Natural Resources: Actors

This section provides an overview of a selected number of actors, key activities in support of natural resources and peacebuilding, and introduces institutional and strategic frameworks in support of coordination and cooperation. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of all actors and activities, but rather, an overview of some of the institutions and types of activities which are being implemented in the field.

National governments

States bear the primary responsibility for good natural resource management and governance as the "custodians" of the nation's natural resources. As discussed in the "Activities" section below, post-conflict governments face special challenges in managing revenues from natural resources for public good and simultaneously, mitigating grievances and incentives for peace spoiling. Many of the principles behind good natural resource governance also apply to the broader idea of public finance and good economic governance.

Go to Economic Recovery: Public Finance and Economic Governance

One example of this is the Governance and Economic Management Accountability Program, or GEMAP, in Liberia, which seeks "to build a system of economic governance to promote accountability, responsibility and transparency in fiscal management so that Liberia's resources will be used in the interests of its citizens."1 GEMAP has attracted much attention as a rare successful example of imposed resource governance controls. The program identified six components for improved governance of the Government of Liberia's resources, including:

  • Securing a revenue base through the establishment of transparent and accountable systems and procedures. This revenue base includes taxes, customs charges, fees, which include levies on natural resource exports and direct revenue from natural resources.
  • Improving budgeting and expenditure management through clarification of budgeting procedures, transparency, and building government capacity to manage expenditures. Public investment is a critical component of expenditure management.
  • Improving procurement practices and granting of concessions procedures to avoid corruption and narrow benefits for the elite. When not conducted properly, this is can become a community grievance.
  • Establishing processes to control corruption by implementing mechanisms to detect and prevent corruption in the public and private sectors.
  • Supporting key institutions that are responsible for natural resource management and governance with clear delineations of duties.
  • Capacity building for natural resource-related institutions and skilled workers to ensure good governance policies that are permanent and sustainable.2

It is also important that governments link natural resource issues to long-term development strategies, including their poverty reduction strategy. Governments are also responsible for adhering to international standards, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines if the state has signed on, and commodity certification programs, like the Kimberley Process.3

Go to Economic Recovery: Natural Resources and Peacebuilding - Implementation Strategies

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United Nations

A variety of United Nations organizations engage in key activities related to peacebuilding and natural resource management. A selection of those agencies and bodies is listed here.

United Nations Panel of Experts

The Panel of Experts aims to create better accountability and transparency in managing the resources of its member states in compliance with prevailing norms and protocols. It is an internal body of credentialed specialists mandated to monitor resource flows in conflict or post-conflict states within their own membership. They are normally established in response to violations of treaties, Security Council (UNSC) resolutions or international law, particularly where state capacity for compliance is weak or political will is fractured. These panels are actually UNSC sub-committees tasked with finite budgets and timeframes to investigate, report and monitor activities in question. They exist to curtail the contravention by states or parties of existing protocols and in that role have legal immunity, although they are limited in function to making recommendations to the UNSC with no powers for arrest or prosecution.4

In Liberia this mechanism was used to monitor diamonds, timber, sanctions and arms trade, with a degree of success. In Sudan, Resolution 1779 (2007) served to monitor the arms embargo in Darfur with somewhat less notable results. In 1999, a panel was deployed to investigate diamond trading in Angola and in 2002 into the DR Congo.

Because the sub-committees are based on principles of neutrality and integrity, conflicts may emerge as member states elect national experts to investigate reported contraventions within their own boundaries, presenting conflicts of interest that may compromise credibility. When states are found in non-compliance, the panel reports their findings to the Security Council, which may detail infractions or offer analysis of their implications, or it could make recommendations for action, for example, when a continued embargo may be prudent action against violations.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

