Stronger Regulation, Cross-Border Coordination Key to Stopping Terrorism across Africa Funded by Illegal Trafficking in Natural Resources, Speakers Tell Security Council
Crisis Due to Inaction, Not Lack of Tools, Says Speaker for Security Institute, Delegates Stress Natural Resources Shouldn’t Be Continent’s Curse, But Its Blessing
A holistic approach, combining enhanced regulatory policies and law enforcement mechanisms, greater supply chain transparency, support for counter‑terrorism frameworks, as well as cross-border coordination and information-sharing, is required to clamp down on the illicit trafficking of natural resources and its fuelling of terrorism and violent extremism by armed groups and terrorists in African continent, speakers said during a debate on the issue, one of the signature events of Gabon’s presidency.
Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), noted that terrorism and organized crime pose a great threat to Africa, particularly in the Sahel, which is acutely affected by the activities of active and deadly terrorist groups. Outlining UNODC’s research, which sheds light on such activities, she stated that work conducted between 2019 and 2021 in the region into border areas of Gabon, Cameroon and Congo, as well as Chad and the Central African Republic, on the illicit trafficking of minerals as a source of funding for terrorist groups, established that illegally mined gold and other precious metals are being fed into the legitimate market, providing huge profits for traffickers. Such criminal exploitation strips the people of Africa — almost 500 million of whom live in extreme poverty — of an important source of revenue, she said, adding that it also jeopardizes development and severely undermines Agenda 2063 of the African Union.
Detailing the work of UNODC, which “goes far beyond border seizures”, she said it supports member countries to put in place policies and legislation to better address terrorist threats, as the guardian of the main international instrument in the fight against such crimes, the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. UNODC also organizes training workshops in the Sahel with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, to strengthen the understanding and skills of criminal justice officials aimed at bringing down terrorist networks and their funders.
Bankole Adeoye, African Union Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, pointed out that transnational organized crime networks are instrumental in the illicit trafficking in weapons and ammunition that sustains the operations of terrorists and violent extremist groups, and also support natural resource‑related crimes, such as illegal mining exploitation, particularly gold, and the illicit trade in wildlife trophies, such as ivory. He emphasized the need for a multifaceted approach, including the prevention of terrorist financing, to eliminate terrorism on the continent and globally. To this end, he highlighted African Union initiatives, such as the establishment of national counter-terrorism fusion centres, national financial intelligence units and law enforcement at the national level.
Also briefing the Council was Paul-Simon Handy, Regional Director for East Africa and Representative to the African Union of the Institute for Security Studies, who pointed out that the failure to clamp down on the illicit activities of armed groups and terrorists represents “a crisis of inaction, not a lack of instruments or tools”. UNODC and research centres have outlined such measures; however, bolstered State apparatus and greater international cooperation is required to operationalize them, given the cross-border nature of such crimes, he noted. Turning to sanctions regimes, which are “fashionable to criticize”, he pointed out that they have nonetheless enhanced knowledge of the financing of terrorist groups and networks. However, given the ability of protagonists to bypass popularly used tools such as travel bans and asset freezes, such measures should target networks, not just individuals.
In the ensuing debate, Council members and other States’ representatives called for more sustained, collaborative efforts to tackle the scourge of financing of terrorists and armed groups, and to foster the sustainable management of resources so they can fuel development and growth rather than conflict and instability in the African continent.
“Natural resources should not be a curse for these countries,” the representative of China said, adding that, instead, they should “become a blessing for regional development”. In this regard, he commended the work of the Office of the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes and the African Union in helping countries manage their resources and stressed that while the Council and international community should help African Governments develop their capacity to manage natural resources, those Governments’ management of such resources is a sovereign right.
Kenya’s delegate underscored the need to close the gaps that enable illicit financial flows from natural resource sales in Africa through effective legislation, sectoral risk assessments, rules against conflicts of interest and making corporate structures more transparent, among others. Supporting national and regional military actions must be accompanied by State-strengthening campaigns based on national priorities, he said, urging the Council to consider additional ways of supporting affected countries to ensure that under-governed spaces are properly controlled by States, and to strengthen its commitment to dismantling terrorism networks in Africa and apply its counter-terrorism architecture against terrorist groups and their affiliates.
The representative of France spotlighted an effort undertaken by the Panel of Experts on Somalia, in cooperation with Somalian authorities, which managed to prevent charcoal export in violation of an embargo, which used to be a major source of income for Al-Shabaab. Such illegal exploitation of natural resources allows armed groups to remove themselves from peace processes, she added.
