Fighting the Resource Curse

The resource curse can strike countries that export high-value natural resources, such as oil, metals and gems. Resource-exporting countries are more prone to authoritarian governance, they are at higher risk of civil wars and they tend to suffer economic dysfunctions such as corruption and slower growth.1 Associations between resources and these pathologies are seen in the list of the ‘Big Five’ African oil exporters: Algeria, Angola, Libya, Nigeria and Sudan. The recent histories of mineral exporters support the correlations: for example, ‘blood diamonds’ fuelled Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war, and the continuing conflict in the metal-rich Democratic Republic of the Congo has cost hundreds of thousands of lives. The phenomenon is not solely African: Syria, Yemen and Turkmenistan, for example, are also resource-cursed. Moreover, poor governance in resource-cursed countries can engender follow-on pathologies, such as a propensity to cause environmental damage both domestically (for example, through the destruction of forests) and globally (through increased greenhouse gas emissions). Most research on the resource curse has focused on the exporting countries. Here I focus instead on major importing countries, especially those in the G8. First I survey how the resource curse endangers the core interests of importing states, and how the laws of importing states drive the resource curse. The second half of the article describes a new policy framework for importing states that will improve international trade in resources for both importing and exporting countries.