Resource Wealth and the Risk of Civil War Onset: Results from a New Dataset of Natural Resource Rents, 1970-1999

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

de Soysa, Indra; & Eric Neumayer (2007) Resource Wealth and the Risk of Civil War Onset: Results from a New Dataset of Natural Resource Rents, 1970-1999, Conflict Management and Peace Science 24(3): 201–218.

The existing literature identifies natural resource wealth as a major determinant of civil war. The dominant causal link is that resources provide finance and motive (the "looting rebels" model). Others see natural resources as causing "political Dutch disease," which in turn weakens state capacity (the "state capacity" model). In the looting rebels model, resource wealth first increases, but then decreases the risk for civil war as very large wealth enables governments to constrain rebels, whereas in the state capacity model, large resource wealth is unambiguously related to higher risk of war. This research note uses a new dataset on natural resource rents that are disaggregated as mineral and energy rents for addressing the resources-conflict relationship. We find that neither a dummy variable for major oil exporters nor our resource rents variables predict civil war onset with a 1000-battle-death threshold coded by Fearon and Laitin (2003) in the period after 1970 for which rents data are available. However, using a lower threshold of 25 battle deaths, we find that energy wealth, but not mineral wealth, increases the risk for civil war onset. We find no evidence for a nonlinear relationship between either type of resources and civil war onset. The results tentatively support theories built around state capacity models and provide evidence against the looting rebels model of civil war onset.

Authors

Indra de Soysa

Indra de Soysa

Professor of Political Science at NTNU

Eric Neumayer

Eric Neumayer

Professor of Environment and Development at London School of Economics