Meanwhile, several representatives, including those of the United Kingdom and France, expressed concern about the activities of the Wagner Group in the continent, with the United States’ delegate stating that the ill-gotten gains from the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group, which exploits the natural resources of the Central African Republic, Mali and Sudan, are being used to fund Moscow’s war machine in Africa, Middle East and Ukraine. “We have the power to go after those who exploit natural resources and fund armed conflict and terrorism, and we have to wield that power effectively and with urgency,” she stressed.
The representative of the Russian Federation countered that African countries had not yet recovered from the damage inflicted by the colonial Powers who turned them in to “one huge quarry”. The local population gained almost nothing, while the “Western metropolis” profited and continues to date, she said, adding that combating illegal activities in mining is, first and foremost, the duty of the Governments who own the natural resources.
For his part, the representative of the Central African Republic said that, since 2013, his country has been experiencing conflicts involving armed groups, such as the Coalition of Patriots for Change, which exert full or partial control over strategic trade and transhumance routes in the north of the country. They generate considerable revenue by levying taxes and custom duties along these routes, by which they “prey on the economy and keep the conflict going”, he said. He went on to point out that the Central African Republic managed to dislodge armed groups and restore control of a few mining areas with the help of the Russian Federation, among others. He called on the Council to completely lift the arms embargo imposed on his country, as it impedes his country’s ability to restore State authority in some areas.
Also speaking today were ministers, senior officials and representatives of Gabon, Ghana, India, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Ireland, Norway, Albania, Brazil, Egypt, Morocco and Equatorial Guinea, as well as the European Union.
The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:56 p.m.
GHADA FATHI WALY, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said that terrorism and organized crime pose a great threat in Africa, with 3,500 victims of terrorist acts a year in sub‑Saharan Africa — half the number of terrorism victims worldwide. The Sahel is particularly affected by the activities of active and deadly terrorist groups, in both attack and recruitment strategy, she said, recalling that the Security Council has repeatedly expressed concern over such activities, which destabilize the continent and exploit its natural resources.
She outlined UNODC research on such exploitation, including its work conducted between 2019 and 2021 into the illicit trafficking of minerals into border areas of Gabon, Cameroon and Congo, as well as Chad and the Central African Republic, as a source of funding for terrorist groups in the region. The research established that illegally mined gold and other precious metals are being fed into the legitimate market, providing huge profits for traffickers, she said. A firearms operation in late 2020 by UNODC and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) seized 40,000 sticks of dynamite and detonator cords, intended for illegal gold mining for armed terrorist groups in the Sahel. Armed groups are also reportedly being funded by wildlife trafficking, with the illegal trade in ivory alone generating $400 million in illicit income annually. Such criminal exploitation strips the people of Africa — almost 500 million of whom live in extreme poverty, as of last year — of a significant source of revenue, she continued, adding that such activities also fuel conflict, exacerbate instability, jeopardize development, wind back progress on the Sustainable Development Goals and severely undermine Agenda 2063 of the African Union.
The work of UNODC goes “far beyond border seizures”, she continued. As the guardian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the main international instrument in the fight against such crimes, UNODC supports member countries to put in place the policies, legislation and operational responses required to better address terrorist threats, working closely with African counterparts to strengthen their capacity to investigate and prosecute crimes that affect the environment. In 2021, 25 counter-terrorism projects were implemented in sub-Saharan Africa, with 2,500 people trained. Moreover, training workshops are being organized in the Sahel with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, to strengthen the understanding and skills of criminal justice officials to work across agencies, share intelligence and bring down terrorist networks and their funders.
The Organization also aids Member States, including the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to counter terrorist financing and money-laundering, she said. It helps countries to implement national asset-freezing mechanisms, which have already led to the first designations on a national sanctions list. This year, six nationals operating in the gold sector were designated under Security Council resolution 1373 (2001) to prevent the financing of terrorist acts. The UNODC environment team organizes workshops and training for magistrates, law enforcement officers and wildlife forensic experts engaged in the fight against environmental crime. She went on to describe activities to empower vulnerable young people in conflict zones, which are disproportionately affected by illegal mining and trafficking in precious metals, and where mineral supply chains are often linked to child abuse, human trafficking and forced labour. These include a peacebuilding project in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which aids young people in the cross-border regions of Gabon, Cameroon and Chad.
