WHAT IS THE ISSUE?
Many of the world’s poorest countries are very rich in natural resources like oil, gas, diamonds, and lumber. Unfortunately, the wealth that comes from exploiting these resources rarely benefits the impoverished local population.
Instead, countries get caught in the “resource curse.” Too often, extracting natural resources leads to clashes for control of the wealth, driving out powerless people and pushing them even deeper into poverty. Poorly managed exploitation can cause conflict, feed corruption, displace people from homes and lands, pollute waters, destroy health, and cause irreversible biodiversity loss.
Globalization can create new opportunities. But it can also impose new, harsh burdens on poor and marginalized communities where people already struggle to protect their families, live in dignity, and improve their lives.
WHY SHOULD PEOPLE OF FAITH CARE?
Our Discipleship in Christ calls us to work for justice and live in solidarity with the poorest among us. We are also called to be stewards of God’s creation, working for “peace, stability, human rights, and the environment” (U.S. Bishops, “A Call to Solidarity with Africa”, 2001).
For all these reasons, we must make sure natural resources are used in ways that sustain the environment and contribute to human development.
Because unfair extraction practices affect the poor most acutely, the Church has been addressing issues with extractive industries globally for more than a decade. This is an issue that affects our brothers and sisters worldwide. The Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa, Peru in Latin America, and many other of the world’s poorest countries are being subjected to exploitation that is leaving ruin and even death in its wake.
Rees Warne, Strategic Issues Advisor, CRS
WHAT RESPONSE IS NEEDED?
All parties, producers and consumers, who benefit from the extractive industry sector need to change some of their practices and work together, employing practices that respect local communities and the environment.
In the U.S., we use items every day that affect poor people in resource-rich countries. From rare metals and gems to gas and oil, global extractive industries touch every part of our lives. We have a special responsibility to be thoughtful consumers.
We must also engage in advocacy—with governments, international financial institutions, and companies—and urge changes to reduce the negative impacts of resource extraction and increase benefits for the poor.
As Catholics in the U.S., we are called to stand with the poor. To make sure natural resources are used in ways that sustain the natural environment and contribute to human development. To protect the lives and dignity of poor people and to assure that the potential benefits of natural resource extraction are realized for the common good of all.