Reversing the Resource Curse: Theory and Practice--A CEU School of Public Policy, Revenue Watch Institute and Natural Resource Charter Course

Issue: Training
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They came from five continents: 32 “students” and eight industry and academic experts, all now in Budapest for a new, advanced, two-week course jointly organized by the Central European University (CEU) School of Public Policy, Revenue Watch Institute and the Natural Resource Charter – “Reversing the Resource Curse.” It aims to develop greater expertise among individuals from civil society, government and academia; to develop policy analysis on oil, gas and mining issues; manage the sector better; and develop university curriculums.

This course has been a year in the making, and it is with great anticipation and excitement that I landed at Budapest International airport Sunday. I traveled from London with one other RWI colleague, three Natural Resource Charter staff and two Publish What You Pay International staff, all of whom will participate in the course. After passing through immigration, we waited at the carousel for our luggage; each one of us feeling the sting of our early morning starts. It was noon CET, and we were hungry and tired. Soon, it becomes apparent that two members of our group have not got their luggage yet; it doesn't turn up until the following evening.

We agreed to meet our CEU counterparts Marijan Zumbulev and Pusa Nastase; Matthew Genasci who is based in the United States and is head of legal and economics at RWI; and Verity Outram, the Natural Resource Charter Coordinator, in the hotel lobby at 6 p.m. I made it down at 6:10 p.m. to find the others drinking coffee with dejected expressions. I find out soon enough that Robert Conrad, who is to lead on the first day of the course and should have already arrived, is stranded in New York. He will not reach Budapest before Monday evening. Things can only get better from here!

True enough, they do. George Soros, founder of the Open Society Foundations and honorary board chair of the CEU, had very generously invited the course organizers and participants to a welcome reception. The evening was also hosted by John Shattuck (Rector of the Central European University) and Wolfgang Reinicke, Dean of CEU’s School of Public Policy at the CEU.

I noted with relief that all participants have made it. There is even one participant who has brought her 4-month-old daughter. "This is the way to do it,” jokes Reinicke. “Start them young.” I wonder whether baby Eliza will grow up to be a Revenue Watcher like me or Publish What You Payer like her mother?

Reinicke commended the course and welcomed the participants as the inaugural students of the School of Public Policy, which was officially launched in September 2011. “The course encapsulates perfectly the vision of the School of Public Policy to look at both theory and practice,” he said in his welcome speech. “We value very much our relationship with Revenue Watch Institute and the Natural Resource Charter.”

In his remarks, Soros outlined the journey to better extractive industry governance over the last decade, beginning with the establishment of the Publish What You Pay movement and the development of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative. He noted significant gains over the last year with the Dodd-Frank legislation stating: “despite challenges and existing asymmetries between governments and companies; it is encouraging to see how much has been achieved from 2002 to 2012, exactly 10 years since we started this work.”

Bringing different parties together in this course will help open up new channels of communication between government and civil society, between civil society and academics; and academics and government officials in the resource-rich countries represented.

The two–week course is split into two phases, the first from 9–15 December, the second 12–20 March, 2013. In between, participants will have assignments.

At breakfast on Monday morning, I saw Genasci in deep discussion with David Manley, the Natural Resource Charter researcher who travelled with me and the team from London. Manely worked with Conrad on a project in Zambia and is familiar with Conrad’s materials on fiscal regimes. “He has agreed to deliver the second session of the day," Genasci said with a sigh of relief.

The day goes without a hitch, with plenty of interaction; and between Genasci and Manley, who talk about designing and evaluating fiscal regimes with remarkable clarity—even if we have to grapple with formulas such as: GNP = Cd+ Id + G + X – M = Wd + INd + Rd + πd + T. . A participant from Peru called the pair heroes for filling Conrad’s shoes – and they are big shoes to fill.

Conrad arrived today to carry on where they have left off. We breathed a sigh of relief – and I departed for a birthday dinner knowing we were off to a great start.

Angela Mugore is RWI Senior Capacity Development Program Officer.

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