(Rapaport…September 13, 2005) Residents of Manhattan know it is mid-September –when the United Nations (UN) gathers for its annual summit– because traffic grows unbearable, hotel rooms are scarce, and security tightens across New York City. Global Witness knows too that high level meetings at the UN during the coming week will discuss reforms; and the non-governmental organization calls upon the UN to keep conflict diamonds high on its agenda.
According to Global Witness, natural resources such as timber, diamonds and oil have played a key role in funding and driving conflicts in Cambodia, Liberia, Angola, and Sierra Leone. Millions of people have been killed in these conflicts, forcing the UN to fund peace keeping missions at the expense of distributing the money to other causes.
While UN sanctions have succeeded to some extent in stemming diamond and timber trade to fund conflicts, gold continues to fund the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, says Global Witness.
Secretary General, Kofi Annan, on September 12 intensified diplomatic efforts in a bid to secure a compromise from member states. Some 180 heads of state are expected to attend the 2005 World Summit beginning September 14.
Some agreement has been reached in the areas of development, terrorism, and management reform but differences still exist in other areas, particularly on disarmament. The summit will tackle issues such as poverty, security, human rights, climate change, and a comprehensive anti-terrorism treaty. The leaders will also discuss a proposal to create two new bodies, a UN peacebuilding council (to help countries emerging from civil conflict,) and a more powerful human rights council (to replace the Geneva-based commission on Human Rights, which critics accuse of being politicized.)
If all proposals are acted upon, September 2005 will mark the UN’s most dramatic reforms to date stemming from a single meeting.
“It is essential that the UN Summit recognizes the devastating role played by natural resources in funding widespread conflict and corruption and continues to take measures to ensure that this issue remains on the UN reform agenda in order that resources and their revenues will benefit development,” said Global Witness.
Global Witness is an investigative non-governmental organisation that focuses upon the links between natural resource exploitation and conflict and was co-nominated for the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize.