The Natural Resource Charter has partnered with the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford to establish a six-day executive course based on the precepts of the Natural Resource Charter.

Designed for the most senior policy makers in government, this intensive six-day course is providing 20 participants from 10 different countries with a complete overview of the policy decisions that governments face in the management of their extractive resources. Instruction is being led by world experts sharing their knowledge and insights on the core challenges of resource management, including:

– Discovery and managing expectations
– Tax and contracts
– Managing environmental, social and economic impacts
– National resource companies
– Resource revenue management and investment
– Governance and political commitment

The course incorporates the latest cutting edge research from Blavatnik’s expert faculty and the Natural Resource Charter’s technical advisory group, as well as practical skills-based sessions on issues such as project delivery, getting the most out of national companies, and team management. Throughout the week, participants actively apply these insights during strategy planning sessions, identifying what strategies they can employ in their own countries and developing key skills necessary to make transformational decisions.

The course is being held September 9-14, 2013, in the Blavatnik School of Government – a new global school within the University of Oxford pursuing a vision of better government, stronger societies and richer human opportunities across the world. Natural resource management is a priority area for research and teaching and, for this reason, the School has partnered with the Natural Resource Charter to provide this executive-level training.

The Charter, designed to act as a framing tool that explains both “big picture” and detailed policy options, gives the training a comprehensive structure and robust technical guidance to work within.

Drawing on the wealth of knowledge contained within the University of Oxford and the Natural Resource Charter, and through their networks, the school provides the ideal setting for the executive training in natural resource management.

Monday, the first day of the course, started with Prof. Paul Collier providing an overview of what was to come during the week. He highlighted that the aim of managing natural resource revenues was to transport the asset from beneath to above the ground, and to invest these revenues in domestic development. If countries do not have the capacity to do this, they should build capacity rather than avoid the process.

Prof. Collier referred to the Political tripod of successful natural resource management – rules, institutions and a critical mass of informed citizens.

Keith Myers of Richmond Energy Partners then gave a lecture on the exploration process, including risks and rewards, governance challenges, best practice in drilling, and different types of exploration companies and their motives. He emphasized the importance of governments having geological data in order to prepare for the bidding process, and gave some interesting examples of how much of an impact access to this data can have.

Philip Daniel, advisor in the Fiscal Affairs department of the IMF, then talked on ‘how to skin a cat without killing it,’ i.e. how to tax. The key message was that there is no one tax that does the whole job. You need a range of tax instruments, and ultimately the tax regime must benefit both the country and the investor.

On Tuesday, we began with presentations from participants where they shared with the group the three main challenges their countries faced in natural resource management. The group commented on how similar the issues they faced were – even though they come from various parts of the globe – Afghanistan, DRC, Liberia, Malawi, Mongolia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda – and the coming days will provide a great opportunity to share ideas on how to overcome the challenges successfully.

The rest of the day focused on contract negotiation and team management skills and on looking at how to get the most from national oil companies.

The contract negotiation skills session was led by Revenue Watch Institute’s (RWI) Matt Genasci, Head of Legal and Economics. The group learnt that governments need a lot of capacity in many different areas to negotiate successfully with companies – most of whom have skilled teams of negotiators with years of experience – and that most of the time it makes sense to hire external consultants rather than spending money on building capacity which governments will only rarely need.

Richard Manning, Chair of the Boards of the Institute of Development Studies and of the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation and a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University, led a session on managing a team effectively, with participants working in groups to identify what qualities they appreciate in leaders and what goes towards building a successful team.

Valerie Marcel from Chatham House finished of the day with a session on getting the most from National Oil Companies (NOC). Participants looked at different missions of NOCs and the different roles they can play. The range of experience between the good and the bad is wide, so it is not about whether or not countries should establish companies to participate in the sector, but if they do, how can they do it well?

– Helen Dempsey