What's In Blue

Posted Tue 18 Jun 2013

Open Debate on Conflict Prevention and Natural Resources

Tomorrow morning, 19 June, the Council will hold an open debate on “Conflict Prevention and Natural Resources”. The scheduled briefers are Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, UNDP Associate Administrator Rebecca Grynspan, World Bank Managing Director Caroline Anstey, and Kofi Annan as Chair of the Africa Progress Panel. Anstey may draw upon insights from the World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security, and Development as well as World Bank work in areas such as transparency, accountability and natural resource governance. Annan, who will brief via videoconference, will likely share analyses and conclusions from the recently released Africa Progress Report 2013: Equity in Extractives.

The UK had intended the outcome for the open debate to be a presidential statement but, as of press time, it seemed unlikely that the Council would be able to reach consensus on a text. Negotiations started on Tuesday 11 June, with subsequent sessions on Thursday, Friday and Monday. Following a lack of agreement yesterday, bilateral discussions between Russia and the UK continued today, but failed to come to an agreement and it seems that a fifth round of negotiations to finalise a presidential statement will not take place. Russia’s principal objection seems to be that the subject matter – conflict prevention and natural resources – does not fall within the Council’s mandate of maintaining international peace and security. Other members do not hold this view as numerous countries currently on the Council’s agenda have experienced armed conflict related to natural resource exploitation, and there is extensive empirical evidence contrary to Russia’s interpretation. (For background on this, please see Security Council Report’s June 2013 Monthly Forecast.)

The draft presidential statement that was being negotiated covered many of the same themes as the presidential statement adopted on 25 June 2007 under the Belgian presidency (S/PRST/2007/22) : state sovereignty, illicit exploitation, national regulation, UN peace operations, coordination, regional and international dimensions, sanctions, the Peacebuilding Commission, the private sector, and international voluntary initiatives.
Overall, with the notable exception of new language on linkages with children and armed conflict and sexual violence, most of the draft presidential statement under negotiation contained content quite similar to the 2007 presidential statement. The most significant new content would have been a reporting requirement for the Secretary-General.

A few different compromise solutions were attempted during negotiations in order to address the objections of Council members, particularly China and Russia, to the draft text. For example an attempt was made to address Russia’s position that the text went beyond the mandate of the Council by inserting a clause in more than half of the 17 draft paragraphs in order to explicitly limit the focus to “countries in armed conflict and post-conflict situations that pose a threat to international peace and security”. This issue is one which Russia also raised during the negotiations on the recently adopted presidential statement on children and armed conflict and it seems it has come up during the on-going negotiations for the resolution on sexual violence, which is expected to be adopted during the debate on women, peace and security next Monday (24 June).

The reporting requirement of the Secretary-General was another area opposed by China and Russia. In the initial draft, the Secretary-General was requested to report to the Council within one year on the effectiveness of UN support to countries affected by natural resource related conflict. Following objections to this new element, changes were made which limited the scope of enquiry to UN support as specified in Council mandates and extended the timeframe from one to two years. However, these compromises were apparently insufficient to appease Russia and by today (18 June) it made clear that it was not going to agree to a presidential statement on this issue.

While Council members have been unable to reach consensus on a presidential statement for the open debate on conflict prevention and natural resources, there is a complementary initiative currently underway in the General Assembly. Belgium and Gabon have taken the lead on a draft resolution which covers some of the same subjects, but the scope is broader in terms of the countries and natural resources concerned. It seems that the draft resolution may also include a reporting requirement for the Secretary-General which might allow for a systemic review of the UN’s approach to this issue.

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