Asian Journal of Environment and Disaster Management (AJEDM)Volume 2 Number 1 (2010)
The relationship between natural resource management and post-conflict peacebuilding may not be obvious at first glance, but in reality, they are deeply interrelated. A recent study revealed that at least eighteen violent conflicts, including in Angola, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have been fuelled by the exploitation of natural resources, and that at least forty percent of all intrastate conflicts are associated with natural resources.1 The correlation between natural resource management and conflict is multi-dimensional: natural resources can be a cause and prime mover of conflict while conflict has a vital impact on management and availability of natural resources upon which the livelihoods of ordinary people depend. Competition for access to profitable natural resources and unequal distribution of wealth can fuel conflict between neighbors as well as within a country. In turn, illicit exploitation of natural resources becomes a driver that prolongs such deadly conflicts. It is therefore imperative for the international community to act collectively to break the vicious circle of mismanagement of natural resources and conflict.
At the United Nations, the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) was established in 2005 to help achieve sustainable peace in countries emerging fromconflict. Since its inception, the issue of natural resource management has had direct relevance to the work of the Commission. The four agenda countries of the Commission, namely, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, and the Central African Republic, all have indentified natural resource management as a major challenge for peacebuilding. The integrated peacebuilding strategy of the respective countries places, to a varying extent, natural resource management as a priority. The PBC working group on lessons learned held a meeting on “Environment, Conflict and Peacebuilding” in May 2008, at which views were exchanged on lessons and prospects related to natural resource management. These discussions underscore the importance of addressing the issue of natural resource management from the early stage of peacebuilding efforts to prevent relapse into conflict.
There is a growing need to deepen understanding about the nexus between conflict and natural resources. The policy discussion at the United Nations would benefit from analyses and insight by experts in this field. In this regard, the articles in this volume, which provide ample empirical analyses of countries and areas such as Afghanistan, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Iraq, Kurdistan, the Philippines, Southern Sudan, and Sri Lanka, certainly enrich discussions among policymakers. Moreover, intellectual cooperation by the experts from the US and Japan, as shown in this volume, is commendable. I truly hope that this joint endeavor will continue to bear fruit.
Japan is a strong advocate for adopting a human-centered, integrated, and multi-sector approach to human security. It is our conviction that the security of people cannot be achieved unless peace (freedom from conflict), development (freedom from poverty and diseases), and human rights (freedem from violence and discrimination) are realized for every individual. Therefore,managing natural resources in an equitablemanner plays a crucial role in enabling people to live free from want and fear. Japan has been leading policy discussions on human security in the United Nations and other international arenas. At the same time, Japan is translating the concept of human security into practice through its contribution to the UN Trust Fund for Human Security.Many projects financed by the Trust Fund address natural resource management in order to empower people and make the Fund beneficial to all.
I believe that these articles will also help complement ongoing global efforts to advance human security, and enhance understanding about human security in both academic and policy arenas.
1. UNEP, From Conflict to Peacebuilding The Role of Natural Resources and the Environment, UNEP, Kenya (2009).
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