BANKOLE ADEOYE, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the African Union, said large and small terrorist organizations and extremist cells, as well as foreign terrorist fighters and “so-called lone groups”, have varying approaches to securing stable funding to operate. “Funding remains the biggest enabler of terrorists,” he stressed. In Africa, various means of terrorist financing and equipment exist, particularly kidnapping for ransom, drug and human trafficking, smuggling and trafficking of weapons, among others. Extortion and taxation systems, in areas controlled by terrorist and criminal networks, also serve to fund terrorist operations. Natural resources-related crimes, like illegal mining exploitation, in particular of gold, poaching, illicit trade in wildlife trophies such as ivory and plundering of flora resources such as timber, are supported by transnational organized crime networks. Illicit trafficking in weapons and ammunition by both regional and global organized crime syndicates is instrumental in the sustenance of terrorist and violent extremist groups’ operations.
There is increasing evidence that terrorists are returning to transnational organized crime to generate funding and acquire logistical support to carry out their violent activities, he continued. Thus, preventing terrorist financing is one aspect of what should be a multifaceted approach to eliminating terrorism on the continent and globally. Through national, regional and international cooperation, the international community can use intelligence gathered in investigations to detect, disrupt and dismantle terrorist networks and their financing. The African Union has been deploying a number of initiatives, including the establishment of national counter-terrorism fusion centres, national financial intelligence units and law enforcement at the national level, to ensure that all forms of terrorist financing do not become part of terrorists’ arsenal. More recently, the African Union Heads of State gathered in Malabo and called for an in-depth study on sources of financing, foreign interests and local collaborators exploiting those forms of financing.
Also needed is enhanced cooperation in capacity-building and knowledge transfer for countries in post-conflict situations and those still in conflict, to ensure better control of their natural resources, and establishment of national databases on the matter, he said. Sanctions regimes against terrorist individuals, groups or organizations must be strengthened, he added, noting that such regimes will need to target parties providing support to armed and terrorist groups in the illegal exploitation of natural resources. Existing financial control and monitoring systems must also be strengthened. The public collection of funds must be regulated to ensure that proceeds are not used to finance terrorism, he stressed, calling for the enhancement of information exchange and coordination, as well as unified typology reports on money-laundering and terrorism financing in Africa. Terrorists are action-oriented, with a high degree of adaptability and creativity, he pointed out, stressing that: “It is important to step up our level of commitment, to step up innovation and creativity, and to think outside the box, in order to be able to proactively find solutions to the prevailing and future developments of money-laundering and terrorism financing.”
MICHAEL MOUSSA ADAMO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Gabon and Council President for October, speaking in his national capacity, said the illicit use of illegal resources, along with the kidnapping of humans and trade in drugs, is a major source of funding for terrorists and a source of conflict. The African continent is replete with natural resources but is at the heart of organized terror. People across the continent are suffering indiscriminate atrocities. He pointed to a new triangular, illegal trade in exports of African raw materials to countries exporting mercenaries and arms through parallel financial arrangements. Armed terrorist groups are trading networks of supplies and creating underground economies. Criminal networks have come into being and are organized around illegal trafficking.
The Council needs urgent solutions commensurate with the distress resulting from the funding of armed groups and terrorists — a task requiring multidimensional support combining security and development, he said. He stressed the need to restrict the links between criminals and the formal economy, and to identify the groups involved: corporations, armed groups, weapons transporters, arms dealers, banks, brokers and intermediaries. He reaffirmed support for the Kimberley Process and international groups that are trying to stop the process of letting natural resources fund armed groups. The assets of armed groups must be tracked at the same level as terrorists are tracked, and they must be frozen. Further, a consensus must be built around common standards to fight the problem, he said, calling on the Council to create mechanisms and work with the African Union towards that end. The Council urgently needs to act with more determination to cut off the financing of armed gangs, which fuel instability and violence in several regions of the world. “Natural resources should not be a curse for the countries where they exist,” he said.
ALBERT KAN-DAPAAH, Minister for National Security of Ghana, said the battle for control of natural resources has been a key driver of numerous civil wars that occurred on the African continent, particularly in the latter decades of the twentieth century, prominent among which were the civil wars of Sierra Leone and Liberia. At the turn of the new millennium, an extra dimension of this phenomenon emerged, with terrorism and violent extremism beginning to take root in many parts of sub‑Saharan Africa, particularly in the mineral-rich Sahel, where such groups exploit resources to generate funds for the sustenance of their heinous crimes against humanity, he said, adding that such activities divert funds that could be used for development and destroy ecosystems, exacerbating climate change. Such terrorist financing is currently “in full force” in countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali, he added.
