Moving beyond natural resources as a source of conflict: Exploring the human-environment nexus of environmental peacebuilding

PhD Project

It is widely recognized that environmental factors often play a key role in violent conflicts, and that conflicts involving natural resources have a higher chance of relapsing back into violence. Over the past 15 years however, the literature started moving beyond natural resources scarcity as a source of conflict to envision environmental cooperation as a potential peacebuilding tool.
This approach, coined environmental peacemaking or peacebuilding, argues that shared natural resources and environmental problems can serve as a basis to promote dialogue and trust between conflict parties, leading to mutually beneficial arrangements and considerable cost reduction for both parties. However, this approach refers to a broad variety of mechanisms which are still poorly defined in the literature, and authors point out a lack of systematic empirical research on this issue.
This research project is interdisciplinary and investigates the potential and effectiveness of environmental peacebuilding. The central question of this research is whether shared natural resources can indeed contribute to building sustainable peace and, if so, how. A particular attention will be given to the following questions within the scope of this research project: What is understood as environmental peacebuilding; when, how and by whom is the environmental peacebuilding argument raised; what are the conditions under which environmental collaboration can contribute to peacebuilding; which paths exist for environmental peacebuilding, and which ones are the most and least promising.
To answer these questions, the research will focus on selected case studies. Through participant observation and exchanges with a wide range of stakeholders in the field – from local actors to international organisations and decision-makers, the concepts of natural resource scarcity, environmental cooperation and peacebuilding will be developed and applied to the case of protracted conflicts.