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Natural Resources: Armed Conflict

Volume 470: debated on Thursday 24 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what recent progress has been made in multilateral efforts to agree a common and legal definition of conflict resources; what role the Government are playing in this process; and if he will make a statement; (181728)

(2) whether the Government's policy is to support the Commission for Africa Report recommendations to agree a United Nations endorsed definition of conflict resources; and what progress has been made on the creation of a permanent expert panel within the UN to monitor the links between natural resource extraction and violent conflict and the implementation of sanctions.

While we recognise the strong arguments for an agreed definition of “conflict resources”, we assess that a definition would not substantially help to address the links between conflict and natural resources. A UN Security Council debate on conflict and natural resources in June 2007 demonstrated the issue's sensitivity for many countries: seeking agreement on a definition in the UN would, in our judgment, prove extremely slow and without guarantee of success.

We are working with other like-minded Governments to develop a more comprehensive strategy to tackle links between natural resources and conflict. This could involve the inclusion of natural resource issues in the mandates of peacekeeping missions; the creation of a permanent centre of expertise within the UN system; and strengthening the role of the Peacebuilding Commission. We will seek a UN Secretary-General's report to assess these options and raise the profile of the issue, and we continue to work cross-Whitehall and with external stakeholders on this matter.