Against this backdrop, he outlined a few points to tackle the scourge, including: developing a full understanding of the complex nature of the phenomenon, encompassing the role played by all stakeholders, including State and non-State actors; enhancing technical, technological and human capacity-building support aimed at improving border security, to curtail the illicit export and movement of natural resources; strengthening national regulatory policies and enforcement mechanisms governing the extraction of natural resources; greater transparency about the trade of such resources within the international supply chain system, while promoting new investments in Africa for the processing of natural resources that supports legitimate trade; and support for regional counter-terrorism frameworks to combat illicit trafficking across borders. In this regard, he spotlighted a homegrown counter-terrorism framework, the Accra Initiative, a security mechanism involving the collaboration of seven West African countries, which, through joint ad‑hoc operations, has successfully dismantled terrorist cells and hubs for transnational organized criminal groups along the common borders of member States. He also highlighted steps taken by Ghana to tackle the phenomenon, including setting up a Financial Intelligence Centre that monitors such activities, and stepping up enforcement of laws regarding the acquisition of mining concessions by private individuals and entities, while clamping down on illegal mining.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said the Council and entire United Nations system must closely monitor and take action on Al‑Qaida and groups linked to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), which threaten various countries in Africa and beyond. “Money continues to be the lifeblood of terrorists,” she stressed, underscoring the need for bolstered efforts in going after financiers and financial facilitators of terrorists and terrorist organizations, and stymying vital resource streams that take advantage of weak regulatory oversight. She pointed out that one of the most immediate and growing concerns in Africa is the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group’s strategy of exploiting the natural resources of the Central African Republic, Mali, Sudan and other countries. The Group’s actions are thoroughly documented, and its illegally gotten gains are used to fund Moscow’s war machine in Africa, the Middle East and Ukraine. “We have the power to go after those who exploit natural resources and fund armed conflict and terrorism, and we have to wield that power effectively and with urgency,” she stressed.
The Council’s 1267 Committee — formerly the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh), Al‑Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities — and counter-terrorism committees, along with the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and other United Nations counter-terrorism compact entities, have an essential role in that regard, she said. In the 1267 Committee, Member States must take a more proactive approach to countering Al‑Qaida and Da’esh in Africa. Also, sanctions are integral to combating the trafficking of natural resources, she said, pointing out that, from a counter-terrorism perspective, the 1267 Da’esh and Al‑Qaida sanctions regime is an effective Council tool to stop the flow of resources, through the designation of specific Da’esh and Al‑Qaida branches and their support entities.
V. MURALEEDHARAN, Minister of State for External Affairs of India, said the Council needs to recognize that terrorism, like armed conflicts, is expanding in Africa and that Al‑Qaida- and Da’esh-affiliated terrorist groups in different parts of the continent, supported by transnational criminal networks, are getting stronger, thriving on the illegal extraction of artisan gold, rare minerals, gemstones, uranium, coal and timber, through illegal trade networks. Terrorist groups such as Al‑Shabaab have elaborate revenue-collection networks in place to support their terrorist activities. It is important that Member States, including African States, bring their anti-money-laundering and terrorism-financing monitoring frameworks up to par with international standards, including those promoted by the Financial Action Task Force. He called for greater cooperation between the task force and the various United Nations entities, stressing that the international community needs to help African countries strengthen their capacities to fight illegal exploitation of natural resources and trade.
For its part, India has called for a development paradigm that is Africa-led and Africa-owned, and it proactively fosters international cooperation to combat the financing of terrorism at regional and international levels, he said. For example, India contributed $550,000 in 2018 and $1 million in 2021 to United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism programmes targeting capacity-building of countries in East and Southern Africa. The continued lack of representation of Africa in the permanent category of the Council’s membership is a historical injustice that needs to be corrected, sooner rather than later. With more than half of the Council’s work focused on Africa, India has consistently called for greater representation of Africa by increasing both permanent and non-permanent categories of this Council’s membership, in line with the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration.
SHAKHBOUT BIN NAHYAN BIN MUBARAK AL NAHYAN, Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates, said he is deeply concerned about how the illegal exploitation of natural resources impacts the quality of life of the people who should be benefiting from these resources. In addition to being a legal obligation, working earnestly to counter the illegal exploitation of African natural resources is a moral imperative and a strategic investment that directly benefits the entire world. Having chaired the Kimberley Process in 2016, the United Arab Emirates Government demonstrated its endorsement of strong regulatory frameworks and the necessity for coordination between different mechanisms. This will collectively ensure communities across Africa — especially women and children — are protected. There is a need to strengthen cooperation between States and devise a stronger collective response to this threat, as called for in resolution 2482 (2018), which underlines the link between organized crime and terrorism, as well as the benefits that terrorist groups derive from organized crime, he said.
