October 2022 Monthly Forecast

Posted 2 October 2022
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Peace and Security in Africa: Financing of Armed Groups and Terrorists Through Illicit Trafficking of Natural Resources

Expected Council Action

In October, Gabon is organising a high-level debate on strengthening the fight against the financing of armed groups and terrorists through the illicit trafficking of natural resources. The debate will be one of the signature events of Gabon’s presidency. AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security Bankole Adeoye, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Ghada Fathi Waly, and a representative of civil society are likely to brief. Gabonese Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Moussa Adamo is expected to chair the meeting.

Key Recent Developments

Illicit trafficking of natural resources by armed groups and terrorists has received growing attention from the Security Council in recent years. For example, resolution 2195, which addressed the role of transnational crime in supporting terrorism, expressed concern that terrorists benefit from the “illicit trade in natural resources including gold and other precious metals and stones, minerals, wildlife, charcoal and oil”. In a similar vein, resolution 2462 on combatting the financing of terrorism noted with grave concern that terrorist groups raise funds through the “exploitation of natural resources”.

The issue was referred to in greater detail in resolution 2482 on the nexus between terrorism and international organised crime, which encouraged states to continue their efforts to end the illicit trade in national resources “as part of broader efforts to ensure that illicit trade in natural resources is not benefitting sanctioned entities, terrorist groups, armed groups, or criminal networks”. Resolution 2482 also called on member states to consider the ratification and implementation of relevant global instruments and their participation in national, regional and global initiatives that aim to build capacity to prevent the illicit trafficking of natural resources.

The Council has also considered the misuse of natural resources while discussing conflict prevention and the relationship between security and development, including during the February 2011 debate on the interdependence between security and development (S/PV.6479), the June 2013 debate on conflict and natural resources (S/PV.6982), the January 2015 debate on inclusive development (S/PV.7361), and the 2018 briefing on the role of natural resources as a root cause of conflict (S/PV.8372).

Illicit trafficking of natural resources by armed groups is an important issue in several files on the Council’s agenda. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), individuals and entities can be designated under the 1533 DRC sanctions regime for “supporting individuals or entities, including armed groups or criminal networks, involved in destabilising activities in the DRC through the illicit exploitation or trade of natural resources, including gold or wildlife as well as wildlife products”. In its most recent midterm report, the 1533 DRC Panel of Experts analysed the gold and coal mining activities of Mai-Mai Apa Na Pale and its allies, noting that the armed groups have sold gold to informal dealers in Kalemie through smugglers and taxed “varying quantities of coal from artisanal miners’ weekly production”.

Illicit trade in natural resources was also referred to in the presidential statement on the Great Lakes region that was adopted by the Council during Kenya’s presidency in October 2021 (S/PRST/2021/19). Among other matters, the presidential statement recognised the “linkage between the illegal exploitation and trade in natural resources and the illegal acquisition and trafficking of small arms and light weapons in fuelling and exacerbating conflict in the Great Lakes region”. The presidential statement also recognised that “insecurity resulting from … the illegal exploitation and trade of natural resources negatively impact[s] conflict prevention, post-conflict peacebuilding, the consolidation of peace in countries in the Great Lakes region emerging from conflict and their post-conflict development, including education, health and economic opportunity”.

Individuals and entities can be designated under the Central African Republic (CAR) 2127 sanctions regime for “providing support for armed groups or criminal networks through the illicit exploitation or trade of natural resources, including diamonds, gold, wildlife as well as wildlife products in or from the CAR”. The Panel of Experts assisting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee has also documented instances of armed groups profiting from natural resource trafficking. Its latest midterm report, for example, found that the Patriotic Rally for the Renewal of the Central African Republic (RPRC) derived significant revenues from various forms of trafficking, including by selling diamonds (S/2022/527).

In Mali, the Panel of Experts assisting the 2374 Sanctions Committee has focused on the mining of artisanal gold due, in part, to its connection to revenue generation “for compliant and terrorist armed groups”. In its final report for 2021 (S/2021/714), the Panel found that artisanal gold mining drives terrorist financing and the expansion of the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), an armed group active in northern Mali.

Key Issues and Options

A key issue for the Council is determining how to counter the financing of armed groups and terrorists through illicit trafficking in natural resources. One option for the Council is to consider whether there is a need to update the listing criteria for sanctions regimes in which illicit trafficking of natural resources is an issue. The Council could, for example, choose to add a listing criterion that applies to those who provide support to armed groups through illicit trade in natural resources to relevant sanctions regimes that do not currently have such a criterion, such as the 2374 Mali sanctions regime. The Council could also consider whether existing listing criteria relating to illicit trafficking of natural resources are fit for purpose and functioning as intended.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Council members are generally supportive of efforts to combat the illicit trade in natural resources. There are disagreements, however, regarding the use of sanctions to address the issue. These disagreements have existed among Council members for some time. During the 19 June 2013 open debate on conflict prevention and natural resources, for example, China and Russia both emphasised the importance of respecting state sovereignty and expressed scepticism regarding natural resource sanctions. Russia also blocked a proposed presidential statement arising from this meeting, apparently arguing that the topic falls outside the Council’s mandate.

More recently, China and Russia placed a hold on a US proposal to designate Belgian businessman Alain Goetz and companies affiliated with him under the 1533 DRC sanctions regime for their alleged involvement in illegal gold exports from the DRC. At the Council’s 27 April briefing on the implementation of the 2013 Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and Great Lakes region, China argued that “the relevant sanctions measures of the Security Council must not be misused, let alone become a tool for suppressing other political and commercial players”.

Gabon has a longstanding record of protecting its natural resources, which may help to explain its motivation for this meeting. It is one of the most forested countries in the world, with more than 88 percent of its surface area covered by rainforests, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP). These rainforests are home to a rich variety of wildlife and Gabonese authorities have implemented a range of initiatives that are intended to protect its endangered fauna. Gabon has, for example, established 13 national parks since 2000 and also created an anti-poaching unit to patrol its rainforests in 2020.

Gabon has also focused on illicit trade in wildlife in other UN fora. In July 2015, Gabon and Germany co-sponsored a General Assembly resolution on tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife. Among other matters, the resolution urged member states to take decisive steps at the national level to prevent, combat, and eradicate illegal trade in wildlife, and also called on member states to review and amend their national legislation with a view to ensuring that offences connected to illegal trade in wildlife are treated as predicate offences for domestic money laundering.

SELECTED RELEVANT UN DOCUMENTS

Security Council Resolutions
19 July 2019S/RES/2482 This was on the nexus between terrorism and international organised crime.
28 March 2019S/RES/2462 This was a resolution on combatting the financing of terrorism.
22 December 2014S/RES/2195 This was a resolution that addressed the role of transnational organised crime in supporting terrorism.
General Assembly Document
15 July 2015A/69/L.80 This was a resolution on tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife.

 

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