Sunday, May 08, 2016

human conflict arising from natural resources

energyskeptic |  The special issue on Human Conflict (18 May, p. 818) largely ignores a central dimension of violent conflict: the complex role of natural resources in the onset (Ross 2004) and conduct of conflict, peacemaking, and recovery from conflict.

Grievances over access to land have been central to wars in countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nepal (Macours 2011, Kay 2002). Inequitable distribution of oil and gas revenues drove secessionist conflicts in places such as Indonesia’s Aceh and southern Sudan (Collier 2012).

Since the end of the Cold War, conflicts based on resources have grown rapidly in number: Armed groups in at least 18 conflicts have relied on revenues from diamonds, timber, coltan, and a range of agricultural crops from cacao to coca (UN 2009). For centuries, armies have targeted natural resources and the environment to deprive enemies of cover, food, and support (Austin 2000), and the increased use of resources to finance conflicts has enhanced their value as a military objective (Autessere 2010).

Between 1946 and 2008, 40 to 60% of all intrastate conflicts were linked to natural resources. Resource-related conflicts are more likely to relapse, and do so twice as quickly compared with situations following conflicts without a link to natural resources (Rustad 2010).