A Price Worth Fighting For? Natural Resources and Conflict Recurrence

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Rustad, Siri Aas; & Helga Malmin Binningsbø (2012) A Price Worth Fighting For? Natural Resources and Conflict Recurrence, Journal of Peace Research 49(4): 531–546.

While a number of publications show that natural resources are associated with internal armed conflict, surprisingly little research looks at how natural resources affect post-conflict peace. This article therefore investigates the relationship between natural resources and post-conflict peace by analyzing new data on natural resource conflicts. We argue that the effect of natural resources on peace depends on how a country’s natural resources can constitute a motive or opportunity for armed conflict. In particular, three mechanisms may link natural resources to conflict recurrence: disagreements over natural resource distribution may motivate rebellion; using natural resources as a funding source creates an opportunity for conflict; and natural resources may aggravate existing conflict, acting either as motivation or opportunity for rebellion, but through other mechanisms than distributional claims or funding. Our data code all internal armed conflicts between 1946 and 2006 according to the presence of these resource–conflict links. We claim such mechanisms increase the risk of conflict recurrence because access to natural resources is an especially valuable prize worth fighting for. We test our hypotheses using a piecewise exponential survival model and find that, bivariately, armed conflicts with any of these resource–conflict mechanisms are more likely to resume than non-resource conflicts. A multivariate analysis distinguishing between the three mechanisms reveals that this relationship is significant only for conflicts motivated by natural resource distribution issues. These findings are important for researchers and policymakers interested in overcoming the ‘curse’ associated with natural resources and suggest that the way forward lies in natural resource management policies carefully designed to address the specific resource–conflict links.