The United Arab Emirates will continue to work closely with its African partners to counter terrorist groups and criminal networks, including those that smuggle weapons between regions, helping groups such as Al‑Shabaab and the Houthis build their deadly arsenals, he said. The international community must devise mechanisms to engage key relevant actors on this issue, including other international organizations and the private sector. The Council must be 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. He also called for building States’ capacity to sustainably manage their natural resources, upon their request and with full respect for their sovereignty. Developing an adequate response from the United Nations means increasing capacity-building support for Governments — especially those dealing with conflict and in post-conflict situations — as well as directly affected communities, he said.
PAUL-SIMON HANDY, Regional Director for East Africa and Representative to the African Union of the Institute for Security Studies, noted that the complexity and diversity of illicit trafficking undertaken by non-State and terrorist armed groups, which exhibit varied structures and modus operandi, necessitates avoiding a generalized response. Moreover, the existence of trafficking itself must be combated, he said, pointing out that trafficking in natural resources represents just one dimension of such groups’ activities, which also involve trafficking in human beings, cultural objects and drugs. For example, he said that in the Central African Republic, some non-State armed groups garner millions per year by levying taxes on transhumance routes for livestock.
He went on to point out that clamping down on such activities represents “a crisis of inaction, not a lack of instruments or tools, which only need to be adapted to changing contexts”. UNODC and research centres have outlined such measures; however, to operationalize them, bolstered State apparatus and greater international cooperation is required, given the cross-border nature of such crimes, he noted. Turning to sanctions regimes, he said that while it is “fashionable to criticize” them, they have contributed to enhancing knowledge of the financing of terrorist groups and networks. However, given the ability of protagonists to bypass popularly used tools such as travel bans and asset freezes, such measures should target networks, not just individuals. Further, he underscored the importance of dismantling criminal networks engaged in illicit trafficking that exist within administrations and national armed forces. Although it is the job of armed forces to combat non-State groups, the former’s engagement in such illicit activities leads to competition between the two groups, which is likely to prolong the scourge, he noted. Turning to diligence processes, such as the Kimberley Process, he called for them to be advanced and transformed, rather than to deprive States of tax revenues through embargoes.
DAI BING (China) said he is ready to work with Gabon and other Council members to deal with the hotspots around the world. While Africa is rich in natural resources and many of the continent’s countries have developed natural-resource policies and made remarkable achievements in sustainable development, the illegal trafficking of those resources and the profits generated are important triggers of conflicts. “Natural resources should not be a curse for these countries,” he said. While the Council and international community should help African Governments develop their capacity to manage natural resources, those Governments’ management of such resources is a sovereign right. He supported African countries’ efforts to deepen regional cooperation as the cross-border activities of terrorist groups increase. The Office of the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes has made great efforts in this area, and the African Union and other regional groups are also helping African countries manage their resources. “Natural resources should become a blessing for regional development,” he said. The international community must honour its commitments to eradicate poverty on the continent and facilitate more sustainable development. He also called for unilateral sanctions to be lifted.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said African countries had not yet recovered from the damage inflicted by the colonial powers, who turned them into one huge quarry. The local population gained almost nothing, while the “Western metropolis” profited, and this profiting continues to this day. Combating illegal activities in mining is, first and foremost, the duty of the Governments who own the natural resources. Noting the efforts by national Governments to combat illegal armed groups to ensure security and stability, as well as control over natural resources, he stressed that Africans themselves must play the leading role in that process. Countering the nexus between terrorism and organized crime is the aim of Council resolution 2482 (2019). Implementation of the goals therein requires a package of measures to deepen the interaction among national, judicial and law enforcement bodies. The system of international treaties on extradition and criminal legal assistance must be improved. An important step in that regard would be the comprehensive criminalization of participation in organized criminal groups, as provided by the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, while establishing severe punishment for such actions. The Kimberley Process is a significant international mechanism for preventing the illegal enrichment of armed groups through illegal trafficking in natural resources in Africa, he said, noting that his country is a responsible member of that multilateral format.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said that increased global demand for those minerals that are essential to decarbonization and green growth risks exacerbating the illegal sourcing of natural resources. A concerted and coordinated effort to tackle the root causes of conflict is therefore vital, she said, adding that the Council must explore ways to strengthen its sanctions regimes to deter conflict and tackle those who illegally exploit natural resources. Such efforts must also be underpinned by stronger regulation and governance, including stringent certification and verification processes. The exploitation of Africa’s natural resources by private military companies must also be addressed, she said, reiterating the United Kingdom’s concerns over Wagner Group activities in Africa, which undermine resource governance and offer no sustainable solutions to the continent’s security challenges.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) pointed to the diversity of criminal activities of terrorists and armed groups, with groups exploiting diamonds in the Central African Republic having a different reach, mode of organization and trading networks than those engaged in cattle theft along transhumance routes in the Sahel or Al‑Shabaab’s export of charcoal from Somalia. However, they all flourish where State institutions are absent or not capable of fulfilling their role, such as Al-Shabaab, which is able to replace State authority by acting as a service provider to underserved communities. Combating the financing of such activities must be done on the basis of objective analysis, including by expert panels of the Security Council’s subsidiary bodies, he said, urging Member States to support them and make use of their reports. For example, such research found that small arms and light weapons wielded against civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian personnel have been financed by income generated through the illegal exploitation of natural resources, he said, spotlighting in this regard Council resolution 2616 (2021), promoted by Mexico, which must be implemented. Further, given the transnational nature of such crimes, he called for greater regional coordination and for the harmonizing of judicial and tax systems. As the expansion of armed groups in the Sahel demonstrates, military solutions are not sufficient, and can lead to the spread of conflict, he added. Finally, the international community should support preventive tools against violence, such as initiatives that provide young people economic opportunities, as Mexico has done for some countries in South America.
