Resources and conflict

The Armed Conflict and Conflict Management Programme at SIPRI is studying the connection between natural resources and conflict in general and in particular in several regions in the world, such as the Arctic and Central Asia.
In the past two decades the relationship between natural resources and conflict risk has re-emerged as a key issue in international security. The current debate about the linkage between natural resources and the onset, duration and termination of conflicts around the globe focuses on three distinct perspectives: 
  • economic theories of violence; 
  • environmental factors, especially linked to climate change, as risk multipliers for conflict;
  • resource geopolitics

These approaches highlight the direct and indirect ways that resource issues can cause conflict. For example, both resource scarcity and resource dependence can interact with social and institutional vulnerabilities to create the conditions for conflict. Key elements of this include informal or illicit trade and violent criminal groups pursuing illegal exploitation of and trade in natural resources. National over- dependence on natural resource revenues is also closely associated with state weakness, even failure, producing conditions under which armed groups can emerge.

The rise of dynamic and large consumer markets in Asia - principally China and India - has also raised the priority of resource issues on the international security agenda. Record levels of demand and commodity prices have led international organizations, governments, businesses and civil society to launch various initiatives designed to mitigate the interactions between resource issues and conflict. Other responses include the creation of conflict monitoring and early warning systems and efforts to incorporate resource management into peacebuilding agendas.