Monthly Archives: April 2014

Does transparency help reduce corruption in natural resource management?

Liz David-Barrett, Director of the Centre for the Study of Corruption and Transparency, writes about her current work with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) where she spoke to a number of delegates in Geneva on Tuesday 8th April 2014.

Many countries that are endowed with natural resources suffer from the ‘resource curse’, whereby the benefits of this wealth do not filter down to the population.  The UN Conference on Trade and Development convened a major forum earlier this week to discuss the potential for transparency to help alleviate the resource curse and promote commodity-based development.

The facts about the resource curse are shocking.  At the UNCTAD forum, Alexandra Gillies of the Revenue Watch Institute presented data showing that resource-rich countries grow slower than countries without resources, as well as being less likely to democratise.  There are many possible explanations for this, but part of the story might be corruption.  Many resource-rich countries are ranked among the most corrupt on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, while mining is ranked the 15th most corrupt sector out of 19 on the Bribe Payers Index, with oil and gas in 16th place.

Transparency can help by exposing the revenue flows between governments and companies, and making it possible for civil society organisations to ask questions about where the money goes.  For example, governments that sign up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative promise to publish what they receive from extractives companies, and to require companies operating on their soil to publish what they pay.  The Initiative has proved surprisingly popular, attracting 26 full members and a further 18 candidates since 2002.

Why do governments in countries known for corruption sign up to transparency initiatives that shed light on the transactions they make with oil and gas companies? Cynics – myself and my co-author, Ken Okamura, included – suggest that at least part of the reason is that countries are explicitly rewarded for compliance with this norm.  In our 2013 paper, we find that countries that commit to implementing the EITI standard, for example, receive more aid than countries that are not prepared to make that commitment.

But we cannot prove that the promise of aid is what motivates governments to join, and we do not claim that this is the whole story.  It is also true that transparency has emerged as an international norm, and governments wishing to be part of the international club feel pressure to comply.  Individual ministers and officials gain personal satisfaction when their countries credibly commit to values associated with the pro-transparency movement, particularly if their peers – e.g., neighbouring countries – also join.

Perhaps we could capitalize on this desire to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ to extend the EITI model to other areas where global governance is needed to address thorny problems?  We suggest that the multi-stakeholder group that the EITI establishes has so much potential as a tool against corruption because it brings together three parties – governments, companies and civil society – who share an interest in bringing about change, even if their motivations are sometimes different.   It institutionalizes dialogue among these three groups, builds expertise about how to evaluate relevant data, and has numerous spillover effects that improve accountability in other areas.  The founder of EITI, Peter Eigen, is already adapting the methodology to tackle transparency in the garment industry.  But what other areas might benefit?


Love and Labour on Pins – Student Research

Our student and Junior Dean Maximilian Buston (DPhil Archaeology) writes about his current research. 

The reader may ask, and I have often asked this question myself, if I ought to have spent so much love and labour on pins, but it just happened – the words of Paul Jacobsthal (1956) on Greek dress pins found in tombs and sanctuaries, 3000 alone from the celebrated Argive Heraion.

My subject matter, fibulae, were gradually adopted in the Aegean in the 13th and 12th Centuries BC during the peak and collapse of Bronze Age palaces such as Mycenae and Knossos. They were worn by men and women to fasten cloth and cloaks. It’s easy to underestimate the importance of the invention of the spring – and thus ancient safety pin – where before things were fastened with string or a straight pin. Indeed whole new fashions of dress were enabled, even affecting cultural traditions such as dance and sitting, hence ladies sit on chairs (rather than the floor) in Greek vase paintings. Moreover it is their dedication as votive offerings that betray deeper social diversity and interaction across the Aegean. My interest is not only the social diversity within communities but the spectacularly divergent political and social institutions that are later found in the Archaic period (8th-6th Century BC).

A heavily corroded fibula from the Knossos North Cemetery

A heavily corroded fibula from the Knossos North Cemetery. At the end of March 2014 I studied 50 fibulae in the Stratigraphic Museum at Knossos on Crete.

ivory spectacle fibula

A characteristic ivory spectacle fibula of the 7th Century BC found in an Early Orientalising cremation urn at Knossos. These have been found across the Central Mediterranean and North Africa.