UNEP is the only agency in the UN system specifically mandated to address regional and global environmental issues. Its mandate centers on leading the formulation of coordinated environmental policy in the global arena by stimulating engaged debate, identifying emerging issues and areas of potential crisis in order to encourage collaborative interventions.5 UNEP's Division of Environmental Policy Implementation (DEPI) liaises with international and national partners to provide technical assistance and advisory services to developing countries to strengthen their capacity to effectively manage natural resources. DEPI also coordinates the activities of the Post-Conflict Assessment Unit.6 The Division of Early Warning and Assessment aims to build the national capacities in using environmental information to inform policies and planning for sustainable human development through "data collection, research, analysis, monitoring and integrated environmental assessments; developing institutional capacities, staff training and support for appropriate and adaptable technologies and methodologies."7

Additionally, UNEP hosts the annual Global Ministerial Environment Forum, which provides a forum for ministers to discuss and review emerging environmental policy issues.8 The UNEP website also provides resources on natural resources and the environment for governments, scientists, journalists, civil society, business persons and children and youth.9

United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF)

UNFF is an example of the UN's work in natural resources and the environment. The United Nations Economic and Social Council established the UNFF in October 2000 as a result of "the Rio Declaration, the Forest Principles, Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 and the outcome of the IPF/IFF Processes and other key milestones of international forest policy."

On April 28, 2007, at the Seventh Session of the Forum, members adopted the Non-Legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests, which is considered to be a landmark agreement for creating an international mechanism for sustainable forest management. "The instrument is expected to have a major impact on international cooperation and national action to reduce deforestation, prevent forest degradation, promote sustainable livelihoods and reduce poverty for all forest-dependent peoples."10

The purpose of the Instrument is to:
- Strengthen political commitment and action at all levels to implement effectively sustainable management of all types of forests and to achieve the shared global objectives on forests;
- Enhance the contribution of forests to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, in particular with respect to poverty eradication and environmental sustainability;
- Provide a framework for national action and international cooperation.11

UNFF also hosts the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), which is comprised of 14 international organizations, including: Centre for International Forestry Research, International Tropical Timber Organization, International Union of Forest Research Organizations, World Agroforestry Centre and The World Bank. Several UN agencies also participate in CPF, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and United Nations Development Programme. "The CPF has two main objectives: to support the work of the UNFF and its member countries and to foster increased cooperation and coordination on forests."12

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International financial institutions (IFIs)

The World Bank has in recent years demonstrated increased awareness of, and involvement with, natural resource management and governance. The Bank has published many reports and policy briefings on various natural resource management topics, including on common property management systems, water resource management and the forest sector.

The World Bank's Environment Strategy, "Making Sustainable Commitments: An Environment Strategy for the World Bank" which was developed in 2001 and updated in 2007, "addresses the links between the environment, poverty, and development with a particular emphasis on health, livelihoods, and the vulnerability of poor people."13 The Strategy is linked with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and seeks to help developing countries protect their environment by "greening" investments, providing advice, technical assistance and training, and by participating in measures to help protect the global environment, such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol (MLF) and Carbon Finance for Development.

The Bank maintains a website on environment and natural resource law, which provides information on international law topics, such as forest law and land law reform. The Bank also houses Environment and Natural Resources Management Program (ENRM), which assists client countries in developing responsible management strategies for natural resources and environmental public goods. "It works within the broader context of economic growth, development, and poverty reduction. The program aims to improve understanding of the linkages among the economy, ecosystems and society, and to strengthen institutions to undertake action to address the following challenges:

  • Managing the urban environment to improve health and quality of life;
  • Managing natural assets that sustain economic growth, development and poverty reduction;
  • Conserving ecosystem services including biodiversity;
  • Mitigating and adapting to climate change."14
The World Bank Institute also provides information on several natural resource and environment-related topics, including: climate change: mitigation and adaptation, carbon finance assist, sustaining natural capital, environmental economics and market-based environment policies, Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA), environmental law, compliance and enforcement, Clean Aid Initiative (CAI), Solid Waste Management (SWM) program, urban environment program, and decentralized natural resources management.15

While not explicitly dealing with natural resource management and peacebuilding, International Monetary Fund (IMF) economic policies have a significant impact on natural resources. The IMF literature on natural resources tends to focus on the fiscal policy aspect of natural resource management, such as taxation.16

While the Publish What You Pay Campaign (PWYP) underscores the responsibility that IFIs have in promoting transparent management of oil, gas and mineral resources, other civil society organizations highlight tendencies for the IFIs to engage in practices that are harmful to the environment and fail to promote good natural resource management.

