“Although we have a lot of oil, I can’t find feed my family”. These sincere words coming from a poor Nigerian man working for a huge multi-national company can best describe the paradox of the resource curse problem.
A conference in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace opened my eyes to this terrible injustice. Billions of dollars are stolen every day from the impoverished developing countries sources of living; ironically, to make multi billionaires richer.
Exploitation of developing countries is a lot of deeper than just greedy businessmen benefiting from the available economic global opportunities. It is, on one hand about corrupted local political elites exploiting their country’s resources to stay in power; on the other hand, governments that support industries and corrupt officials are also complicit. At the end of the day, the biggest losers are the mostly indigenous and economically poor people.
So, what is the solution? The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative is an endeavor to oblige governments and multi-national companies to provide reliable information about gains coming from extractive industries in order to hold them accountable for economic development. But so far only 25 countries and 80 gas, oil and mining companies participate. We need greater participation for the EITI to succeed but we also need greater commitment from host countries to ensure human rights and promote transparency as a prerequisite for participation.
Every religion mentions how exploiting people and the earth is a sin. The Quran says, “And do not become like the woman who, after having painstakingly spun her yarn, caused it to disintegrate into pieces. You resort to oaths as instruments of mutual deceit so that one people might take greater advantage than another although Allah puts you to the test through this. Surely on the Day of Resurrection He will make clear the truth. (16:92).
Pope Benedict XVI, said in Caritas en Veritate, “The international community has an urgent duty to find institutional means of regulating the exploitation of nonrenewable resources, involving poor countries in the process, in order to plan together for the future.”