Oiling the springs of democracy

Brendan O'Donnell

Natural resources provide the greatest potential for financing development in some of the world’s poorest countries, far outweighing other sources of funding. In 2008, for example, the value of exports of oil and minerals for South and Central America, Africa and Asia was over 12 times the value of aid to those regions. These resources – if properly used – can help the countries in the Arab region make the transition from revolution to good governance.

Instead of contributing to development and prosperity, however, these natural resources often have the opposite effect – increasing poverty and suffering. In some countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, competition over minerals has fuelled armed conflict and financed armed groups responsible for widespread killings of civilians, rape, torture and the recruitment of child soldiers. In others, such as Turkmenistan, gas revenues have bankrolled corrupt governments and underwritten human rights violations.

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