Informality and inclusivity

OPEC Bulletin Commentary May 2010

In June 1991, the OPEC Bulletin noted that "a quiet piece of unofficial history will be made when the representatives of several countries meet next month in Paris. This gathering represents an unprecedented attempt by responsible members of the world community to place energy cooperation near the top of the international agenda." It was the very beginnings of what is known today as the International Energy Forum (IEF).

With much discussion at the recent 12th IEF Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico, focusing on the future role of the organization, it is certainly interesting to recall just from where it originated, and, in particular, how even in the very early stages the fundamental elements of the IEF were already being put into place.

The IEF is now truly a global organization. It hosts the world's largest gathering of energy ministers; in addition to OPEC and International Energy Agency (IEA) countries, its members include many other major producers and consumers, such as Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Russia and South Africa.

Cooperation sits at the heart of its objectives. The inclusivity of its Ministerial Meetings and partnership projects, like the Joint Oil Data Initiative, are testimony to this. The latter brings together a host of international organizations - including OPEC - and continues to advance its unique, freely accessible and comprehensive database of monthly oil statistics.

These days for 'quiet' and 'unofficial', think 'informal'. The IEF's informal role in the producer-consumer dialogue has fostered flexibility and encouraged a convergence of views, as well as a growing awareness of common interests. It is, as the IEF states, "an atmosphere conducive to long-term cooperation," as producing and consuming nations "embrace interdependency for its potential as a cohesive force, rather than as a source of tension."

All this was evident in Cancun. There were 63 ministerial delegations and 14 international organizations participating. The relaxed environment provided a neutral platform for the sharing and debating of a variety of topics and divergent views. And the meeting saw the issuing of the Cancun Ministerial Declaration, which underscored the importance of enhancing the global producer-consumer dialogue, particularly through strengthening the IEF.

It is hoped that this support will allow the IEF to become more capable of defining and commissioning insightful analyses, provide better information to governments to facilitate a more informed and fruitful dialogue and further assist in its role of bringing producers and consumers together. To incorporate the enhanced framework, a Charter for the IEF and its Secretariat will now be drafted in cooperation with IEF countries.

In addition, specific areas of cooperation between the IEF, OPEC and the International Energy Agency (IEA) were also identified, such as looking at and sharing analysis on present and future energy trends and the links between physical and financial markets; ones that are in line with and supportive of the Declaration.

Signed by 66 countries, the Declaration is a clear endorsement for enhancing the IEF. And, at the same time, it is an acknowledgment of the significance of those fundamental elements that were being put in place back in 1991; elements that have served it so well.

It is important that the IEF remains an impartial and unbiased platform for bringing together producers and consumers from across the world, continues to foster better cooperation and encourages shared insights about the challenges posed by an increasingly interconnected world. Informality and inclusivity are the keys to its uniqueness.

OPEC has supported the establishment and development of the IEF from the very beginning. Indeed, one of its Member Countries, Saudi Arabia, is home to the IEF Secretariat. Going forward, OPEC remains deeply committed to the organization's future success. Transparent and open dialogue is, and will continue to be, an essential part of the energy industry's future.

This Commentary is taken from the May edition of the OPEC Bulletin which can be downloaded free of charge in PDF format from the OPEC website.

OPEC Bulletin May 2010

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