Swedish Statement at the UN Security Council Briefing on Root Causes of Conflict – the Role of Natural Resources


National statement delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on Root Causes of Conflict – the Role of Natural Resources, 16 October 2018, New York.

Thank you, Mr. President,

And thank you Secretary-General for your insightful briefing and good analysis.

Mr. President,

We thank the Bolivian presidency for providing another important opportunity to discuss root causes that may lead to conflict. For the Council to be effective in its preventive role and in sustaining peace, it is crucial that we better understand and address the underlying drivers of conflicts. 

Root causes are different depending on the context – they can include violations and abuses of human rights, gender inequality, poverty and weak governance, and very often they are a combination of several or all of them. In July, Sweden hosted an open debate, in this Council, on climate-related security risks, focusing on climate as a driver of conflict. It is closely related to the issue we are discussing today, and one of the conclusions drawn then was on the need for the UN to better understand and analyze these risks. The same can be said of today’s issue. We also welcome the upcoming Arria formula meeting on water and security, all of which aims to improve our track record in preventing conflicts.

Mr. President,

Natural resources is clearly a driver of conflict in many contexts. While resources such as oil, natural gas, and minerals have the potential to confer significant benefits onto populations and to improve development outcomes, they can also fuel instability and violence. Research presented in the joint UN – World Bank Pathway to Peace report suggests that 40–60 percent of intrastate armed conflicts over the past 60 years have been triggered, funded, or sustained by natural resources.

During the recent Council trip to the DRC – as has been referred to by my Peruvian college – we saw first-hand how the rich natural resources there has for the large part yet to translate into more prosperity and stability for the broader population in the areas where most of these riches are found.  

In Liberia, disputes related to land tenure has long been a key cause of conflict. The Peacebuilding Commission configuration for Liberia, which I chair, is therefore beginning to focus its work on management of natural resources.

Mr. President,

The UN system has a hugely important role in ensuring that natural resources are turned from a scourge of potential conflict, to a common good for development, stability and prosperity.

We do really appreciate the various actions set in motion by the Secretary-General, as outlined this morning. Improved analyzes and corporation inside the system, supporting regional corporation and initiatives, strengthened mediation including in hydro diplomacy, offering capacity building to countries, looking into the connection between land rights and conflict, and of course the general empowerment of women, including on the local level.

Today I would like to point to three areas that can help tap the opportunities and positive benefits of natural resources, while mitigating the risks of it being a driver of conflict:

Firstly, strengthening governance and national institutions.

Natural resources are more likely to be a cause for conflict when there is a governance and public security vacuum. Functioning institutions to protect national interests, to uphold legal frameworks and to hold those operating outside the law accountable is therefore critical. Democratic and transparent national strategies for how natural resources are extracted and used are an equally important part of the equation.

Implementation of agenda 2030 – as the Kuwaiti ambassador just said – should be the logical starting point in this regard. In line with SDG 16, effective, accountable and inclusive institutions should be built at all levels. This includes tax and audit authorities that can develop fiscal policies and solid, trusted systems for public financial management.

Secondly, fighting organized crime.

Organized crime involving natural resources, for example through fuel smuggling and illicit mining, have become the largest source of income for non-state armed groups and international terrorist organizations. These activities also contribute and are often connected to corruption and they erode institutions and trust in authorities, which in turn further spurs violence and violent extremism. Organized crime networks must therefore be forcefully addressed, including by enhancing investigation and analysis of their linkages to the extractive industry. International cooperation and making full use of the UN tools at offer is recommended.

Thirdly, the important role of responsible business.

The private sector has an important responsibility to make sure that business activities are sustainable, do not have a negative impact on conflict dynamics and basic human rights. To this end businesses need to integrate Corporate Social Responsibility models into their core operations. This requires dialogue with host governments and of course civil society, including the communities.

African countries are now taking the lead in improving ownership models for extractive industries to better benefit their communities and citizens. We just heard our college from Cote d’Ivoire talk about some of the African Union initiatives, transparency is key in these efforts. There needs to be better understanding of financial flows, and banks have a particular responsibility, including of course on the international level. In this regard the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and the UN Framework Classification for resources must be supported. Governments should also be encouraged to develop National Action Plans for Business and Human Rights. The UN Guiding Principles, the Global Compact, should serve as a basis.

Mr. President,

As is the case with many root causes for conflict, challenges linked to natural resources do not recognize borders. They therefore require a national, regional and international response. The UN system, as well as other international organizations and bilateral partners, can all help countries reap the positive benefits of natural resources. To move away from a conflict driven informal and unprotected economy, towards a transparent formal economy that can generate decent jobs and provide for social services such as education and health.  

The Security Council, for its part, needs to do better at assessing root causes and addressing conflicts on its agenda with a more holistic approach. This includes assessing and addressing the issue of natural resources as well as other root causes in a more structured and proactive fashion.

For the Council to do this, it first and foremost needs more integrated analysis on drivers of conflict to be included in the regular reporting from the Secretariat. Gender analysis is a key aspect, as women are important actors in addressing drivers and root causes. But it also needs to follow up such information with action. Peacekeeping Missions should when relevant be mandated and resourced to better assist managing such drivers of conflict, in close partnership with the broader UN country team and other relevant actors. Targeted measures including sanctions on individuals and entities or indeed certain goods involved in illicit trade and fueled in conflict should also be considered.

The Peacebuilding Commission, with its broad agenda and with a wider range of stakeholders, is well placed to complement and contribute to Council efforts to address underlying causes, including the issue of natural resources. The Commission can also take a regional approach which is often needed when it comes to these borderless challenges. Actors such as the World Bank, civil society and of course the private sector can be, and should be, invited to discussions providing advice to the Security Council for action.       

In conclusion Mr. President, we fully support the Secretary-General’s vision of putting conflict prevention and sustaining peace at the center of what we do. Effectively addressing root causes, including improving the transparent management of natural resources for the benefit of people, is a crucial part of that vision.

I thank you very much.



Lisa Laskaridis
Head of Press and Communication, Permanent Mission of Sweden to the UN
Phone +1 212 583 2543
Mobile +1 917 239 0941
email to Lisa Laskaridis