For People of Great Lakes to Realize Aspirations, Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources Must Be Addressed, Says Deputy Secretary-General to Regional Summit

16 December 2010

For People of Great Lakes to Realize Aspirations, Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources Must Be Addressed, Says Deputy Secretary-General to Regional Summit

16 December 2010
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

For People of Great Lakes to Realize Aspirations, Illegal Exploitation of Natural

Resources Must Be Addressed, Says Deputy Secretary-General to Regional Summit

Following are Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks at the Special Summit on Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources in the Great Lakes Region, yesterday, 15 December, in Lusaka, Zambia:

It gives me great pleasure to be with you today at this important gathering.  I bring you warm greetings from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who welcomes the decision of the Heads of State and Government of the Great Lakes region to organize a summit on the critical issue of the illegal exploitation of natural resources.  It is my honour to represent him here.

Let me begin by paying tribute to His Excellency, [Zambian] President [Rupiah] Banda, for his leadership and the commitment, which the Republic of Zambia has shown to furthering and protecting the amazing potential of the Great Lakes Region, not least, through hosting us in beautiful Lusaka for today’s summit.  I congratulate you on the initiative of this summit.  It reflects your countries’ significant individual and collective advances towards peace, security and sustainable development.  This is indeed consistent with the letter and spirit of the Dar-es-Salaam Declaration of 2004.

Under the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region, you committed yourselves to build more peaceful and prosperous societies.  More specifically, in Article 9 of the Pact, you have committed your nations to put in place regional rules and mechanisms for combating the illegal exploitation of natural resources.  I wish, in particular, to refer to your decision to establish a regional certification procedure for the exploitation, monitoring and verification of natural resources.

Through these measures, you have made a promise to work for the common good of the people of the Great Lakes.  And I commend your Excellencies for that.  As we contemplate these landmark steps, we must also measure the major challenges at hand.  Indeed, a lot has been achieved, yet much remains to be done.  The people of the region aspire to the dividends of peace.  They want jobs and opportunities, freedom from fear, a greater voice in the decisions affecting their lives, the hope of seeing their children survive past childhood.

If they are to realize these legitimate aspirations, it is important to address, as a matter of urgent priority, the ongoing, devastating, illegal exploitation and illicit trade of natural resources, including by armed groups and criminal networks.  This phenomenon — this plunder — continues to cause instability, and it engenders systematic and gross human rights violations leading to untold and unacceptable suffering in the region.  This plunder is an underlying cause for, and exacerbates conflict.  It fuels illicit arms trafficking, especially small arms and light weapons.  It undermines efforts for peace, stability and development.

Over the past year, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, together with other Member States of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), and key international partners have been coordinating action and legislation to promote and regulate legal trade in natural resources.

President [Joseph] Kabila’s temporary ban on mining activities in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo is a positive step towards ridding the mineral trade of criminal networks.  In addition to these efforts, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO, working with the Government, has established five pilot trading centers in North and South Kivu so as to improve the ability to trace mineral products.

At the global level, relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions have endorsed the key role that the Kimberley Process “Certification Scheme” plays in reducing illicit trafficking of diamonds, especially in armed conflicts.  The Security Council in particular is taking a close interest in the issue.  Most recently in resolution 1952 of November 2010, the Council added a sixth expert in natural resources to the Group of Experts, which had been established in 2004 by resolution 1533 (2004).

At the regional level, it is noteworthy that the ICGLR [International Conference on the Great Lakes Region Secretariat] has held consultations with the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development on responsible supply chains. 

The United States “Wall Street Reform Bill” of July 2010, which requires all companies on the New York Stock Exchange to disclose any payments made to Governments for extracting resources, such as oil, gas, mining materials, gold and diamonds, can also help to ensure that those U.S. companies, using minerals extracted from the Great Lakes countries certify that their supplies are “conflict free”.

It is essential that other regional partners adopt similar measures.  In the same way, private sector companies involved in extractive activities must act responsibly and refrain from sponsoring the illegal exploitation of natural resources.  For its part, the United Nations is promoting such responsibility through its Global Compact.  All these positive steps, Excellencies, are, made possible by the political will of the Governments involved and the support of key international partners.  We applaud these achievements.

Yet, we are all aware that this is just a beginning.  I am confident that, if endorsed by this summit, the Great Lakes region tool kit, which includes a Regional Certification Mechanism, legal harmonization, a database on resource exploitation, a pilot traceability project and a whistle-blowing initiative, will be a huge milestone.  I encourage Member States to cooperate in the improvement of the security situation in the mining areas through the ICGLR mechanisms as well as their respective national security institutions.

I also urge international partners to provide the necessary support to the ICGLR to ensure the expeditious implementation of the Summit decisions.  In this regard, I wish to acknowledge the generous pledges already made by Canada and Germany, and I hope that other partners will join in.

You know better than I that this region is rich, not just in minerals, but in timber and biological diversity.  It has fertile soil and abundant water.  Most importantly, it is endowed with people of great talent and traditions.  We exhort your Excellencies to work together to transform this wealth into a source of sustainable progress for the people of this region.  Let these resources be a cause of well-being and prosperity, not of conflict.

United Nations entities will continue to support the Great Lakes region, both in tackling the challenges of the illegal exploitation of natural resources and in pursuing sustainable social and economic development.  This includes working in partnership with your respective countries to fully implement the 2006 Pact on Security, Stability and Development.  To reach such goals, this Pact provides a valuable and unique mechanism to help consolidate peace and pave the way for long-term development.

On the other hand, regional cooperation in economic matters and in common security is absolutely crucial for harmonious relations and sustainable development.  Together and through the Pact, we can deliver on these goals for the common good of the peoples of the Great Lakes region.

From the smallest village meetings in the Great Lakes region and elsewhere on the continent, to the deliberations of the African Union, the peoples of Africa are telling us that peace and sustainable development need to be anchored on the firm bedrock of good governance and democracy, on building accountable institutions and on the promotion of human rights.  The United Nations family stands by your side in the pursuit of peace and prosperity.  We stand ready to work hand-in-hand with you to reduce poverty, to build markets and foster employment, and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

On a final note, before closing, I wish to acknowledge and pay tribute to Ambassador [Liberata] Mulamula, who is completing her tenure as Executive Secretary of the ICGLR.  Ambassador Mulamula’s able stewardship has reaped great dividends for the region in its pursuit of a more stable, peaceful and prosperous future.  I highly commend the strong contribution she has made.  

Thank you for your attention, and I offer my best wishes for a successful summit.  Thank you.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.