Fighting the Curse by Lifting the Curtain : How Effective is Transparency as an Instrument to Escape the Resource Trap
Transparency is frequently invoked as a powerful recipe for countering a number of malfunctions in governance processes. In the context of the resource curse it has increasingly come to the fore as a key mechanism intended to counter corruption and promote developmentally oriented use of natural resources, yet without giving plausible substantiation of this claim. Therefore, the question arises how effective transparency truly is – in theory and practice – to curb the resource curse. This paper questions the apparently obvious relationship. It seeks to explore the underlying mechanism of the resource curse to subsequently apply and critically assess the potential effects of transparency in this context. The goal is to establish whether transparency indeed deserves such outstanding attention with regard to its ability to counter the detrimental dynamics of the resource curse. To this aim, the paper scrutinizes the potential impact of transparency on the mechanisms and effects of corruption in the natural resource sector. A critical assessment of the currently most prominent policy project in this area, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, complements the theoretical discussion. The paper argues that the strong reliance on transparency is ineffective because its curbing effects on the resource curse presuppose a number of additional factors. These factors, however, closely coincide with good governance aspects the transparency instrument is supposed to generate in the first place.