“The resource base is a point of contact for local residents, refugees, rebel groups, park rangers, [and the] military as they struggle to survive,” says Richard Matthew of the University of California, Irvine, in this podcast interview, describing the significance of Virunga National Park to the diverse collection of actors in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Matthew cites a fundamental tension between the needs of the park—which is home to some of the few remaining mountain gorillas in the world—and the desperate humanitarian needs of the people living in and around it. On a recent assessment trip to the area for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Matthew and his colleagues met with many of these groups to help find ways to reduce pressure on the park’s natural resources, while recognizing they are key to the livelihoods of millions of needy people in the region.
I also asked Matthew to highlight some of the human security topics he and his colleagues pursue at the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs at UC Irvine. One such topic is microfinance. “Microfinance lending rarely takes into consideration the environmental impact and conflict-inducing impacts,” says Matthew. He and his colleagues are convening practitioners and conducting research on practical ways to “green” and reduce the conflict-generating impacts of this increasingly popular development strategy.