›Is the “resource curse” inevitable? The Resource Conflict Monitor (RCM) produced by the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC) attempts to monitor the management, administration, and governance of natural resources in countries prone to resource-conflict dynamics by establishing an empirical measure of resource governance.The online index combines available secondary data for established measures of good governance, resource management, and revenue transparency. The RCM’s free web application provides the user the ability to visualize and track the interplay between “resource governance, conflict intensity, and resource regimes compliance” for more than 90 developing countries.
BICC hopes that the Resource Governance Index will inform future policy options by identifying why certain countries are able to marshal national assets through effective resource governance, while others remain mired in conflict.
Photo Credit: Self-Defense group member with his rifle, Courtesy Flickr Member Pierre Holtz for UNICEF.
›February 24, 2010 // By Michelle NeukirchenMediation and conflict resolution around natural resources require “long-term engagement, timely interventions, and lots of flexibility,” says Juan Dumas, senior advisor for the Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano in Quito, Ecuador. The Woodrow Wilson Center and the Fetzer Institute hosted Dumas for a roundtable event on Pathways to Peace: Stories of Environment, Health, and Conflict. In this interview with ESCP Director Geoff Dabelko, Dumas shares key lessons learned from his experience with his NGO that specializes in prevention and management of socio-economic conflicts around natural resources.
In order to overcome challenges posed by current funding procedures, the foundation has been trying to establish an “early-action fund” that would provide flexible funding to facilitate conflict resolution dialogue. “With the right capacities at the right time… you can make a difference… you can prevent the escalation of conflict into violence… and create a governance path for that conflict to be addressed in a different way,” Dumas says.
›February 24, 2010 // By Julien Katchinoff“Most of the actual violence around water today is not occurring with armies marching out on the field of battle…[it] is more diffuse, more at the community level, more small scale, but quite real and quite important for us to try to address,” says Ken Conca, professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland during this conversation with ESCP Director Geoff Dabelko. Though the world remains fixated on future “water wars,” we “should not forget the actually existing violence in the world today,” he says.
Conca underscores the need to address the multiple forms of violence around water. Factors that incite these conflicts include lax consultation with local communities over large infrastructure projects as well as changes in access to water due to economic or environmental dynamics.
Conca suggests new principles that promote water as a global human right future may be part of the solution to these drivers of conflict. Such conflicts may be avoided by broadening the current conversation, allowing for new approaches to infrastructure development, and applying techniques of effective dispute resolution, particularly at the international level.
›Climate Change and Security in Africa: A Study for the Nordic-African Foreign Ministers Meeting, a collaboration between the International Institute for Sustainable Development and the Institute for Security Studies, examines the spectrum of literature devoted to the security implications of climate change in Africa. In particular, the study focuses on the economic sectors and regions most susceptible to climate change’s threat multiplier effects. It concludes that “climate change presents very real development challenges which, under certain circumstances, may contribute to the emergence and longevity of conflict.”
The International Institute for Sustainable Development’s Rising Temperatures, Rising Tensions: Climate Change and the Risk of Violent Conflict in the Middle East determines that “climate change—by redrawing the maps of water availability, food security, disease prevalence, population distribution and coastal boundaries—may hold serious implications for [the Middle East’s] regional security.” The report identifies the Middle East’s history of conflict as a significant challenge to the region’s ability to cope with climate change’s threats of water scarcity, food insecurity, and volatile migration. Rising Temperatures, Rising Tensions also discusses strategies to advance both adaptation and peacemaking in the region.
Using the coinciding outbreaks of regional drought and inter-communal violence in Kenya in 2009 as an illustration, Climate Change and Conflict: Lessons from Community Conservancies in Northern Kenya Conservation Development examines climate change’s potential to act as a threat multiplier in Northern Kenya. The study, jointly produced by the Saferworld, concludes “that the threat of increased conflict in northern Kenya as a result of climate change is real” and “that resource scarcity is already contributing to heightened insecurity and conflict in these areas.” The study also provides recommendations for responding to climate change, managing natural resources, and preventing conflict and ensuring security.
