NGO demands end to "resource curse" on world's poorest children

An international NGO, Save the Children, has expressed concern over what it termed the "resource curse" on children in developing countries that have vast mineral wealth.

The report, "Lifting the Resource Curse - extractive industry, children and governance", was issued on Wednesday to coincide with the first high-level international meeting of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which took place in London.

In September 2002, at the World Summit for Sustainable Development, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair announced his government's intention to lead the EITI in order to prevent mismanagement of revenues paid by oil, gas and mining companies.

Citing the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as a "tragic example", Save the Children highlighted the increased likelihood of private armies, corruption, poor economic growth and child poverty in developing countries with large, lucrative mineral reserves.

The NGO recalled that the DRC - with a vast cache of minerals including gold, coltan, silver, zinc, uranium, diamonds and oil - had seen over three million people die since war erupted in 1998, and more than four out of 10 children die before they reach their first birthday.

Save the Children's director general, Mike Aaronson, said: "The resource curse is unjust. Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [UNCRC], children have the right to information that affects their well being; this must include payments being made for their country's natural resources.

"Oil, gas and mining companies could, by simply publishing the revenues they pay governments, allow civil society to engage further with government on investment of these revenues.
"Host governments have obligations under the UNCRC to make this information available and to invest revenues in vital health and education services."

The NGO called on governments and corporate leaders to seize the opportunity to increase financial transparency, in order to alleviate corruption and conflict afflicting more than 700 million poor children in mineral-rich countries.

"We cannot afford to wait or waste time, we must agree now on a comprehensive and mandatory approach to revenue transparency," Aaronson added.

[For the complete report, go to www.scfuk.org.uk]
[For the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, go to www.unicef.org]