The Audacity Deficit in Natural Resource Governance

Insights from a survey and implications ahead

Piles of logs at pictured at Sqomish Forestry LP in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada April 25, 2017.  REUTERS/Ben Nelms

Resource-dependent countries were particularly affected in the aftermath of the pandemic’s onset, faced with falling oil prices, shrinking economies, continuing governance challenges, and ever-increasing pressures of climate change. Historically, the need to address weak natural resource governance (NRG) has pushed conversations on governance, as well as climate change and the need for an energy transition away from fossil fuels, to the forefront. However, these issues continue to draw mixed reactions from stakeholders inside and outside the NRG sector.

In 2021, following our Dialogue on the Future of Natural Resource Governance and three-part blog series on the priorities ahead, the Leveraging Transparency to Reduce Corruption initiative of the Brookings Institution and Results for Development organized, under the leadership of Brookings nonresident senior fellow Daniel Kaufmann, a global survey on priorities for the NRG field. Participants included those within and beyond the global natural resource governance community.

The survey allows for a wider understanding of perspectives geographically, but also from fields such as business, law, human rights, and more. The resulting report, entitled “The Audacity Deficit in Natural Resource Governance: Insights from a Survey and Implications Ahead,” analyzes the responses from nearly 400 respondents to that survey.

The key messages of the report are:

  • There is a disconnect between the stakeholders’ stated priority actions and reforms and their perceived likelihood of them happening, with a preference for incremental approaches to change in the natural resource field. There are important variations across regions.
  • Current approaches to addressing challenges in natural resource governance, climate change, and the energy transition are generally incremental in scope and impact and categorize issues as high- or low-priority, while emphasizing that there is limited bandwidth available for their execution.
  • The field needs to move away from an era of relative conformity and commit to audacity in the way we tackle NRG challenges, addressing the toughest manifestations of the resource curse and the climate crisis. This will require innovation in engagement by civil society and a revamp of international initiatives as well as new partnerships. This must be complemented by tackling state capture and other perverse incentives fueling autocratic violence and slowing the move away from fossil fuels.

On this last point, audacity requires deep complementarity and coordination of reforms across areas, sectors, and alliances, while acknowledging the challenges and incentives that affect different countries. Taking such an approach would harness innovation in who, why, how, and what is involved in making reforms happen. It would provide necessary strategic guidance to countries over the course of the energy transition. In the current geopolitical context after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, for example, countries could benefit from reform collaborations focusing on the renewable energy resources within their respective countries.

>> Download and read the full report <<