FERGAL TOMAS MYTHEN (Ireland), describing armed groups’ and terrorist organizations’ illicit exploitation and trafficking of natural resources, called on all States to continue efforts to end their illegal activities and hold to account those complicit in illegal trade. He welcomed stronger legislative and regulatory frameworks and greater investigative and institutional capacities to better understand, prevent and counter crimes related to illegal trafficking in natural resources and illicit financial flows. Achieving that requires the cooperation of all stakeholders, he stressed, pointing out that the Kimberley Process and the Nairobi Process are among the mechanisms that illustrate how that issue could be tackled. Ireland served as a co-lead for the Financial Action Task Force to combat money-laundering arising from environmental crime, he said, noting that its 2021 report showed that those engaged in environmental crime are generating significant profits by using front companies to mix legal and illegal goods and payments early in the resource supply chains. He stressed the importance of good governance and engaging with Member States and regional and subregional organizations and entities, and encouraged the effective implementation of all relevant Council resolutions and key United Nations conventions.
ISIS MARIE DORIANE JARAUD-DARNAULT (France) said the international community must bolster its knowledge of the financing of armed groups through the exploitation of natural resources, as data is still lacking, especially on terrorist groups. Pointing to the important role of expert panels in that regard, she said the Panel of Experts on Somalia managed this year, in cooperation with the Somali authorities, to prevent charcoal export in violation of the embargo. In the past, such traffic was a major source of income for Al‑Shabaab. The illegal exploitation of natural resources allows armed groups to remove themselves from peace processes. The international community must continue cooperating to counter these acts, which destabilize the continent. She stressed the need to strengthen natural resource traceability and certification processes and encouraged Kimberley Process partners to work together on redefining conflict diamonds, adapted to new conflict patterns, and on promoting the economic prosperity of the States in the region. For its part, France is a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and last year it joined the European Partnership for Responsible Minerals, which carries out numerous projects aimed at improving the sustainability of mineral supply chains, particularly in the Great Lakes region. Further, France continues to support the African Legal Support Facility, which contributes to strengthening the financial and administrative governance of the extractive sector.
MONA JUUL (Norway) said a collaborative and holistic approach is necessary to end illegal exploitation, strengthen natural resources management and address systematic weaknesses that enable illicit flows and economic corruption. On the national level, institutional weaknesses need to be tackled. It is important to create robust governance mechanisms, as well as strengthen core institutions and democratic oversight. Domestic regulatory frameworks are crucial — including licensing regimes, monitoring practices and enforcement mechanisms like law enforcement — as is technical assistance. Regional cooperation is also vital to support both national and global efforts, she said, adding that the African Union’s High-level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, and its report, showed important leadership. Regional bodies are often best placed to promote effective knowledge-sharing. She added that global and multilateral cooperation is key, as illicit flows do not respect national borders. Norway and the United States recently launched the Nature Crime Alliance, she said, expressing that it would raise political will, mobilizing financial commitment and bolstering operational capacity.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya) said the international community must go beyond statements and support specific measures if security is to prevail in Africa. With respect to the private sector, all companies that are globally importing and processing African natural resources should have in place conflict minerals awareness and monitoring systems. Governments in countries receiving these resources should deliver the necessary regulation and compliance oversight. It is also vital to close the gaps that enable illicit financial flows from natural resource sales in Africa, he said, adding that this requires effective legislation, sectoral risk assessments, rules against conflicts of interest and making corporate structures more transparent, among others. Moreover, supporting national and regional military actions must be accompanied by State-strengthening campaigns based on national priorities. He urged the Council to consider additional ways of supporting affected countries to ensure that under-governed spaces are properly controlled by States. Turning to regional and continent-wide action, he said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area should account for conflict minerals, so that it strongly supports the countering of terrorist and insurgent groups. The Security Council must be more committed to dismantling terrorism networks in Africa and must equally apply its counter-terrorism architecture against terrorist groups and their affiliates, including those in Africa, such as Al‑Qaida-linked Al‑Shabaab.
