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A local villager looks on as dump trucks pass by at a jade mining site in Hpakant, from our 2015 report Jade: Myanmar’s Big State Secret. Credit: Global Witness / Minzayar

Natural resource governance

We have long exposed how precious minerals and other natural resources fuel conflict, prop up corrupt regimes and enrich elites, leaving a legacy of environmental destruction, human rights abuses and instability. The predatory international companies behind these deals must be held to account.

For years, Global Witness has exposed and worked to break the links between natural resources, conflict and corruption - from minerals found in mobile phones and cars fuelling conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to the military in Myanmar controlling the trade in the precious gemstone, jade. An abundance of natural resources can all too often perpetuate conflicts, while kleptocrats line their pockets. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. 

Corruption in the natural resource sector has traditionally been enabled by secrecy surrounding deals. Our campaigning on this issue led to the creation of the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2001, which has brought trillions of dollars of payments made to national governments in over 50 countries for rights to oil, gas and mining out into the open. We continue to work with civil society to ensure the effective implementation of EITI. For instance, by calling for registers of the real owners of companies in EITI countries so it’s clear who ultimately benefits from payments. In 2020, we analysed the first disclosure of this information in Myanmar. 

Another important way to ensure minerals do not contribute to conflict and human rights abuse is by requiring companies to conduct due diligence on their supply chains, meaning they identify and mitigate risk that the products and companies they source from are not from conflict-affected and high risk areas. We continue to advocate for stronger and binding supply chain standards through our responsible minerals campaign.

Throughout our work, we have seen how corporations often based in the Global North are complicit in corruption, human rights abuses and environmental destruction in resource-rich countries in the Global South. Through the use of anonymous companies, offshore networks and collusion with corrupt officials, they have long been able to hide their activities and evade justice. 

Therefore, while continuing to ensure transparency and responsible behaviour by business, we also want predatory companies, and those behind them, who destabilise, distort and corrupt to be held to account for their activities. As such, we advocate for laws to regulate corporations and punitive actions against those causing harm. 

Our ultimate goal is that local communities have a meaningful say in how their natural resource wealth is developed and are able to benefit from it within the planet’s boundaries.

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