Fostering dialogue is central to OPEC’s work

OPEC Bulletin Commentary February 2019

The word ‘dialogue’ took a rather circuitous route to enter into the vernacular of the English language. It hails from the Old French ‘dialoge’ that came directly from the Latin ‘dialogus’, which harkens back to the Greek διάλογος or ‘dialogos’. The etymology of the word reveals why dialogue is such a critical part of OPEC’s work for its roots are διά (dia: through) and λόγος (logos: speech, reason).

Undoubtedly, it is an evocative word, as the ‘philosophy of dialogue’ has engaged some of civilization’s greatest minds and geniuses. According to classicist scholars, the word was probably first introduced into literature by Plato, in a context where it was very much associated with Socrates-style conversations. However, this cannot be asserted with total certainty as an equivalent also appears in ancient Indian literature. In subsequent centuries, philosophers have debated every facet of dialogue, its meaning, purpose and impact on social relations.

Implicit in both the etymology and philosophy of the concept is the innate capacity of dialogue to further human co-existence, build bridges and develop positive relations between people and entities. These noble ideals are front and central to OPEC’s raison d’être.

Given the interdependent nature of our global age and, indeed, the oil industry, OPEC has always been acutely conscious of the importance of the relationship between producers and consumers. The Organization has striven to ensure that relations are professional and candid, yet agreeable and cordial. We remain convinced that only through constructive, meaningful and regular dialogue can the required awareness and understanding be reached with relevant parties on what conditions are necessary for attaining a stable oil market.

In pursuit of this aim, the Organization has established international energy dialogues that have the following objectives: heighten understanding of OPEC’s views and its stabilizing role in the oil market; promote the sustainable use of oil; enhance expertise and research capabilities; standardize working methods; and advance the collective interests of Member Countries.

Recalling OPEC’s history, 2005 can be viewed as a landmark year with regard to dialogue between OPEC and other producers, and particularly with consumers.

The ball started rolling in January of that year with the first roundtable of Asian oil and gas ministers in New Delhi, aimed at promoting producer-consumer relations at the heart of the world’s fastest-growing region. In May, the third Joint Workshop between OPEC and the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) was held in Kuwait City.

Then, in June 2005, there was a significant breakthrough in energy cooperation talks with the first-ever Ministerial-level meeting between OPEC and the European Union (EU). Held in Brussels, the talks were initially conceived as a means for testing the waters, yet they proved so successful that a second ministerial meeting was held in early December, this time in Vienna. Just before this gathering, the two parties staged their first joint roundtable, which looked at oil market developments.

The year concluded with OPEC forging a formal energy dialogue with China in Beijing, followed within days by a similar initiative with The Russian Federation in Moscow. Add to all this the inauguration of the official headquarters of the International Energy Forum (IEF) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in September, and the significance of the year is clear. This is especially the case given that the purpose of the IEF is to promote and expand producer-consumer cooperation.

Fourteen years later and the OPEC international energy dialogues are in tremendous health. The Organization’s regular dialogues can be divided into six categories: dialogues with regions and countries; international organizations; global energy initiatives and programmes; energy companies; technology companies; and research institutes and academia.

Furthermore, the success of the ‘Declaration of Cooperation’ process between OPEC Member Countries and ten non-OPEC countries has demonstrated the potential of energy dialogues to attain even greater heights. The energy dialogue with Russia was launched in 2005 and high-level meetings as part of this dialogue began in 2012. As they evolved, so too did the appetite for intensified cooperation. This would eventually culminate in the leading role that Russia would play in securing the signing of the ‘Declaration of Cooperation’ on December 10, 2016, and its subsequent extensions.

Indeed the ‘Declaration of Cooperation’ process is a manifestation of the noble values that have flourished in the energy dialogues — equity, transparency, fairness and respect among nations. On the basis of these core principles, the ‘Declaration of Cooperation’ has succeeded in helping the oil industry emerge from one of the most severe downturns in its history and now constitutes a permanent feature of the energy landscape.

OPEC’s schedule for 2019 attests to the importance of the energy dialogues: a host of meetings and interactions are planned, including high-level meetings as part of the energy dialogues with the EU, China, Russia, India and independent producers in the US. This also aligns with OPEC’s strong support for multilateralism and its unshakeable belief that cooperation among nations is the best means of addressing the challenges of our times.

OPEC Bulletin February 2019

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