Two recent reports confirms the role of natural resources in armed conflict. One UN, one academic. From UN’s report on the importance of the environment in conflict and peacebuilding:
Since the end of the Cold War, at least eighteen violent conflicts have been driven by the exploitation of natural resources. While political and military issues remain critical, conceptions of security and conflict have broadened, with environmental degradation now seen as a significant contributing factor to conflict. […] Natural resources and the environment can be involved in all phases of the conflict cycle: from contributing to the outbreak and perpetuation of conflict and to spoiling the prospects for peace. The way that natural resources and the environment are governed has a determining influence on peace and security. – Consequently, it is clear that investing in environmental management and the governance of natural resources is an investment in conflict prevention. – Moreover, cooperation over the management of natural resources and the environment provide new opportunities for peacebuilding that should be pursued.
Perhaps I’ll grab a copy of the Conservation Biology article some time but for now we’ll have to do with second hand accounts. Such as this from Conservation International / The Hottest Spots: Conservation in War Zones:
More than 80 percent of the world’s major armed conflicts during the last half century have taken place in some of the most biologically diverse and threatened places on Earth, according to a study published by the scientific journal Conservation Biology. The new paper entitled “Warfare in Biodiversity Hotspots” calls for conservation activities to remain strong during conflicts to ensure that local people will have the natural resources they need to survive and rebuild healthy communities post war. […] A total of 23 biodiversity hotspots experienced significant violent conflict in which more than 1,000 people died between 1950 and 2000, and many suffered repeated episodes of violence. […] War has devastating impacts on wildlife and other natural resources. Refugees are in no position to consider the environmental consequences of their actions. They hunt, gather firewood or build encampments to survive.
If in no mood for lengthy reports or academic lingo there are journalistic short versions – how I found the above documents anyway 😉 Check out New York Times’s Dot Earth / Conflict Over, and in the Midst of, Nature’s Assets or AFP / 8 in 10 conflicts in environmental ‘hotspots’: study.