Conflict resource

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Conflict resources are natural resources extracted in a conflict zone and sold to perpetuate the fighting.[1] There is both anecdotal and statistical evidence that belligerent accessibility to precious commodities can prolong conflicts (a "resource curse").[2][3][4]


The concept of 'conflict resource', or 'conflict commodity' emerged in the late 1990s, initially in relation to 'conflict diamonds' financing rebellions in Angola and Sierra Leone. (The media often called these 'blood diamonds'.)[5] Then 'conflict timber' financed hostilities in Cambodia and Liberia.[6]


The concept was first officially discussed by the UN General Assembly for 'conflict diamonds':.[7] The UN Security Council has since referred to conflict resources in several resolutions.

The advocacy group Global Witness has called for an international definition facilitating a more systematic application of UN resolutions, the prevention of complicity in abuses during hostilities by commercial entities exploiting or trading in conflict resources, and the prosecution of war profiteers suspected of supporting or abetting war criminals.[1].

Conflict resources are natural resources whose systematic exploitation and trade in a context of conflict contribute to, benefit from or result in the commission of serious violations of human rights, violations of international humanitarian law or violations amounting to crimes under international law.

—Global Witness, proposed Definition of conflict resources[8]

Since 1996 the Bonn International Center for Conversion has tracked resource governance and conflict intensity by country.[9] Aside from fossil fuels, metals, diamonds, and timber it tracks the governance of other primary goods that might fund conflicts, including: poppy seeds (Afghanistan), rubber (Côte d'Ivoire), cotton (Zambia), and cocoa (Indonesia).

Congo's conflict resources[edit]

As of 2010, the conflict resource fueling the world's deadliest war is gold in the Congo.[10] Gold bars are less traceable than diamonds, and gold is abundant in the Kivu conflict region. In any case, no jewellery industry standard exists for verifying gold origination, as it does for diamonds (though jeweler's total outlay on gold is five times that on diamonds).[11] Other conflict minerals being illicitly exported from the Congo include cobalt, tungsten, cassiterite,[12] and coltan (which provides the tantalum for mobile phones, and is also said to be directly sustaining the conflict).[13][14]


  1. ^ p.8, Conflict and Development: Peacebuilding and Post-conflict Resolution; Sixth Report of Session 2005-06, Great Britain: Parliament: House of Commons: International Development Committee, The Stationery Office, 2006
  2. ^ Philippe Le Billon, "Fuelling War: Natural Resources and Armed Conflicts", Adelphi Paper 373, IISS & Routledge, 2006.
  3. ^ Michael Ross[disambiguation needed],"How Do Natural Resources Influence Civil War? Evidence from Thirteen Cases", International Organization, 2004.
  4. ^ James Fearon and David Laitin, "Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War" American Political Science Review, 2003.
  5. ^ "'Blood diamonds' crackdown deal". BBC News. 2000-06-28. Retrieved 2010-06-05. "Peter Hain: without blood diamonds, the war in Sierra Leone could not be financed... In the face of enormous suffering caused by the diamond-fuelled wars in Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, we have a duty to ensure that we are doing as much as we can" 
  6. ^ "Liberian 'conflict' timber faces trade ban". Greenpeace UK. 2003-05-07. Retrieved 2010-06-05. 
  7. ^ UNGA Resolution 55/56 (2001)
  8. ^ "definition of conflict resources - natural resources in conflict - global witness". Retrieved 2010-06-05. [dead link]
  9. ^ Accessible through "the BICC Resource Conflict Monitor". Retrieved 2010-06-05. 
  10. ^ Granatstein, Solly; Young, Nicole (2009-11-29). "How Gold Pays For Congo's Deadly War". CBS News. Retrieved 2010-06-05. 
  11. ^ Granatstein, Solly; Young, Nicole (2009-11-29). "60 Minutes: Killing Continues In The Deadliest War Since WWII As Gold And Other Minerals Pay For Weapons". p. 4. Retrieved 2010-06-05. "the Responsible Jewellery Council says that it is developing a system for the industry that will, one day, trace gold to its source."  The 2010-04-19 Responsible Jewellery Council discussion paper proposes a Chain-of-custody system to enable jewellery makers and dealers to trace gold back to its original mine as a "Means to avoid ‘conflict’ resources", but warns "The gold market is much larger and more geographically diversified than diamonds. The gold jewellery market is five times larger than diamonds at first cost".
  12. ^ "Mining in the DRC". 2006. Retrieved 2010-06-05. 
  13. ^ Söderberg, Mattias (2006-09-22), Is there blood on your mobile phone?, retrieved 2009-05-16 
  14. ^ Allen, Karen (2009-09-02). "Human cost of mining in DR Congo". Retrieved 2010-06-05. "'Sexual attacks peak when there's fighting,' said Shabunda-based human rights activist Papy Bwalinga Kashama. 'The reason the military and militia are fighting is to control the mines,'... it is not hard to find mines in the hands of men with guns"