Excerpted below is the introduction by Steve McDonald. The full report is available for download from the Wilson Center’s Africa Program.
This study, Securing Development and Peace in the Niger Delta: A Social and Conflict Analysis for Change
, draws together a vast range of information about Nigeria’s delta region not previously available in a single publication. It richly illuminates the social history and underlying causes of unrest in the area
. Equally important, the study adds to the empirical research available to us about conflict prevention and approaches to post-conflict reconstruction in regions harmed by the extraction of natural resources.
It examines the complex interactions between the social, political, economic, environmental, and security factors that drive and sustain conflict. It also reviews the main policy responses and initiatives that have already been brought to bear in the delta and maps out key policy options for the future.
Encouragingly, the study finds that many of the elements of sustainable pathways to development and peace already exist or can readily be realized. What is needed is a systematic framework and, most critically, a leadership consensus and the political will to marshal them. Nigeria’s development partners are already showing a renewed commitment to support solutions to the delta’s challenges. Imaginative dialogue and partnership between them and with critical stakeholders in government, the private sector, civil society, and communities holds the promise of yielding effective strategies for sustainable development and peace that befit the region’s unique character and history.
This study, then, emerges at a time of particular opportunity and hope. And yet it must be noted that the present time also holds a considerable potential risk. Without appropriate and thoughtful action, the legitimate aspirations of the citizens of the delta and their compatriots in Nigeria as a whole will, yet again, go unrewarded. For the Niger Delta today, any plan or project must be rooted in practical and active understanding of the origins and risks of conflict in order to sustain the momentum of peaceful development and avoid planning that does not take into account the dynamics of conflict and its core causes.
Finally, the importance of the issues dealt with in this study extends beyond the delta or Nigeria as a nation. They are much broader when viewed from Nigeria’s place in the sub-region and the world economy. While the delta is unique, there are also lessons that can be learned for other conflict situations, and especially for the expanding number of new oil producing countries along the Guinea coast. For all, the key lesson is that peace is hard work. It requires a leadership committed to equitable government, dialogue with citizens, and sustainable development.
Download the full report from the Wilson Center.