The PWYP campaign has made a series of recommendations for IFI engagement in responsible natural resource management, including:17

  • Institutionalization: Contract, revenue and budget transparency should be institutionalized in the mandates and operational policies of IFIs. In the absence of high-level institutionalization, approaches to transparency remain piecemeal and insufficient to generate a measurable impact.
  • Implementation: While many of the IFIs have adopted good policies and practices for transparency, there has been a lack of follow-through in enacting them. Stated rules and practices must be implemented consistently, fully and across-the-board.
  • Universality of Policies: The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) have overlapping mandates and areas of work, making it important that they adopt and adhere to common policies. Having all organizations on the same page will preempt preferential lending practices and competition amongst companies and governments.
  • Requirements of Lending Practices: Transparent management of natural resources should be requisite for the commercial lending of public finances. As a starting point, IFIs should all adopt and implement the good practices of the IMF in their lending practices.
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Civil society

Civil society groups are becoming increasingly formidable players, locally and globally, in addressing a range of issues that lie at the heart of the intersection between natural resources and peacebuilding. These include: (1) instilling responsible practices in post-conflict governance reform and empowering civil society to demand better accountability from their governments; (2) efforts to address inequity in terms of access to and control of natural resources that result in exclusion of the poorest rural communities; and (3) efforts to improve livelihood conditions, as well as to create alternative livelihoods in areas where illegal natural resource exploitation is occurring.

Civil society organizations are also playing a key role in ensuring accountability and transparency in natural resource management. The Publish What You Pay (PWYP) campaign, a global civil society coalition, is one of the most well-known organizations in natural resource governance.18 The Revenue Watch Institute is another important nongovernmental organization working for the "responsible management of oil, gas and mineral resources for the public good."19

Go to Economic Recovery: Natural Resources and Peacebuilding - Implementation Strategies

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Former combatants

The reliance of combatants on natural resource revenue as a means of supporting their operations is a critical issue in developing comprehensive strategies for sustainable peace processes. Revenue from natural resources can be a major incentive for peace spoilers, including former fighters. For example, post-conflict recovery efforts in Sierra Leone and Liberia have been stymied by continued exploitation of natural resources by former combatants and the inability of the government to control the country's natural resource endowments. It is therefore critical that they are brought into a broad range of peacebuilding and recovery efforts, and that DDR efforts consider integrating their retraining and employment generation programs with broader attempts to monitor resource revenues and ensure local communities benefit from them. Moreover, Humphreys and Weinstein argue that the success of DDR programs depends largely on how violent the military or paramilitary unit was in which the ex-combatant served.20 Since the violence perpetrated by these groups is often greater when the resources that finance violent conflict are dispersed and lootable (meaning that units are self-financed and less accountable for their actions to superior commanders), there may then be a lingering effect of conflict resources on DDR program success.21

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Private sector

There is clear consensus that the private sector has a critical role to play in the proper governance of natural resources, especially in the post-conflict environment. The extractive sector has garnered particular attention, because of the ease of lootability and strong connection to financing conflict.

