“It’s not surprising that about half the time, efforts to try to stabilize countries as they come out of war fail,” said Richard Matthew, associate professor at the University of California at Irvine and founding director of the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs, at a recent TEDxChange event. “Wars today are very destructive. They may not be as big as the wars of the last century, but they do a lot of damage.”
Matthew’s work focuses on the environmental dimensions of conflict and peacebuilding. Conflict can be spurred by competition over natural resources but it also contributes to further scarcity in many cases, creating a feedback loop. The natural resource aspect of conflict is particularly important in areas where livelihoods depend directly on access to land, water, and forests, he said.
In addition to discussing the benefits of including the environment in peacemaking efforts, Matthew also touched on the need for an increased proportion of national security spending to be spent on peace and development rather than defense. “It is in our interest to grow people out of the conditions that foster terrorism and extremism and infectious disease and crisis,” he said.
In particular, Matthew remains confident that an emerging group of leaders will find new and creative ways to support peacebuilding, natural resource management, and adaptation activities in the future: “Social entrepreneurs – people willing to combine their passion to make a better world with sound business tools – are developing truly innovative ways of taking daunting social problems and making them manageable.”