Security Council spotlights nexus between natural resources and conflict

Belgium Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht

25 June 2007 – The exploitation of natural resources from diamonds to timber can trigger or fuel conflicts but their effective management can also contribute to post-conflict recovery, the Security Council said today.

In a statement read out by Council President and Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht following an open debate, the 15-member body called for greater cooperation and stepped-up measures to ensure that resources are used wisely and not exploited.

Over the years, the 15-member Council has taken measures to prevent the illegal exploitation of natural resources, especially diamonds and timber, from fuelling armed conflicts and to encourage transparent management of such resources.

It has also emphasized the important contribution of monitoring and certification schemes such as the Kimberley Process – a global initiative involving governments, the international diamond industry and civil society aimed at preventing “conflict diamonds” from funding warfare and civil unrest.

In April this year, the Council lifted its six-year-old embargo on the export of diamonds from Liberia that was intended to stop proceeds from the sale of conflict diamonds from fuelling wars across West Africa.

“In too many cases, the illegal exploitation of natural resources has triggered, exacerbated and prolonged armed conflict,” Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told the meeting, citing the role played by conflict diamonds in Liberia, the fight over food and water in Somalia and the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

At that same time, he noted that in an environment characterized by good governance, accountability and transparency, “natural resources can be a great boon to a country and contribute to peace and development.”

Stating that neither sanctions nor peacekeeping alone can solve the problem, he stressed the need for a commitment by all concerned to those three principles and to the equitable sharing of natural resources.

Over-dependency on natural resources is not conducive to viable development strategies in many poor countries, and can lead to fragile circumstances that might result in the eruption of internal conflicts, said General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa.

“We have to encourage, while respecting the sovereign rights of all Member States, a more efficient and effective use of natural resources. This has to be clearly linked with the development agenda of the international community.”

Warning that single commodity economies can become over-dependent on revenues from a particular natural resource, Dalius Cekuolis, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), said “in a world of fluctuating prices and currency exchange rates, combined with possible security threats, such a dependency can lead to political, social and economic instability.”

The UN system, he added, can support countries to break the nexus between natural resources and conflict by helping to make natural resources a factor of stability and source of development, promoting diversification of the economy and helping to rebuild a strong and accountable government.

The key challenge, he emphasized, was to transform “war economies” fuelled and sustained by natural resources into “peace economies” that can contribute to conflict prevention and human security.

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