›“National security often means cyber security, it means energy security, it means homeland security, and more and more…it means environmental security,” says retired U.S. Army Captain James Morin in the Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate’s recently released video short, “Climate Patriots.”
“Climate Patriots” calls attention to the nexus between energy, climate change, and national security. The video identifies climate change as a two-fold threat likely to increase the frequency and intensity of humanitarian disasters and political instability. The latter, military analysts believe, will fuel further conflict, fundamentalism, and terrorism.
“Climate Patriots” also touches on military efforts to combat climate change (e.g., reducing energy consumption and shifting to renewable fuel supplies) as well as Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) research on national security, energy, and climate.
“If we don’t take action now,” retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn says, “the options for dealing with the effects of climate change and the effects of energy security become much, much more expensive. In fact, some of the options completely go away over the next 10-20 years if we don’t start taking some prudent actions now.”
›February 19, 2010 // By Julia Griffin“Much of the conversation about the global environment, frankly, is an elite conversation,” says Ken Conca, professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland. “But at the same time there are community-level voices, there are voices of indigenous people, there are voices of the powerless, as well as the powerful…. I think it’s important to capture them and not just limit [the conversation] to the most easily accessible voices.”
Conca and co-editor Geoff Dabelko include these oft-muted voices in the newly released 4th edition of Green Planet Blues: Four Decades of Global Environmental Politics. “One of the things we were really trying to achieve was to give people a sense of the history,” said Conca. To fully understand the origins of today’s debates, students must go back to the beginning of the last four decades of international environmental politics.
Three key paradigms—sustainability, environmental security, and ecological justice—frame the debates in Green Planet Blues. “Ideas do matter,” says Conca. “They really do change the world, and one of the premises of our work and of the book is to try to understand what sorts of ideas people bring to the table when they think of global environmental problems.”
›February 12, 2010 // By Michelle Neukirchen“The poor face a triple whammy,” Daryl Collins, senior associate at Bankable Frontier Associates and co-author with of Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day, tells ECSP Director Geoff Dabelko. The Woodrow Wilson Center hosted Collins and her co-author, Jonathan Morduch, for presentations at the Center and on Capital Hill last September. “They not only have low incomes, they also have very irregular and unpredictable incomes…. The $2 doesn’t come every day. If you did have $2 every day, you’d be solving half of your problems.”
Whether farmers challenged with seasonal incomes or small entrepreneurs fighting to cope with irregular daily wages, Collins has found that the poor strive to actively manage their financial lives. Households, however, often lack the regulated financial tools necessary to do so, sometimes leading to creative, local solutions.
In Portfolios of the Poor, lessons from the field uncovered a social grant system in South Africa that provides old-age pension holders and people with young children dependable monthly income supplements. Through comparison studies with countries without similar grant systems, Collins and her co-authors found the importance of dependable cash-flows staggering. “There was a whole financial engagement that could take off around that regularity,” she said. “You didn’t see [that] in India and Bangladesh.”
›February 12, 2010 // By Julia Griffin“Training is probably one of the biggest interventions in terms of making human resources available,” says Pape Gaye, President and CEO of IntraHealth International, to ECSP’s Gib Clarke in this interview on improving maternal health services in developing countries. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of problems associated with training.”
Gaye says obstacles to scaling up maternal health services in rural areas include employee gender inequalities, poor coordination of supplemental training, and a tendency to only offer in-service training in urban areas. Properly emphasizing pre-service education, he underscores, could remedy some of the problems associated with service provider training.
Increasing retention of medical practitioners is also critical to improving maternal health services in developing countries, Gaye explains. In his experience, however, attempts to address perceived security and financial compensation inadequacies produced mixed results. Instead, Gaye suggests that positive recognition may be one of the best methods for retaining health care workers. “We’re seeing some very good successes in places where we have just simple ways to recognize the work… because if people feel valued in a community, then they are likely to stick it out.”
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