Countries with non-renewable natural resource wealth face special opportunities and special challenges. Used well, these resources can create greater prosperity for current and future generations; used poorly, they can cause economic instability, social conflict and lasting environmental damage.
The purpose of the Natural Resource Charter is to assist the governments and societies of countries rich in non-renewable resources to manage those resources in a way that generates economic growth, promotes the welfare of the population and is environmentally sustainable.
Exploitation of natural resources should be pursued in order to help a country meet its broader social and economic goals, not as an end in itself. This means having a vision of how the resource sector fits in a country’s economic future. For some countries the best use of resource endowments may be to leave them in the ground for future use; for others, it may be to extract rapidly to generate revenues to sustain the investment necessary for growth and to meet urgent human needs. Whatever a country’s ultimate development goals, there are certain practical guidelines that can help maximize the opportunities provided by resource wealth for social and economic development.
The Charter is directed primarily at policy makers and citizens in resource-rich countries. These are not the only important actors: international companies, industry associations, international organizations, civil society groups, and the governments of resource-importing states all have roles which affect the ability of societies to harness their endowments. Still, the most important decisions rest with the governments of resource-rich countries, since they have both the sovereign right and moral responsibility, to harness natural wealth for the benefit of their people. Nonetheless, resource companies, their home governments, and financial centers do play a critical role in supporting or weakening effective policy.
The Charter has been written by an independent group of economists, lawyers, and political scientists under an Oversight Board composed of distinguished international figures. We do not represent any institution or special interest. We share the belief that natural resource wealth can be a powerful tool for social and economic advancement, but only if countries are able to meet some special challenges. We try to offer advice that is useful and clearly expressed.
The Charter contains twelve Precepts. Ten of these offer guidance on core decisions that governments face – beginning with the decision to extract the resources, and ending with decisions about using the revenues they ultimately generate. The other two are addressed to other important actors and their responsibilities. To make this Charter easy to use, there are three levels of details. Level 1 sets out the Precepts. Level 2 contains an elaboration of what they mean. If readers wish to pursue the discussion of issues in greater depth and technical detail they are referred to Level 3.