Heads of State are currently gathering in New York to discuss reform of the United Nations as set out in Kofi Annan’s report “In Larger Freedom”. Amongst the many critical issues facing the United Nations is that of conflict and poverty, both of which can be linked to the effective control of natural resources and its associated revenues. Global Witness believes that it is essential that the UN Summit recognises the devastating role played by natural resources in funding widespread conflict and corruption and continues to take measures to ensure that this issue remains on the UN reform agenda in order that resources and their revenues will benefit development.
Natural resources such as timber, diamonds and oil have played a key role in funding and driving conflicts around the world, from Cambodia to Liberia, Angola to Sierra Leone. The conflicts in these countries have lead to the deaths and displacement of millions of innocent civilians, forced the UN into expensive peace keeping missions and ensured that millions more will remain in poverty for generations to come. Similarly, billions of dollars in revenues from the natural resource sector have been systematically looted by corrupt regimes and siphoned off into opaque offshore financial structures using the international banking system.
Successive UN sanctions regimes have belatedly attempted to deal with the timber and diamond trade in funding regional instability on a case by case basis and there has been some significant progress. However numerous other resources from gold to coltan are still funding the conflict in the DRC and limited action has been taken by the international community to curtail this trade.
Despite numerous efforts by international organisations no long term coordinated plan is envisaged for pro-actively dealing with the curse of natural resources in fuelling conflict. In order to reduce the threat of conflict, Global Witness believes that as a minimum the UN in its search for reform and a new vision for the future must do the following:
1. Begin a joint process to define conflict resources through the General Assembly and the Security Council
2. Establish a permanent office of experts on the role of natural resources in conflict
3. Ensure that all current and future peacekeeping missions incorporate in their mandate an active monitoring and enforcement capacity for UNSC sanctions regimes.
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 2003 Nobel Peace Prize. For more information on Global Witness see www.globalwitness.org
Press Release / Sept. 13, 2005