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Why are ‘Blood Diamonds’ Treated Differently than ‘Conflict Timber’? The EU’s Policies to Curb the Trade in Natural Resources that Finance Civil Wars

Friday October 24, 2014, from 14:00 to 16:00
Room Fred Halliday 24.133 - Mercè Rodoreda Building (1st Floor)
Research seminar

The fact that the oil installations in the hands of Islamic State have been one of the first targets of the US-led air attacks in Syria and Iraq has drawn the attention to the financing of armed rebel groups through the looting of natural resources. Oil is one example of a commodity that has been linked to the funding of civil wars, but also in numerous other conflicts, the warring parties have financed themselves through similar sources of revenues (e.g. diamonds, timber or minerals).

p>The European Union (EU) has recognized the problem of these so-called “conflict resources”, but lacks a consistent approach to curtail the trade in them. In some cases the EU employed unilateral measures, whereas in other cases it defended desperately multilateral instruments. The aim of this research seminar is to explain these differences on the basis of the cases of diamonds and timber.

The talk will argue that the divergent policies of the EU can be explained as a combination of endogenous and exogenous factors. The EU’s level of support for measures depends both on the economic relevance of the natural resource in question for the European economy and on the ability of NGOs to promote possible measures by linking it to “shared European norms”. In the global arena, the growing importance of the emerging powers, in economic, political and social terms, has complicated the design of multilateral solutions. Most of the emerging economies require imported natural resources to sustain their economic growth and are also for normative reasons rather reluctant to commit themselves to binding international agreements that could conflict with the norm of “state sovereignty”.As a consequence, in cases in which the EU wants to impose sanctions on specific conflict resources but meets an unfavorable global context -such as in the case of timber- it opts for unilateral measures instead of working on a compromise in a multilateral setting for any price. In cases in which there already international institutions in place -such as in the case of the Kimberley Process for diamonds- it seeks to defend them as a matter of its principle of “effective multilateralism”.

Seminar IBEI Vlaskamp 

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