Press Release / / 10.16.18

UN Security Council Takes Aim at Conflict Linked to Natural Resources

Experts call for serious financial consequences, including network sanctions and anti-money laundering measures

Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.N. Security Council held a session on the role of natural resources as a root cause of conflict.

John Prendergast, Founding Director of the Enough Project and Co-Founder of The Sentry, said: “Today’s session at the United Nations Security Council is a long-overdue recognition that the exploitation of natural resources by armed actors is a driver of conflict in places such as East and Central Africa. It has been shown that state armies and rebels in countries such as South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic use extreme violence to control these resources, labor, and smuggling networks, while arms dealers, ivory traffickers, gold and diamond smugglers, minerals dealers, and others collude with government officials and rebel warlords to maximize profit for elites with access to power.”

Joshua White, Director of Policy and Analysis at The Sentry, said: “Today, the overwhelming majority of Security Council members rightly recognized that meaningful financial consequences such as network sanctions must be enacted against those profiting from the violent competition over natural resources. It’s no coincidence that so many Security Council members referred to the situations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic as particularly egregious examples of this problem.  The Sentry will continue to investigate and expose how the exploitation of natural resources by those inside affected countries and around the world fuels conflict and mass atrocities. We now urge the United Nations and its member states to take stronger and more concrete action to target the underlying financial motivations of these natural resource-linked crimes in order to help bring peace, security, and stability to war-torn regions.”

Prendergast added: “International policies must focus more overtly on changing the cost-benefit analysis from war to peace. This has been the case in a number of places, including the way the Kimberley Process removed blood diamonds from the global supply chain and helped contribute to the end of conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Angola. While calling attention to the origins of mass atrocities and human rights abuses is critically important, it’s not enough. The United Nations must employ a strategy of using network sanctions to pressure these illicit actors while working with member states to bolster anti-money laundering measures and prosecute financial crimes committed in the pursuit of control over natural resources.”

Today’s session follows last month’s historic Council meeting on the critical connection between corruption and conflict which included a briefing by Prendergast. During the session, Prendergast highlighted the connection between conflict, especially in East and Central Africa, that are driven by corrupt elites for over the control of hijacked states and the natural resources. Click here for full remarks by John Prendergast at the Security Council briefing last month.

Remarks from Security Council members during this morning’s session included the following statements:

Netherlands: “The illegal exploitation and trade of natural resources remain root causes of violence in ongoing conflicts, such as in DRC, CAR, South Sudan, Somalia, and Libya. In line with this, there is an imperative role for governments. Governments must choose to dismantle war economies and economies of predation in which the trade of natural resources is used to finance the interests of a few over the interests of many. The gains of ending the conflict and dismantling networks should be seen as more important than utilizing networks of ivory traffickers, gold, and diamond smugglers and mineral dealers to earn a profit. We have to change the cost-benefit calculation. And in this context, what can the Council do? The Council can act when it comes to dismantling these networks. Tools like adequate reporting and political pressure must be utilized. Illegal trade in natural resources should be ground for sanctions, as revenues from this illegal exploitation and trade are used to destabilize countries. Political will, however, is absolutely necessary to do this.”

Bolivia: “It is not enough to monitor and sanction armed groups, their heads as individuals, or the parties to the conflict. It is also necessary to make the sanctions regimes more dynamic and effective.  To this end, it is necessary that we apply sanctions to the networks that make up the entire chain of those involved in the conflict, which, in the case of conflicts related to natural resources, includes “commercial enablers,” which are largely made up of large transnational corporations that allow the commercialization and insertion of illegally obtained and conflict-ridden natural resources into global markets, and “financial facilitators,” made up of financial corporations and tax havens, that allow the insertion and legitimation of profits into the global financial system and that are the product of the commercialization of those resources… This Council should reformulate the mandates of the subsidiary bodies referring to sanctions, so that the Panels of Experts have the mandate to investigate and identify these corporations, affecting or definitively nullifying these criminal networks. With the result of these investigations, the Council must be able to impose sanctions on the above-mentioned networks.”

France: “It is thus our duty to act on this cause of perpetuation of the crises. We make it happen when we adopt sanctions, in particular when we designate criteria connected to the exploitation of resources. Mechanisms set up in DRC and in CAR are an example. We can and have to make it more, ensuring in particular the recruitment of specialized experts and by encouraging these experts to bring to light the networks of local and international intermediaries which make the traffic possible.”

Sweden: “The Security Council needs to be more effective in addressing root causes and conflicts early on… This must include better analysis on the links to root causes, including natural resources… Taking a holistic approach to security remains key, and we as member states must muster the political will to wholeheartedly support the Secretary-General’s vision of putting conflict prevention at the center of this organization. Effectively addressing root causes, including improving management of natural resources, is crucial to preventing conflict and sustaining peace.”

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact: Greg Hittelman, Director of Communications, +1 310 717 0606, gh@enoughproject.org.

About THE SENTRY

The Sentry is composed of financial forensic investigators, policy analysts, and regional experts who follow the dirty money and build investigative cases focusing on the corrupt transnational networks most responsible for Africa’s deadliest conflicts. By creating a significant financial cost to these kleptocrats through network sanctions, anti-money laundering measures, prosecutions, and other tools, The Sentry aims to disrupt the profit incentives for mass atrocities and oppression, and creates new leverage in support of peace efforts and African frontline human rights defenders. The Sentry’s partner, the Enough Project, undertakes high-level advocacy with policy-makers around the world as well as wide-reaching education campaigns by mobilizing students, faith-based groups, celebrities, and others. Co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, The Sentry is an initiative of Not On Our Watch (NOOW) and the Enough Project. The Sentry currently focuses its work in South Sudan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and the Central African Republic.

In less than two years, The Sentry has created hard-hitting reports and converted extensive research into a large volume of dossiers on individuals and entities connected to grand corruption, violence, or serious human rights abuses. The investigative team has turned those dossiers over to government regulatory and law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and around the world, as well as to compliance officers at the world’s largest banks.

Learn more at www.TheSentry.org.

About THE ENOUGH PROJECT

The Enough Project supports peace and an end to mass atrocities in Africa’s deadliest conflict zones. Together with its investigative initiative The Sentry, Enough counters armed groups, violent kleptocratic regimes, and their commercial partners that are sustained and enriched by corruption, criminal activity, and the trafficking of natural resources. By helping to create consequences for the major perpetrators and facilitators of atrocities and corruption, Enough seeks to build leverage in support of peace and good governance. Enough conducts research in conflict zones, engages governments and the private sector on potential policy solutions, and mobilizes public campaigns focused on peace, human rights, and breaking the links between war and illicit profit. Learn more – and join us – at www.EnoughProject.org.