Abstract

This article provides theoretical and empirical insights into the effects of transparency on civil society empowerment by analyzing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Myanmar. It identifies three processes through which the EITI (dis)empowers civil society: constituting, using, and debating transparency. Whereas most transparency literature focuses on the effects of information disclosure—(using transparency)–the empowering effects of constituting and debating transparency are, for the EITI in Myanmar, much greater. While civil society organizations (CSOs) hardly use the EITI report as it lacks actionable information, the EITI has given CSOs a previously unimaginable role through their involvement in designing and implementing the EITI—i.e., in constituting transparency—and in EITI-related awareness-raising activities and debates, or debating transparency. Though in unequal ways, the processes of constituting and debating transparency empower CSOs to request, collect, and use more actionable information than through the EITI alone. This article argues that transparency initiatives could benefit from focusing attention on not only what information to disclose but also through which processes.

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