Sharing Benefits of Natural Resources Helps Conflict Prevention, Sustainable Development, Secretary-General Tells Security Council

SG/SM/19303-SC/13541-ENV/DEV/1896
16 October 2018

Sharing Benefits of Natural Resources Helps Conflict Prevention, Sustainable Development, Secretary-General Tells Security Council

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Security Council on the Maintenance of International Peace and Security:  the Root Causes of Conflict — the Role of Natural Resources, in New York today:

I thank the Bolivian Presidency for the convening of this debate.  The exploitation of natural resources, or competition over them, can and does lead to violent conflict.  Preventing, managing and resolving such conflicts is one of the major and growing challenges of our time.

United Nations studies show that more than 40 per cent of internal armed conflicts over the last 60 years have been linked to natural resources.  With the increasing impacts of climate change evident in all regions, the risks are only going to grow.

Other global trends, such as a growing population, increasing consumption and environmental degradation, are also placing significant and potentially unsustainable pressures on the availability of many natural resources.  These include oil, gas, minerals, water and land.

Unfair distribution of natural resources, corruption and mismanagement can and do lead to conflict, especially in countries with weaker institutions.  These pressures can also exacerbate existing ethnic or religious divides within societies and across borders.

Since 1990, 75 per cent of civil wars in Africa have been partially funded by revenues from natural resources.  The illegal extraction of minerals, timber, charcoal and wildlife has fuelled violence in a number of regions.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it has generated almost a billion dollars in revenue for rebels and criminal groups.

Likewise, in the Central African Republic, the illicit exploitation of minerals by numerous armed groups and militias has contributed to sustain and prolong the conflict.  More needs to be done to regulate the provenance, sale and trade of minerals through cooperative arrangements involving civil society, Governments and regional and international organizations.

A positive example is the Kimberley Process, which succeeded in reducing the trade in conflict diamonds.  Through certified extraction, production and fair trade practices, and with a focus on aiding local communities, lawlessness can be countered and tangible benefits brought to conflict-affected populations.

It is also worth emphasizing that shared natural resources have traditionally also been a catalyst for cooperation among States, communities and people.  Mutual benefits generally act as an incentive for sustained peaceful dialogue, which in turn can generate cooperation and understanding in other areas.

For example, benefit-sharing on water resources has a long history among the riparian States of the Senegal River Basin.   In South America, Lake Titicaca, the largest freshwater lake on the continent, has long been a source of cooperation between Bolivia and Peru.

And from my own experience, the Albufeira Convention, agreed during my time as Prime Minister of Portugal, continues to promote good relations and cooperation on water management between Portugal and Spain.  In Central Asia, progress is being achieved in the area of transboundary water management through ongoing consultations of Central Asian states supported by the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy.

In Iraq, the United Nations mission is working to reinforce peace and stability through the development of a land disputes project to promote confidence-building among communities and increase inclusivity.  In the Lake Chad Basin, cooperation on water has also played a critical role in bringing countries together to address broader challenges of the region.

In short, the United Nations recognizes the potential for shared management of natural resources as a means for preventing conflict and enhancing regional cooperation for peace and sustainable development.  To that end, we have taken note of Member States’ call for greater focus on these issues, including recently through the adoption of United Nations Security Council resolutions on Lake Chad, Somalia and Darfur, as well as a presidential statement on West Africa and the Sahel.

In response, we are taking a number of actions.  First, the Organization is seeking to strengthen our capacity to address the growing threat of climate-related security risks.  This includes a new joint initiative involving the Department of Political Affairs, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Second, we intend to maximize opportunities to use mediation over natural resources as a tool for conflict prevention, in cooperation with Member States, regional partners and international financial institutions.  For example, the High-level Panel on Water, which I convened together with the President of the World Bank Group, has helped galvanize action around hydrodiplomacy.

Third, we will further strengthen our partnership with regional and subregional organizations to work on ways to increase attention on building the capacities of national and local actors to prevent and respond to conflicts with natural resource dimensions.

As part of the Joint United Nations-African Union Framework for an Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security, I welcome the ongoing cooperation between our respective Organizations to support the Panel of the Wise in its efforts to improve prevention, mediation and the resolution of conflicts over natural resources in Africa.

Fourth, we are seeking to strengthen the capacity of women’s networks and organizations to effectively engage in dialogue and mediation processes around natural resources and the environment, including in the context of a climate change.  This initiative, co-led by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme and the Peacebuilding Support Office, has already supported indigenous and Afro-Colombian women in Colombia in processes related to natural resource use, ownership, governance and benefit-sharing.

Fifth, we also recognize that issues relating to land remain a critical factor.  Following the initial scoping study in 2016 conducted by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), I have recently finalized a guidance note to ensure greater strategic convergence across the United Nations system to help address issues of land and conflict.

Once again, let me thank the Bolivian Presidency for this timely debate.  There is a lot of work to do on this critical issue.  If we address it effectively, we will go a long way towards creating a safe and sustainable world for everyone, now and in the future.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.