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania) said responses to the illegal exploitation and trafficking of natural resources cannot be focused on national and military solutions alone; they require regional and international robust actions. All actors must play their role in ensuring that the local populations reap the benefits of their use. A deeper understanding of the nexus between terrorism and organized crime using natural resources is required to formulate effective policies. Governments must strengthen their legal frameworks to better tackle the threat and ensure that terrorist and armed groups are held accountable. They must also foster greater coordination between regional and international actors to end that lucrative and illicit business. She called on the States of the Great Lakes region to engage in the effective implementation of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region Protocol in the fight against the illegal exploitation of natural resources. Improving the traceability and disruption of illicit financial flows is key to countering terrorism and organized crime, she said, calling on all actors to strengthen information‑sharing and adopt a global policy response to identify illicit financial flows. An all-encompassing holistic approach is required to disrupt criminal and terrorist networks, and complemented with programmes that incorporate the socioeconomic growth, particularly in creating opportunities for youth as they bare the greatest cost.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) said the Council has open avenues, within the scope of its mandate, to address the financing of armed groups and terrorists through the illicit trafficking of natural resources. Capacity-building is a central element. Exploring how peacekeeping operations can help strengthen the management of local institutional capacities, and the regulation of extractive resources, could be an avenue. One example was authorizing the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) to support the regulation of mining resources in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Council could also encourage capacity-building initiatives for domestic and international actors to curb the illicit exploitation and trade of natural resources in conflict-affected countries. A partnership with the Peacebuilding Commission is one way to do so. With its unique composition and bridging mandate, the Commission is well placed to put forward coordination efforts within the United Nations system. Sanctions, such as those imposed in Somalia and South Sudan, are an example of using this approach, he said. However, all precautions must be taken to avoid indirect harm to local populations.
ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation), taking the floor a second time, took issue with the statement made by the delegate of France pertaining to Russian Federation assistance lent to African countries. She questioned the number of billions received by the French Government in providing French-speaking African States independence, and said that, after exploiting their resources under the colonial yoke, France continues to engage in “colonialism under contract”. “After we discuss that, we will be ready to talk about predatory policies,” she said.
Ms. JARAUD-DARNAULT (France), also taking the floor a second time, said that she wished to specify that she made no mention of the relationship between the Russian Federation and Africa. “France only mentioned the case of Wagner Group mercenaries,” she said.
MARIUS ARISTIDE HOJA NZESSIOUE (Central African Republic) said enhancing State capacity and regional cooperation are key to meet the challenges posed by the illicit exploitation of resources by armed groups. Since 2013, the Central African Republic has been experiencing recurring conflicts involving armed groups such as the Coalition of Patriots for Change, which exert full or partial control over strategic trade and transhumance routes in the north of the country, he said, noting that such groups fund their weapons and activities by imposing taxes and custom duties on these routes, along which transport basic goods, cattle, gold and diamonds. Citing a 2007 study on a route in the north-east part of the country, which showed that taxes on such trade generated €2.7 billion annually, he pointed out that this considerable revenue is sufficient for such groups to keep “preying on the economy and keep the conflict going”. Noting that the Central African Republic country has been struggling with a public deficit for decades, he said it has held meetings in Bangui and elsewhere to strategize ways of better controlling and redistributing its resources.
While he welcomed the support of the international community, he called for a rethinking of measures that have exacerbated the problems faced by his country. First, he called for an operational framework to replace sanctions that were introduced at the height of crisis in 2013 within the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which led to the suspension of diamond exports and sparked an upsurge in illegal activities. Second, he called on the Council to fully lift the arms embargo, as, despite exemptions in line with resolution 2648 (2022), such measures impede the Central African Republic’s ability to restore State authority in some areas. Following an attack in December 2020 by the armed group, the Coalition of Patriots for Change, the Central African Republic was aided by the Russian Federation, among others, to dislodge armed groups and restore control of mining areas, he said, adding that decisions must not be taken that impede the capacity of States and combat transboundary criminal networks.
