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Linking Resource Scarcity with Conflict

Public Policy
Linking Resource Scarcity with Conflict

Resource scarcity can be explained through three principals. First is basic human security requires adequate resources in the specific location. The human population is unable to meet its basic requirements to sustain human life. This is minimalist approach and needs a minimum amount of resources.

Second, it can be defined as existing resource availability to meet the increased demand of growing population. The resources in the case will be considered scarce if there are inadequate resources to meet expected demands of the population. Another approach is maximalist that includes both human and non-human demands of a particular resource. For example, water is needed for both human and animals for their survival.

The conditions in Guinea are alarming. Guinea has accommodated thousands of refugees coming from the conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia for about two decades. Refugees are settled in both urban and rural areas. Consequently, the hosting of many refugees the land use has been altered. The excessive use of uncultivated land leads to soil depletion. The increasing demand of arable land has increased the deforestation and lead to the shortage of water resources. It causes loss of biodiversity due to loss of habitat for local flora and fauna of the respective areas. The over-consumption of resources may lead to conflict between indigenous and refugees in Guinea.

According to the neo-Malthusians school of thought the increase in population growth, environmental degradation, resource depletion, and unequal resource distribution collectively causes poverty and income inequality in world’s least developed countries. The deprivations of resources can turn into grievances by increasing the risks of the societal conflict. The Internal disputes are increasing due to local environmental degradation. For instance, the factory emissions pollute the main freshwater sources.  The Ethnic clashes can emerge if the migration of the population will increase demand for scarce resources such as water or timber.

The potential of violent conflicts on scarce resources is growing with the increase in population. Conflicts mostly damage infrastructure like pipelines or oil fields to decrease the productivity of energy sector. As a result, it affects the economies through conflict. In addition, poor management and political instability lead to economic decline. The people in conflict blamed their governments, businesses and other groups as they get the benefit from the illicit use of natural resources.  The natural resources are controlled by powerful groups which increase the wealth gap between the elites and marginal groups. The growing gap will cause grievances in local population and they become susceptible to environmental damage.[1]

Some countries have tried to depoliticize natural resources by adopting a co-management approach that indulges the local community, the government and other stakeholders in the management of the resources. Guatemala has a long history of political conflict over the land ownership. The Guatemalan border with Mexico, nearly 50 percent of the forests are lost due to the past thirty years in form of commercial logging, cattle ranching, oil exploration, illegal drug plantings, and roads and caused deforestation. Guatemala is using the biosphere-reserve model to address the environmental conflict that is changed into political conflict as it fails to prevent it in an effective manner.

The biosphere-reserve model tries to resolve environmental degradation and poverty in developing countries by maintaining a balance between the environmental protection and needs of a growing population on natural resources. The biosphere-reserve model decreases the role of politics at the local and regional landscapes by developing an institutional framework. It will make the local farmers responsible for degradation and conservation of their land. This will prevent the poverty in Guatemala. The project is the collaboration of the Guatemalan government, NGOs, international aid partners and the local population along with the migrants living in the region.

The rapid increase in demand for natural resources is changing the dynamics of conflicts to make conflict management and resolution difficult in the contemporary world. However, globalization promotes the resolution of conflict by forcing states and communities to work together to sustain peace. The natural resources are required for life and growth. The resource scarcity, environmental degradation, and unsustainable consumption may cause violent conflicts. Furthermore, there is a dire need to address natural resource issues to manage the conflicts.  There is need to deal with the issues of resource scarcity by using different approaches to resolve the conflicts.[2]

According to the Thomas Homer-Dixon, the impact of scarcity of water, cropland, and pasture and climate change will increase conflict in Africa and Asia. Homer-Dixon is the view that resource scarcity is because of the decrease in the supply of resources for example, the depletion of a fish due to overfishing. The increase in demand for natural resources because of overpopulation has changed the modes of production or consumption. Similarly, the institutional factors such as the privatization of resources are another contributing factor in provoking conflict between locals and foreign investors. Homer-Dixon predicts that resource scarcity will induce violent civil conflicts in Asia and Africa in coming years.[3]

The linkage between resource scarcities and conflict is often overlooked by major power players. Climate change is aggravating the chances of conflict by exposing people to shortage of resources for meeting their needs.  To conclude, the warning and response system are effective mean in monitoring and warning local people to prevent violent conflict. According to the recent report integration of environmental management and natural resources can ensure stability. Therefore, it is essential to address the issue of resource scarcity and the prevention of violent conflicts. It requires the attention of all the stakeholders at the international level to give due consideration to the distribution of the natural resources justly.

