8372nd Security Council Meeting: Maintenance of International Peace and Security

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16-Oct-2018 01:49:02
States must transform natural resources from driver of conflict into development tool to foster peace, cooperation, Secretary-General tells Security Council at 8372nd meeting.

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Competition over land, water, minerals and other natural resources will increasingly fuel conflict unless efforts are stepped up to manage them for the benefit of local people and engender peace through sharing, the Secretary-General told the Security Council today.

“The exploitation of natural resources, or competition over them, can and does lead to violent conflict,” he said, opening a meeting on the topic. “Shared natural resources have traditionally also been a catalyst for cooperation among States, communities and people.”

Highlighting studies showing that more than 40 per cent of internal armed conflicts over the last 60 years have been linked to natural resources, he said these risks will only grow as climate change and environmental degradation exacerbate scarcity due to trends such as population growth and increased consumption. In particular, competition for oil, gas, minerals, water and land will sharpen.

Among the factors he pointed to were the unfair distribution of natural resources, corruption and mismanagement, factors that could worsen existing ethnic or religious divides within societies. He called for certified extraction and fair trade practices, such as the Kimberley Process for diamonds, with a focus on aiding local communities and directing profits to the national good.

Citing water-sharing arrangements around the world that cement cooperation and serve as conflict-prevention mechanisms, he described initiatives by the United Nations that boost mediation capabilities between organizations and within regions to create more of these arrangements. In this regard, he pointed to United Nations initiatives to strengthen the capabilities of women’s organizations.

Council Members who spoke after Mr. Guterres’ briefing all agreed that conflict was too frequently fuelled by competition over natural resources, although different points of focus were proposed. The representative of Bolivia, whose country holds the Council presidency for October and proposed the meeting, maintained that multinational corporations and foreign interests were often behind the exploitation of natural resources in conflict situations. Corporations, he said, have financed separatist movements and fostered regime changes more friendly to their interests. He called for sanctions to be applied, therefore, to the full chain of actors causing such competition for resources.

Similarly, the Russian Federation’s delegate underlined the role of resources in foreign interventions in Libya and Iraq. Along with the representative of China and others, he called for strict respect of the sovereign rights of States to manage their resources, adding that those who offer to help troubled States must not have covert agendas.

Voicing a different concern, the representative of the United States objected to the framing of the meeting in a way that ignores the crucial issue of internal State mismanagement of natural resources. Nowhere is that more evident than the case of the kleptocratic regime of Venezuela, he said, also citing other situations in which corrupt practices by Governments, not multinational corporations, drive conflict. The representative of United Kingdom, in addition, objected to the insinuation that all international interventions are motivated by a desire to exploit materials. Some, she maintained, were launched to protect people in desperate situations.

Sharing his country’s experience, Kuwait’s representative called natural resources “a divine blessing”. Recounting the damage caused by the Iraqi invasion in 1990 and the burning of hundreds of oil wells, he expressed support for a binding international instrument to prevent such catastrophes.

Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Côte d’Ivoire (also speaking on behalf of Ethiopia and Equatorial Guinea), Peru, Netherlands, Sweden, Poland, France and Kazakhstan.

The meeting began at 10 a.m. and ended at 11:48 a.m.
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