The complex relationships between natural resources and political stability are gaining prominence in the political science community, as evidenced by three articles on those connections in the May/June 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs
. As each article argues, more effective international approaches are needed to combat inequitable benefit distribution, population pressures, and infrastructure underdevelopment.
Michael Ross’ “Blood Barrels: Why Oil Fuels Conflict” explores the paradox that in an increasingly peaceful world, oil-producing countries are plagued by a unique level of violence. Developing countries that produce oil are twice as likely to suffer internal rebellion as those that do not. “Oil alone cannot create conflicts,” he says, “but it both exacerbates latent tensions and gives governments and their more militant opponents the means to fight them out.” He calls for a four-fold solution, with provisions including increased transparency in oil-producing governments and international assistance for countries in managing their revenue responsibly and equitably.
In “The Trouble With Congo: How Local Disputes Fuel Regional Conflict,” Severine Autesserre argues that international peacekeeping efforts have missed the “critical fact that today local conflicts are driving the broader conflicts, not the other way around.” She argues that the international focus on elections as the mark of a peaceful nation is misplaced and can do more harm than good. “The international community must fundamentally revise its strategy” for addressing local grievances, especially those around land ownership, Autesserre says. Her take-home message: “Think local, act local.” In ECSP Report 12, John Katunga offers his perspective on resources and conflict in the DRC.
Former U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios writes in “Beyond Darfur: Sudan’s Slide Toward Civil War” that land and resource management issues are of primary importance in Darfur. He also criticizes international aid efforts for missing the mark; rather than focusing on resolving the ongoing crisis in Darfur, he writes, the United States should work to enforce the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005. Because the CPA has been ineffectively applied, many issues continue to contribute to instability. For instance, tensions over oil revenue are working against the emergence of stability in Sudan. The revenue-sharing agreement outlined in the CPA has not been consistently implemented, and until this happens, Natsios writes, the outlook for Sudan is not promising.