The possession of natural resources can be both a blessing and a curse. As stated in this paper, their use, to satisfy domestic demand and fuel export industries, has been a fundamental component of the economic boom that has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in a number of large emerging middle-income countries. However, resource-exporting developing countries face risks as well as opportunities. Used poorly, these resources can lead to political and economic instability, conflict and corruption.
The rapid expansion in demand for these resources in recent years – driven largely by emerging economies such as Brazil, Russia, India and China – means international and national frameworks that help ensure transparency and accountability in the way these natural resources are used, are vital.
This paper reviews the global trends affecting oil, gas, minerals, forests, fish, water and land. It discusses the transparency and accountability needs that centre around their large-scale use including: the global shifts of economic and political power; climate change; the commodities boom and crash; and the recent financial crisis.
The paper argues that more needs to be done to encourage emerging economy governments, companies and non-governmental organisations to promote transparency and accountability in natural resource projects. Donors should also no longer ignore the important role that state and provincial level governments and traditional authorities play in natural resource governance.