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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 30th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Botswana’s Ambassador Meant Well, was right, and we wish him best of luck if he hoped to influence his audience.

STATEMENT BY H.E. MR. SAMUEL OUTLULE, AMBASSADOR AND PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE REPUBLIC OF BOTSWANA TO THE UNITED NATIONS, AT “THE UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL OPEN DEBATE ON NATURAL RESOURCES AND CONFLICT,” NEW YORK, June 25, 2007, under the Belgian Security Council Presidency.
The statement: as delivered at the Security Council by The Permanent Representative of Botswana:
1. The delegation of Botswana aligns itself with the statement delivered by Tunisia on behalf of the African Group. Mr. President, I thank you for organizing this important debate.

2. It is a welcome initiative and we commend your leadership. The debate should contribute to the promotion of awareness and greater understanding of how a combination of factors and individuals can conspire to exploit natural resources in a manner that causes conflict.

3. The questions we must ask and answer therefore are how can we prevent the recurrence of such conflicts? What measures can be put in place to prevent the use of resources for the wrong objectives? Can we find ways and means of strengthening existing mechanisms to ensure that natural resources contribute to the development of countries and for the benefit of peoples?

4. There are several questions that demand answers. The delegation of Botswana wishes to submit that in our view the debate is really about natural resources and development. How can we ensure that natural resources are exploited for the common good?

5. Africa is home to some of the richest natural resources in the world ranging from oil, uranium, gold, diamonds, tropical hard wood to coal and ivory. The revenues from these natural resources are the mainstay of the economies of many African countries including my own, Botswana.

6. In recent years, natural resources were implicated in a number of conflicts in Africa. Although Africa has had a large share of such conflicts and the vast majority of victims are Africans, Africans are not the only culprits. Some who benefit from the resources through the manufacture and illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons and ammunition are in other parts of the world.

7. The conflict over resources is neither new nor unique to Africa. Throughout history, there are many examples of conflict over land, wildlife resources and water. Natural resources and conflict probably began when humankind started hunting and gathering. The scramble for Africa by colonial powers for instance, entailed conflict with Africans over their natural resources.

8. The challenge we face is how to eliminate this old-age evil of grabbing and fighting over natural resources. The seeds of conflict are sowed when a group of people either grab what does not belong to them or exclude others from benefiting from their national heritage.

9. Mr. President, surely we must end all wars so that human energy, intellect and natural resources as well as advances in science and technology can be deployed to the service of humanity.

10. The Security Council is correctly debating this matter today because it concerns humanity as a whole. The human family must find the means to live at peace with one another. As Member States, we have individual and collective responsibility to do all in our power to contribute towards the prevention and settlement of conflict. We must combine our efforts to break the link between illegal transaction in natural resources and armed conflicts. However, in doing so, we should avoid demonizing natural resources and stifling legitimate trade in such resources.

11. In this respect, the peace building and post conflict reconstruction and recovery in affected countries deserve strong support to enable them to speedily establish effective institutional and requisite internal controls to manage their resources for the common good. People in affected countries should not only enjoy peace and security, but most importantly they must also benefit from the wealth derived from natural resources which is their common heritage.

12. Mr. President, the delegation of Botswana is strongly convinced that for most developing countries, natural resources should really be a source of hope and opportunity for a better future rather than a threat or a curse. Botswana can indeed attest to the good that diamonds can do.

13. There can be no doubt however that left alone, diamonds cannot do anything. Positive and innovative actions, policies and practices by people combined with good leadership are critical to transforming a resource to good use. Political stability, good governance, people centred development and respect for the rule of law as well as transparent and accountable national systems are essential for the efficient management of these resources for the common good.

14. Botswana fully supports the Kimberley Process. This is a practical mechanism underpinned by General Assembly and Security Council resolutions calling for accountable and transparent internal controls and systems at the national level as well as international measures to monitor and track the trade in rough diamonds.

15. The strength of the Kimberley Process is in collaboration, commitment and partnership. It enlists the co-operation and participation of different global stakeholders, namely, exporting and importing countries, non governmental organizations and the diamond industry to ensure full compliance.

16. Today almost all international trade in diamonds is processed through the Kimberley Process and diamonds have become a major source of funding for social progression and economic development in many countries, particularly in Africa. The Kimberley Process continues to be a major success in curbing production and trade in conflict diamonds.

17. Botswana is also strongly committed to the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). To this end, we continue to carefully manage our wildlife resources in particular, elephants. The result is that today, we have huge and healthy elephant populations. It should not come as a surprise, therefore, that we consider it a legitimate demand that we be allowed to sell our huge stockpiles of ivory which in any case were harvested from animals that died naturally.

18. Mr. President, there is agreement on the urgent need to effectively prevent conflict over natural resources. In doing so, we should not establish mechanisms that create conditionalities for trade in natural resources and place a heavy burden on exporting countries. This would be unfortunate as it would set new trade barriers.

19. We must not demonize or stigmatize natural resources. Natural resources do not cause conflict. They simply do not! It is illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons, human greed, mismanagement, corruption and exploitation that generate conflict!

The seedlings of conflict are planted when the vast majority of citizens are excluded from enjoying the wealth of their national heritage.

20. There is no single way to address the issue of conflict over resources. We call for equal accountability for those who manufacture and export arms and those who use the proceeds of the sale of natural resources NOT to produce food, provide education, health care, clean water and communications infrastructure BUT rather subvert and divert such proceeds to purchase and import arms in order to perpetrate or fuel war on their populations.

21. Most African countries are dependent on natural resources for their foreign exchange earnings. In this regard, it is crucially important to avoid mechanisms that can adversely impact on the ability of African countries to profitably exploit their natural resources.

22. Mr. President, in conclusion we need a wise combination of measures to assist Africa to urgently and effectively tackle the challenges of underdevelopment. The phenomenon of Natural Resources and Conflict is common to Africa because of the problem of underdevelopment. In the highly industrialized countries it no longer exists because the economies are primarily dependant on science and technology and highly skilled services.

23. If natural resources are demonized, the result would be that only natural resources from Africa would be excluded from international trade. Mechanisms that can adversely impact on the ability of African countries to profitably exploit their natural resources should be avoided. Underdevelopment in Africa therefore deserves urgent attention. Strong partnership, assured support and mutually beneficial co-operation in tackling this problem are key to solving the question of Natural Resources and Conflict. Thank you Mr. President!

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Further, at the opening session of the 7th United Nations Forum on “Reinventing Government,” in Vienna, Austria, His Excellency, Botswana President, Mr. Mogae, observing that Africa’s challenges were also global challenges, he proposed the need for the continent to work with others in resolving such outstanding issues as conflicts in Darfur, Somalia, and Cote d’Ivoire, as well as facilitate dialogue in Zimbabwe.

President Mogae further welcomed the establishment of the MDG Steering Committee.

The President went on to note that, notwithstanding the many challenges facing the continent, most African states were now enjoying greater levels of democratic governance and economic growth. He, however, observed that the continent’s current overall growth rate of about 5% per annum would have to double if the continent was to close the gap with the rest of the world.

From all the above, a picture is drawn of a continent of very mixed composition. Some brutal governments rule in order to enrich themselves, with total disregard of the population, and by expropriating for their own benefit whatever natural resources they can find. On the other hand, some enlightened leaders understand that they must act for the benefit of all their people. These latter, for political reasons, may sometimes talk nevertheless half-truth by creating excuses for some of the worse realities that kept Africa’s development from happening. THE WORD UNDERDEVELOPMENT is historically just one such excuse.

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