SA calls for increased capacity to address illicit exploitation, trade in Africa

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South Africa has appealed to its fellow Security Council members to help increase the capacity of African states to address the illicit exploitation and trade in the continent’s natural resources.

South Africa used its current position as Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa to convene a formal meeting of the Council to bring attention to the link between the illicit exploitation of Africa’s natural resources and their trade as a key driver of most conflicts.

It is often been referred to as a ‘natural resources curse’ – Africa’s wealth, often found underground – driving, often fuelling protracted conflicts on the continent.

South Africa’s envoy Jerry Matjila lamented the lack of commonly agreed outcomes by bodies like the Security Council to address the matter cohesively.

“This is a clear indication that the peace dividend remains elusive. It is imperative for the international community in particular, the Security Council, to move beyond the current rhetoric, generalities and take steps to accelerate accountability mechanisms as well as actions targeted at improving the political and socio-economic development of African states.”

A Joint UN-World Bank report found that globally some 40 to 60% of intra-state armed conflicts over the past 60 years have either been triggered, funded or sustained by natural resources with officials citing examples from Angola, to South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo where conflicts have been partially funded by revenues from natural resources, notably the illegal extraction of minerals, timber, charcoal and wildlife to mention but a few.

“The effect of this natural resource conflict nexus is trans, with grave implications for international and continental peace, security and development. As such it requires collective, international, regional, sub regional and national responses that adopts a holistic and inclusive approach to conflict prevention management and resolution. The role of the Security Council in contributing to addressing this natural resources conflict nexus in close collaboration with the African Union, including the Peace and Security Council, the African regional economic communities and regional mechanisms, is key for preventing conflicts,” says UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor for Africa, Bience Gawanas.

Experts say that poorly managed resources lead not only to major conflicts and instability but exacerbate ethnic and religious divides and worsening social inequalities, particularly when local population fail to see the dividends.

Director for Africa Policy Programme at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Professor Leonce Ndikumana says, “Resources, instead of financing development are used to finance the wars. The literature is very clear that resources are linked ton conflict because they make conflicts possible. You can be unhappy with a government, you can be unhappy with a state, if you don’t have the means to challenge the state, there’ll be no conflict. In the case of resource rich countries, the conflict arises because a resource endowment makes conflict feasible, materially, financially and that also explains why resource based conflicts last so long.”

He also pointed out that resources in and of themselves do not cause conflicts.  “It’s when the resources are not equally distributed, when they are benefiting segments of the population, not others, when they’re benefiting the rest of the world and not the country, that’s when they become a challenge. That’s when they become a source of conflict.”

South Africa warned that this matter could not be treated as business as usual, urging Council to find a way forward.