Mr. KIMANI (Kenya) said the resources in Africa have been key to its vicious oppression since at least the Berlin Conference. While Member States can debate who is most to blame, what is important is the future of African ownership and Africans benefiting from their resources, which should be protected, including through changes to the Council’s permanent membership. “We have heard an appetite for reform of the membership of the Council. Let us now act on it so that Africa is not just a subject of the conversations about who is responsible for what, but instead is an empowered, respected and included participant,” he said.
OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) said international and national legal frameworks governing the exploitation of natural resources must be bolstered, so that such resources do not fall into the hands of criminal groups. He underscored the crucial role of the nation-State, which must be powerful in combating all criminal acts by terrorist and armed groups. The international community must provide support to those States upon their request, so that they can build capacity and have greater control of their territory to ensure the rule of law. Efforts led by the African Union and regional economic communities must be pursued, he said, adding that those entities have adopted practical approaches that take into account the situation in the region. To combat networks engaged in the illicit trafficking of natural resources, a joint effort is needed based on the political, ethical and legal commitment of States. This commitment must be implemented through partnerships with the private sector, including transport and insurance companies, to ensure that those resources are never used if there is any suspicion that they are the object of illicit trafficking by terrorist groups. His country is working to implement all Council resolutions on money-laundering and terrorist financing and has implemented its national strategy in that regard.
BJÖRN OLOF SKOOG, Head of Delegation of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said his bloc, through its training and capacity‑building missions on the African continent — in the Sahel, Somalia, Central African Republic and Mozambique — are contributing to fighting terrorism and preventing terrorists and armed groups from gaining control over natural resources. The European Union Naval Force Somalia, known as Operation ATALANTA, fights piracy and armed robbery at sea, but has also responded to illicit trade in charcoal which finances terrorism in Somalia. The fight against financing of terrorism and money-laundering is a priority for his bloc, he said, underscoring its commitment to providing capacity‑building to third countries, so that they can build anti‑money‑laundering and financial investigation capacity. Moreover, the bloc has experts in five of its “EU Delegations Africa” — Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Kenya, Mozambique and the African Union — who help build partnerships between the European Union and Africa in that crucial area. Natural resources are at the heart of the European Union Great Lakes Strategy, which is currently being discussed with his bloc’s member States and could be adopted before the end of the year.
The European Union is also working to prevent terrorist groups from gaining access to international money and natural resource markets, including tackling money‑laundering at an international level, he continued. His bloc has developed a solid regulatory framework for preventing and combating money‑laundering and terrorist financing threats. In addition to targeting financial flows directly, natural resources that are being traded must also be targeted, he said. The bloc has been actively engaged from the beginning in the Kimberley Process, he said, pointing out that the trafficking in conflict diamonds has stopped. It has also managed to change attitudes, reinforcing the idea that natural resources belong to their communities, not to militias. Noting that his bloc has sparked a debate on responsibility in sourcing natural resources, he pointed out that the European Union’s Conflict Minerals Regulation requires all Union importers of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold to carry out due diligence on their supply chain.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said that today’s discussion is very timely as Africa suffers from terrorist and separatist groups that undermine the continent’s development, prosperity, stability and integration. Noting that terrorists use the illicit trafficking in fishing resources, wild fauna, oil, gas, forests, charcoal and other resources to finance their activities in Africa, he said the international community should mobilize greater efforts to combat these activities and snuff out these groups that undermine international and regional security. He welcomed Council resolutions 2195 (2014), 2462 (2019) and 2482 (2018) as they recognize the exploitation of natural resources as a source of funding of organized crime and terrorism and encourage Member States to ensure the accountability of all perpetrators and accomplices in illegal trafficking. The international community, Council consensus and regional groups are all decisive elements in helping to prevent armed groups from exploiting natural resources around the world, especially Africa. For its part, Morocco is using a multidimensional strategy with a holistic approach, that includes legal, financial, institutional and security areas, to tackle this scourge, he said.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said that the illicit exploitation of natural resources fuels conflict across the world and on the African continent, where it leads to violence, desolation, the destabilization of governments, poverty, famine and generally hampers development. He called for this “dramatic situation” to be tackled through strengthened cooperation between the Council and the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, as well as with regional and subregional organizations. Mechanisms must be established for businesses engaged in natural resource exploitation can identify themselves and carry out due diligence, he said, adding that multinational businesses or third parties exploiting or trading in resources in an illicit manner should be added to sanctions lists. Further, he called for the development of traceability systems to examine routes of trade, and for greater cooperation between African peace and security architecture and regional economic communities.