Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Distinguishing your right to property

So you support the right to property. Fine. But there are two kinds of right to property. Though often confused, they are so distinctly different that they are in conflict with each other.

-- One is the fundamental right of every human being to own property. (See article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

-- The other is the unrestricted right asserted by property owners to exploit their property to the detriment of others.

President Obama announced on September 20 that the U.S. government is joining a global effort seeking to ensure that the vast riches of the world’s extractive industries are not limited to property owners alone. Named the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), it a coalition of governments, civil society, and companies

About 3,500,000,000 people live in countries rich in oil, gas, and minerals – natural resources that can, under good governance, generate large revenues to foster economic growth and reduce poverty. “However,” as EITI points out, “when transparency and accountability is low, such resource revenue may result in poverty, corruption, and conflict.”

EITI has a set of 21 requirements that a government must meet to achieve EITI Compliant status. A board and international secretariat administer the standard for companies to publish what they pay and for governments to disclose what they receive. So far 29 countries have met that transparency standard. Norway was the first OECD country to do so.

The EITI Website explains:

“Transparency alone will not guarantee sound management of extractive resources but is very likely to lead to greater benefits for the people and more efficient management of the sector. The challenges for North Africa and the Middle East and other resource rich countries are immense, but the EITI is a good place to start – focusing on the industries and the revenues that could be harnessed to transform these societies.”

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