“The backdrop to the whole issue of scarcity is that demand is rising, but on the supply side, we’re increasingly hitting restraints,” said Alex Evans
of NYU’s Center for International Cooperation in this interview with ECSP.
“Global population is growing, a kind of new global middle class is expanding, especially in emerging economies, and that means demand is rising across the board – particularly for energy, for food, water, and air space for our carbon emissions.”
Evans joined Mathew Burrows of the National Intelligence Council this September at the Wilson Center to talk about scarcity, natural resources, and conflict. He argued that building resilience and improving governance of natural resources is key to addressing growing demand, particularly in developing countries.
“With the Millennium Development Goals there’s been tremendous emphasis on increasing access to services, like health and education, which is important,” he said. “But we haven’t always brought the risk management aspect to the fore, and I think the emphasis we’re starting to see now on areas like social protection, climate adaptation, disaster risk reduction – these are areas that are much more concerned with resilience and it’s very welcome that they’re moving to the front of the development agenda.”
Poor governance in some developing countries has resulted in cases like in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where natural resources are seen as more of a curse to the local people than a blessing. The intersection between supply and demand will continue to make these problems more acute.
“Over the last 10 years when international aid agencies have thought about governance, it’s usually been in terms of capacity building in the executive branch – areas like public financial management,” said Evans. “I think increasingly we’ll see more of the very, very political issues surrounding who owns natural resources like land, or water, or fisheries, or forests.”
Evans also highlighted other international governance issues like transboundary agreements (or lack thereof), the resiliency of the international trade system (or lack thereof), and existing legal infrastructure that will be challenged by a changing climate and growing demand.
“We haven’t really begun to think these issues through,” he said, “but these are potential conflict flashpoints for the future.”