The nature of private sector participation in natural resource management is dependent on the type of resource and the regulatory environment. Nick Johnstone and Joshua Bishop point out that state capacity to monitor and regulate natural resources is essential to both attracting foreign investment and in securing public environmental benefits. They hold that the degree to which corporate actors embrace a coordinated role depends on the level of this capacity as well as the specific characteristics of the resource.22

The private sector can play a positive role in post-conflict natural resource management. The UN Peacebuilding Commission has recently argued that the private sector can actively contribute to improving post-conflict land tenure issues: "The complexities of land tenure are both political and technical. Thus, quality of land governance is an important peacebuilding challenge, requiring active participation by civil society and the private sector."23

Natural resource abundance can also be an important factor in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), which many argue is vital to post-conflict economic recovery and private sector development. For example, Mozambique is often cited as a model for African post-conflict economic recovery, and scholar Allan Gerson argues that the private sector played a key role in that process: "Mozambique possesses an abundance of natural resources, natural gas, and coal, which attracted foreign investment."24 Without sufficiently developed infrastructure or mature manufacturing or industrial sectors, many developing countries rely on their natural endowments to attract the FDI needed for economic growth.

Although the private sector can play a critical role in supporting peace, it is also true that the private sector can contribute to the protraction of violent conflict. Often the earliest post-conflict investors, willing to assume high risk levels and security costs, and tolerate poor state capacity or infrastructure, are involved in extractive industries or security sector services that, absent any guiding hand or oversight, may reignite grievances that may lead to conflict rather than ameliorate them.25

1. Liberia Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program (GEMAP), "The GEMAP Homepage," GEMAP.
2. GEMAP, "The GEMAP Components," GEMAP.
3. Patricia Feeney and Tom Kenny, "Conflict Management and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises," in Profiting from Peace, eds. Karen Ballentine and Heiko Nitzschke (Boulder: Lynne Reinner Publishers, Inc., 2005), 366.
4. Martin Rupiya, "The Goldenberg Conspiracy, UN Panel of Experts, A Peace-building Tool?" (Occasional Paper 112, Department for International Development, September 2005).
5. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), "Organization Profile," (Nairobi: UNEP), 3.
6. UNEP, "Organization Profile," 37.
7. UNEP, Division of Early Warning and Assessment, UNEP.
8. UNEP, "Organization Profile," 5.
9. UNEP, "About UNEP: The Organization."
10. United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF), "About UNFF," UNFF.
11. UNFF, "History and Milestones of International Forestry Policy," UNFF.
12. UNFF, "Collaborative Partnership on Forests," UNFF.
13. The World Bank Parliamentarians, "Environment," The World Bank.
14. The World Bank Institute Learning Programs, "Climate Change, Environment and Natural Resource Management," The World Bank.
15. Ibid.
16. International Monetary Fund (IMF), "Taxing Natural Resources - New Challenges and New Perspectives," IMF.
17. Publish What You Pay United States (PWYP), "Promoting Transparency: The Unique Role and Responsibility of International Financial Institutions," (PWYP Briefing Paper Series #4, Washington, DC: PWYP).
18. PWYP, "Home," PWYP.
19. RWI, "About RWI," Revenue Watch Institute
20. Macartan Humphreys and Jeremy M. Weinstein, "Demobilization and Reintegration," Journal of Conflict Resolution 51 no. 4 (2007): 531-567.
21. Jeremy Weinstein, "Resources and the Information Problem in Rebel Recruitment," Journal of Conflict Resolution 49 no. 4 (2005): 598-624; Nicholai Lidow, "Feeding Civil War: Markets, Resources, and Rebel Organizations," (Manuscript, 2008).
22. Nick Johnstone and Joshua Bishop, "Private Sector Participation in Natural Resource Management: What Relevance in Developing Countries?" International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, 2007: 67.
23. United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, "From Conflict to Peacebuilding: The Role of Natural Resources and Environment," WGLL/2008/10 (New York: Peacebuilding Commission Working Group on Lessons Learned, May 8, 2008).
24. Allan Gerson, "Peace Building: The Private Sector's Role," The American Journal of International Law 95, no. 102 (2001): 108.
25. Allan Gerson, "Peace Building: The Private Sector's Role," The American Journal of International Law 95, no. 102 (2001): 107.

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