Press Release / Nov. 19, 2004

Great Lakes leaders urged to sever links between natural resources and conflict

Leaders attending the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region in Dar es Salaam on 19 and 20 November are being urged by Global Witness (1) to address the issue of continual links between natural resource exploitation and conflict as a matter of urgency for regional peace and security.

The landmark Conference presents a unique opportunity for the leaders of 11 Great Lakes countries to include natural resource exploitation as part of a regional pact on stability, security and development. In particular, leaders are being urged to recognise that continuing cycles of natural resource exploitation, arms trafficking and armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) constitutes a serious threat to the holding of peaceful elections in the DRC in 2005, as well as to regional peace and security.

“There is little point talking of peace and economic development in the Great Lakes region if links between natural resource exploitation and conflict are not also discussed as an issue of the highest priority,” stated Corene Crossin, Campaigner at Global Witness.

Natural resource exploitation cuts across the four main themes of the Conference: peace and security, democracy and good governance, economic development and regional integration, and humanitarian issues. The exploitation of the DRC’s vast natural wealth by armed groups has been a major contributing factor to ongoing instability, violence, humanitarian crises and a lack of economic development in the DRC and surrounding countries.

“Now is the time to consider cross-border solutions to tightly regulating trade in natural resources and to institute transparency in the management of those resources so they are no longer used as a source of funds for arms or corrupt officials,” said Crossin.

Global Witness is also calling on all Great Lakes governments to implement immediate reforms so that revenues from natural resources are managed transparently and responsibly for the benefit of all their citizens.

Notes for the editor:
(1) Global Witness is an investigative non-governmental organisation that focuses on the links between natural resource exploitation and conflict, and was co-nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.
(2) The links between ongoing violent conflict in the Great Lakes region and the exploitation of natural resources including gold, diamonds, timber, ivory and coltan are well-documented in a series of United Nations Security Council Expert Panel Reports published between 2001 and 2003, as well as numerous non-governmental organisation reports.

Corene Crossin can be contacted on +44 207561 6395.