The Resource Curse

Many developing countries that are rich in natural resources are even poorer than other countries that are less well endowed. This is because natural resources serve as an enticing prize to fight over. Many countries with significant mineral deposits or valuable cash crops are in the grip of repressive or corrupt regimes or torn apart by armed conflict. This problem has come to be known as ``the resource curse.''

Now a broad movement has emerged to tackle the resource curse. Global Witness, a small British NGO, acted as the pioneer when it campaigned to close the Thai/Cambodian border to Khmer Rouge timber exports, ending illegal trade in teak and other rare hardwoods. The resulting loss of revenue played a key role in the demise of that genocidal organization.

Global Witness next turned to the problem of diamonds in Angola, and a campaign against ``conflict diamonds'' led to the Kimberley Process of Certification. Last year, Global Witness, together with more than 60 groups from around the world, launched ``Publish What You Pay,'' a campaign to force resource companies to disclose their payments to developing country governments. It was endorsed by the British government, and many oil and mining companies responded positively.

I am proud to be associated with Global Witness and the ``Publish What You Pay'' campaign. But ``Publish What You Pay'' is only the first step in tackling the resource curse. Governments must disclose what they receive and, even more importantly, they must be held accountable for the way they use their revenues. That is what Caspian Revenue Watch, which I also support, seeks to accomplish.