UN officials identified conflicts, corruption and other challenges to effective utilisation of resources.
The former United Nations, UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has said that conflicts related to extractive resources were preventing many African countries from developing their full potentials.
“For years, we have seen that natural resources have been the cause and at times a driver of internal or regional conflicts in Africa,” Mr. Annan, who is also the Chairperson of the Africa Progress Panel, told the UN Security Council on Wednesday.
Mr. Annan made the remark at the Council’s day-long thematic debate on conflict prevention and the extractive industries at the UN Headquarters in New York.
He noted that Africa had been benefiting from high demand for natural resources from China and other emerging markets, but warned that governments must ensure that the profits of this demand are invested in development and do not lead to tensions in the region.
“The starting point is for all countries to develop national strategies that set up the terms under which their natural resources will be developed, including fiscal policies, contractual arrangements and tax regimes.
“Above all, national strategies have to set out how the extractive sector fits into plans for poverty reduction, inclusive growth and social transformation,’’ Mr. Annan stressed.
He, however, underlined the international community’s responsibility in creating a safe and transparent environment that encourages cross-border collaboration and environmental protection.
Jan Eliasson, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, said that “in too many countries, a wealth of resources such as timber, oil, coal, diamonds and precious metals fail to translate into equivalent wealth for the people.
“Instead, communities and individuals pay a terrible cost in terms of corruption, human rights abuses and environmental damage. The primary responsibility for preventing conflict, transparently and equitably managing resources lies with Governments.”
Mr. Eliasson noted that when managed properly, extractive resources do not need to be a curse but could instead be the foundation for sustainable development and lasting peace.
“Political leaders are to ensure that extractive industries generate employment and tax revenues which support economic development and the provision of basic services.
“And leaders are to be held accountable by national institutions which promote social cohesion and inclusion, based on the rule of law and an independent judiciary,” Mr. Eliasson said.
He added that while governments play a central role in natural resource management, the private sector, civil society and international organisations are also important in ensuring the equitable, transparent and sustainable exploitation of extractive resources.
Mr. Eliasson highlighted examples of how the UN was working with governments to prevent conflicts related to resources.
“UN political and peacekeeping missions, for example, support dispute resolution through their rule of law programmes, which count with mediators with an expertise on natural resource issues,’’ he stressed.
Also, the Associate Administrator of the UN Development Programme, Rebecca Grynspan, outlined how the agency was helping countries such as Tanzania, Liberia and Sierra Leone to establish concrete actions plans and best practices in managing their resources.