Another part of my research concerns so-called ‘defensible sites’ that proliferate in Crete at the beginning of the 12th Century BC. One site, Pandanassa Veni, a table-like mountain in the Rethymnon Isthmus is of particular interest. The summit measures c. 1000 x 400 m and houses a city occupied for 1000 years that is yet to be excavated. The neighbouring site of Thronos Kephala (3 km as the crow flies) has been associated with the fabled city of ancient Sybrita, but it does not hold the astonishing views and sense of power that the landscape of Pandanassa Veni readily projects.

The table-like mountain of Pandanassa Veni

The table-like mountain of Pandanassa Veni, some 750 masl, Crete.

Now back in Oxford my focus will turn to studying fibulae in Oxford’s Ashmolean before a trip to the National Archaeological Museum of Athens next year. Whilst I was away the short-term accommodation at Kellogg, 12 Bradmore Road, was finally made complete in that a celebrated wallpaper designed by Louis-Hippolyte Lebas in 1818 was hung in the guest washroom. This is my favourite room in the building and can be found under the stairs on the basement level. The wallpaper depicts vignettes of Paris and over it I hung a picture of Oxford c. 1860 that I found amongst Kellogg’s art collection. For the neighbouring living room feel free to browse my blog at Distinctive Interiors.

Les Vues de Paris, designed by Louis-Hippolyte Lebas in 1818

Les Vues de Paris, designed by Louis-Hippolyte Lebas in 1818 with sheer stripe Roman Blinds from the USA, in the guest washroom in 12 Bradmore Road. Framed is an Oxford engraving c. 1860.

Maximilian Buston, Junior Dean

A Word from our President – a summing up

Our President Jonathan Michie takes a look at some of our achievements from last term and starts to look ahead to the arrival of the next…

At a graduate college the beginning and end of terms isn’t as significant as for colleges with mostly undergraduates, since many of our students are in college all year round. Still, at least when term finishes, there are less committee meetings to attend. In my after-dinner speech at this year’s Foundation Dinner, I commented on what a successful year it appeared to have been for our students, alumni, fellows, and staff – as it had been for the college as a whole. And the same is true of this past term.

The last year saw Oxford beat Cambridge in the Varsity rugby match, with Kellogg student John Carter being captain and ‘man of the match’, and this past term saw Oxford beat Cambridge in the women’s boat-race last Sunday (I write this two days before the men’s race), with Kellogg students Elizabeth Fenje and Alice Carrington-Windo in the winning boat.

As reported in my previous blog, the past year saw several Kellogg Fellows winning funding for Centres for Doctoral Training, and this term our Archaeology Fellow David Griffiths was awarded a prestigious British Academy/Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowship for 2014-15, to work towards the publication of his Orkney excavation and landscape project, which has always been supported by Kellogg. In giving permission for me to write about David’s award prior to the official press release, the British Academy added ‘You may also quote the fact that it was an extremely fierce competition with only 8 awards on offer, and with 133 applications received, the success rate was therefore just 6%’, going on to say ‘We too are delighted for David and wish him every success with his work’.

This past term we held an enjoyable and productive ‘Fellows evening’ which our new Head of Development & Alumni Relations, Monica Popa, attended to meet the fellows and participate in discussions on Kellogg’s values and ethos, and how to translate the widespread support for the College into financial backing towards scholarships and developing our College site.

And during this past term we hosted an interesting matriculation ceremony and an inspiring Degree Day celebration. But at the latter, for the first time in my six years as Kellogg, the University had failed to print one of the degree certificates – fortunately our graduating student, John Wilmot, was most gracious about it, and came in for lunch yesterday to receive his certificate, which enabled the fellows at lunch to learn far more about his dissertation research than is usually possible during the Degree Day festivities. So, a successful past year, another successful term, and even the Degree Day with no degree ended up for the best.