10 Comments on "Linking Resource Scarcity with Conflict"

  1. Darrell Cloud on Fri, 29th Sep 2017 11:29 am 

    I would beg to differ. Resource scarcity may be kept out of the public eye but is very much a cause of action for major powers. WW II was very much about resources. Lebensraum was very much a part of Germany’s expansionist’s doctrine. When we cut of the Japanese from American oil supplies, they bombed Pearl Harbor. General Clark’s list of seven countries to be invaded in 2008 was a list of countries that strategically impacted the flow of oil. The current ongoing Islamic invasion of Europe is all about resources. The same is true with the Latin American invasion of the United States. You may call it economic migration, but it is all about resources.

  2. onlooker on Fri, 29th Sep 2017 11:29 am 

    Yes, we are already seeing the initial salvos in the resource scarcity competition. It will get nastier as peoples vie and compete for the basics of survival. The Law of the Jungle

  3. makati1 on Fri, 29th Sep 2017 6:42 pm 

    The alternate to war is trade. Paying the real cost of needed resources would level the playing field. Alas, it is not likely to happen. War is more profitable.

  4. Bloomer on Fri, 29th Sep 2017 7:48 pm 

    Water is the lifeline of human existant. I believe conflict over access to water will continue to escalate. Two reasons: climate change will create droughts and shortages, privatization will result in the commodization of water causing it to become unaffordable for the masses.

    For those survalist out there, access to clean, plentiful, affordable water should be strongly considered in your handbook. For the rest of us a thristy, hot, violent existant awaits us.

  5. fmr-paultard on Fri, 29th Sep 2017 8:17 pm 

    War is a biz and any biz runs into diminishing margin of return or as bastiat said. The cost of plunder needs to be high

  6. Sissyfuss on Fri, 29th Sep 2017 9:04 pm 

    ” Maintaining a balance between the environmental protection and needs of growing population on natural resources. ” Whatta crock of crap! Where on this Gaia forsaken orb are you able to protect resources from a growing population? The opposite is what you have; with a growing population the resources are as doomed as doom can be. Balance is so 7 billion ago. And when resources get really scarce who will have the energy to fight for the dregs?

  7. MASTERMIND on Fri, 29th Sep 2017 9:04 pm 


    War is not profitable you dimwit. Its called the Broken window fallacy. This is basic economics you learn in college. But I can tell by your post education isn’t your strong point. Just hate and bitterness. I feel sorry for you

  8. MASTERMIND on Fri, 29th Sep 2017 9:04 pm 


    War is not profitable you dimwit. Its called the Broken window fallacy. This is basic economics you learn in college. But I can tell by your post education isn’t your strong point. Just hate and bitterness.

  9. makati1 on Fri, 29th Sep 2017 11:47 pm 

    Muddy mind, then why does the MIC make huge profits? Why does the US sell weapons all over the world? Ehy does the military budget keep growing in a supposed time of peace?
    I’ll tell you why. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    I never said that it profits everyone, just the select few and you aren’t one of them. Careful when you are using quotes out of context. A little knowledge is a dangerous, and maybe embarrassing, thing.

  10. deadlykillerbeaz on Sat, 30th Sep 2017 6:21 am 

    War is good bidness and bidness is good!

    There is always war.

    There have been over 14,000 wars over the past oh probably 3000 years, war hasn’t stopped and never will.

    Money and resources are at stake. It’s deja Vu all over again, centuries on end.

    It will be the Wild Wild West, that’s the way it goes moving west.

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