addressing their political agendas.
Gains even more power
In Ecuador the state has become a powerful actor, although not always transparent despite its open discourse about the need to have a more transparent political system. Despite its achievements on development standards and its significance for the nation’s political stability, the current government was criticized in relation to its double discourse about oil production. The discussion mainly focused in addressing that the public does not have enough information to address how new investments for oil production are being handled. In certain way, this is due to the fact that civil society has lost power as a result of the lower amounts of foreign aid money coming to NGOs. Nowadays, Ecuador is seen as a country which generates enough wealth to sustain itself, as a result of oil revenues and thus it is not seen as a priority for international aid efforts. However, such new financial reality has made all non-state actors, especially civil society, become more dependent to governmental funding and thus reliant to its distribution criteria.
Civil society movements
Finally, the analysis done about Colombia provided a new insight on the discussion. It was said that besides the state and major extractive companies, an important stakeholder in today’s political environment is the FARC. However, the FARC was addressed as an actor not interested in demanding transparent mechanisms given that they would have to respond for violent actions and illegal mining. Furthermore, labor unions were addressed as very influential in Colombia but too dependent on other political actors. However, in general, civil society and indigenous communities do not have any influence on policies but have shown to have great capabilities for organizing demonstrations. Therefore, it can be expected that among the four countries that were discussed, Colombia could represent the country in which civil society has the highest potential to demand transparency.