From conflict to peacebuilding: the role of natural resources and the environment

From conflict to peacebuilding: the role of natural resources and the environment

Natural resource and environmental conflict: building peace

Conflicts associated with natural resources are twice as likely to relapse into conflict in the first five years, an imminent report suggests. Indeed the natural resource curse has been a primary determinant of intra-state conflict in terrible theatres of war such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia. Yet it extends far beyond the battle to acquire precious commodities. With climate change and population growth placing ever-increasing demands on the environment, it is widely recognised that conflict over basic resources, such as water and arable land, will increase – see Darfur and the Middle East.

This new report from the UN calls for environment and natural resource issues to be integrated into peacebuilding, decrying that less than a quarter of peace negotiations aiming to resolve conflicts linked to natural resources have addressed resource management mechanisms.

The authors draw three main conclusions from their research:

  • natural resources and the environment can be implicated in all phases of the conflict cycle, contributing to the outbreak and perpetuation of violence and undermining prospects for peace
  • the environment can itself fall victim to conflict, as direct and indirect environmental damage, coupled with the collapse of institutions, can lead to environmental risks that threaten health, livelihoods and security
  • natural resources and the environment can contribute to peacebuilding through economic development, employment generation and sustainable livelihoods

And offer a number of recommendations, including:

  • further develop UN capacities for early warning and early action - include environmental and natural resource issues in international and regional conflict early warning systems and develop expertise for preventive action
  • improve oversight and protection of natural resources during conflicts - develop international certification mechanisms to ensure that natural resources can be tracked more effectively
  • address natural resources and the environment as part of the peacemaking and peacekeeping process - ensure that there are processes in place within peace agreements for the transparent, equitable and legitimate definition and realisation of property rights and resource revenues and tenure
  • integrate natural resource and environmental issues into post-conflict planning - systematically conduct post-conflict environmental assessments that identify environmental risks to human health, livelihoods and security and prioritize needs in the short and medium term.
  1. How good is this research?

    Assessing the quality of research can be a tricky business. This blog from our editor offers some tools and tips.