Beyond Scarcity vs Abundance: Natural Resources and Conflict

Led by Nils Petter Gleditsch

Jan 2004 – Jun 2007

The main aim of the project is to study the importance for the pattern of armed conflict of the distribution of natural resources and the way natural resources are exploited and influenced by human activities.

Partial goals are:

  • to improve the theoretical foundation of the relationship between natural resources and conflict
  • to establish a database for conflict-relevant natural resources
  • to conduct empirical studies of natural resources and conflict
  • to inform the public debate about management systems that ensure that resources may become a blessing rather than a curse.

The relationship between natural resources and conflict has traditionally focused on the struggle for scarce natural resources, such as lack of freshwater, food, territory, or energy. More recently, an abundance of natural resources has come to be seen as an equally or more important factor, particularly in intra-state violence. Excessive natural wealth leads to slow growth, rent-seeking, corruption in government, and rebel looting, all of which can generate internal or external violent conflict. Although these two schools have led separate lives, or been put up as opposites, they share a concern with the implications of environmental factors in human security and an interest in the impact of distributional issues in conflict. This project will develop better measures of the geographical distribution of natural resources and will examine the conditions under which natural resources are likely to contribute to conflict The project unites scholars at PRIO and NTNU and is closely linked to three on-going doctoral projects, as well as to other cross-disciplinary activities at NTNU.

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