Delivered By: H.E. Sheikh Shakhboot Nahyan Al Nahyan, Minister of State
I would like to start by thanking your Excellency Moussa Adamo, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Gabon, for convening this important and timely debate. I welcome the participation of the African Union Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Ambassador Bankole Adeoye and the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Ms. Ghada Waly and thank them for their informative briefings. I join others in welcoming the participation of the representatives of the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Kingdom of Morocco, Senegal, the Central African Republic, and the Republic of Equatorial Guinea as well as the Head of the EU Delegation to the UN to this meeting.
The UAE is deeply concerned about the impact of the illegal exploitation of natural resources on the quality of life of the very people meant to be benefiting from these resources. As they plunder resources, armed groups, organized criminal networks as well as terrorist groups operating transnationally, they are inflicting unprecedented levels of violence and depriving communities from the enjoyment of basic human rights, a sense of security and economic wellbeing. And they are turning these resources into a curse.
The illegal exploitation of natural resources is a challenge with a long history of negative impacts on peace and security both in Africa and elsewhere in the world. According to the United Nations, the exploitation of natural resources has fueled at least eighteen violent conflicts since 1990.The magnitude of this issue cannot be overstated: it is not just the illicit nature of profiteering from resources, it is also the corrupt and unequal way that the proceeds are distributed, which harms the growth and sustainable development of communities.
Indeed, the illegal exploitation of natural resources is an artery for terrorists and criminal actors who fund their operations and use them as a tool to spread their influence, and this occurs at the cost to the true beneficiaries of the resources: the State and its people.
And this problem is not limited to national – or regional – borders, it affects countries that act as centers for the processing and trade in raw materials, developed countries that consume and increase demand for these resources, and all countries whose security is threatened by cross-border terrorist groups and organized criminal networks. In addition to these impacts, the environmental degradation resulting from the irresponsible exploitation of resources and unsustainable practices of these groups exacerbates the greatest – and most global – challenge the world faces today: climate change. There is an undeniable correlation between the illegal exploitation of resources, climate change and the spread of terrorism. As the Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, reported to this Council last December, environmental degradation contributes to enabling non-State armed groups to exert influence and manipulate resources to their advantage. As we have seen in the Sahel, the regions that are most vulnerable to climate change tend to also be vulnerable to the scourge of terrorism.
Noting that there continue to be signs indicating that across Africa and beyond, transnational terrorist groups are diversifying their revenue streams, through involvement in the illicit exploitation and trafficking of natural resources. They take advantage of the lack of sufficient understanding within the international community of the growing links between illicit use of natural resources and terrorism financing, at a time when terrorist groups use new and emerging technologies to achieve their goals. In this context, existing regulatory frameworks are struggling to keep up with these developments, which may prevent them from achieving their aims. Accordingly, the UAE strongly urges the international community to hold accountable all those individuals, entities, terrorist groups, corporations and other actors, who partake in the illegal exploitation of natural resources. Further, we call on to be unrelenting in our cooperation to ensure that the proceeds of natural resources are not used to kill innocent people, including women and children, and are instead put to the service of communities across the continent, to sustain their growth, development and safety.
In addition to being a legal obligation, the UAE believes that working in earnest to counter the illegal exploitation of African natural resources is a moral imperative as well as a strategic investment which directly benefits the entire world. Having chaired the Kimberley Process in 2016, the UAE has demonstrated its endorsement of strong regulatory frameworks as well as the necessity for coordination between different mechanisms, in order to collectively ensure communities across Africa – especially women and children – are protected. The UAE has ensured that its regulations are in line with international standards to counter illegal trading of natural resources, and we have also put in place the infrastructure to achieve these goals, and we continue to develop and improve upon our best practices.
While reaffirming the need to strengthen cooperation between states, we also stress the need to devise a stronger collective response to this threat, as called for by the Council in its Resolutions 2482, which underlined the link between organized crime and terrorism, as well as the benefits that terrorist groups derive from organized crime. The UAE will continue to work closely with our African partners to counter terrorist groups and criminal networks, including those that smuggle weapons between our two regions, helping groups such as Al Shabaab and the Houthis build their deadly arsenal.
In the context of today’s discussion, the UAE to focus our efforts on the following areas:
First, we must continue conversations such as this one, and reflect further on how to devise mechanisms allowing to engage key relevant actors on this issue, including other international organizations and the private sector. Here, the role of the AU, and sub regional actors, who have a better understanding of the complex ramifications of the problem before us today should be leveraged, so we can collectively take joint preventative measures, from a reactive approach to a proactive approach.
Second, this Council must remain ready to use the various tools available to counter the illicit exploitation of natural resources when it affects international peace and security, including through sanctions and peacekeeping mandates.
Third, there is a great need for building the capacity of states in the sustainable management of natural resources, upon their request and with full respect for their sovereignty. Developing an adequate response by the UN means increasing capacity-building support for governments – especially those dealing with conflict and in post-conflict situations – as well as directly affected communities.
In conclusion, I thank you once again, Mr. President, for your efforts and leadership in bringing this matter to the attention of the Council. I reaffirm the UAE’s commitment to continue working closely with other members to address challenges to peace, stability, and prosperity in Africa.
Thank you, Mr. President.