Academic journal article Global Governance

Breaking the Conflict Trap? Addressing the Resource Curse in Peace Processes

Academic journal article Global Governance

Breaking the Conflict Trap? Addressing the Resource Curse in Peace Processes

Article excerpt

Does addressing the natural resource dimension of armed conflicts in peace processes open opportunities for breaking the conflict trap? Based on evidence reviewed from Sudan (North-South), Indonesia (Aceh), and other cases, this article challenges the prevailing understanding of natural resources as an enabler of armed conflict and obstacle to peace. It argues rather that it is timely to ask: How can natural resources become part of a solution to armed conflicts and consolidate a lasting peace? The article contends that investment in natural resources can become an opportunity for peacemaking and contribute to conflict transformation by tackling economic conflict drivers and setting out new orders that govern a post-conflict peace. However, it is important to strengthen mediation support and construct new partnerships for peacemaking, especially with the extractive industries. KEYWORDS: natural resources, conflict trap, peace negotiations, mediation support, extractive industries, Sudan, Aceh.

SCHOLARLY RESEARCH ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ARMED CONFLICT AND natural resources has long emphasized the impact of the latter on security, governance, and prosperity. (1) Such work has highlighted that natural resources are a crucial element in the "resource curse." In the literature on civil wars, the resource curse is mainly captured by the "conflict trap" in which "war wrecks the economy and increases the risk of future war." (2) In this context, natural resources foster recurring cycles of armed conflict because they provide a revenue base for belligerents, increase claims for secession, and perpetuate state fragility through incentives for corruption and mismanagement.

In this article, I investigate whether addressing natural resources in peace processes is an opportunity to break cycles of recurrent conflict and, thereby, the conflict trap. I highlight that natural resources can have a strategic significance for peacemaking activities. Especially for high-value, investment-intensive natural resources such as oil and mining resources, the continuation of an armed conflict implies losses for all involved. An exclusive focus on natural resources, however, will be an elusive strategy to counter the resource course. Natural resource management must be integrated into larger dispute resolution frameworks that address the new challenges once an agreement on revenue sharing or a new future has been found.

I first chart the role of natural resources in armed conflict before setting out the rationale for addressing them in peace processes. I then present two examples on the way that natural resources were managed in the peace processes of Sudan (North-South) and Indonesia (Aceh). I also reflect on the link between needs of informality to manage the parties' internal transformation, and requests by third parties for transparent and accountable natural resource management. In the conclusion, I distill the case evidence and explore policy implications.

Overall, I argue that natural resource management must be integrated into a broader political process in order to ensure that resource wealth translates into development benefits. Peace processes represent an important framework in which to negotiate the new future of a country and society. Natural resources are a crucial part of these negotiations because they represent the main domestic economic base. However, for this transition to occur, there is a need to strengthen mediation support activities and bring in the private sector.

Natural Resources and Armed Conflict

After the Cold War, a number of African conflicts placed the spotlight on the relationship between natural resources and armed conflict. The issue gained prominence through reports of the UN Security Council sanctions monitoring mechanisms on Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, and multistakeholder processes against conflict diamonds and abusive and illegal behavior of companies in conflict zones. …

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