Disputes over natural resources are a persistent challenge to international peace, security, and economic development. Natural resources (such as oil, gas, minerals, timber and water) are a major source of national income for many countries and, when managed effectively, can also provide jobs, infrastructure and livelihoods for local populations. Resource development has also become a key objective for donor development strategies in fragile states, on the assumption that extractive sector development can contribute to stability and security. Yet academics, researchers and policy-makers have already highlighted a great many situations whereby natural resource disputes have fed into, undermined, and enflamed situations of violent conflict and instability. Natural resources can be a source of grievance, which may be related to the inequitable distribution of benefits from natural resources, the lack of opportunities for marginalized groups, or environmental and social harm caused by the unsustainable extraction of resources.
Chatham House is engaged on a multi-project exploration of the links between natural resources and conflict. The research aims to generate new thinking on a range of underexplored issues including: the intersections between effective environmental management and peace-building; the ways in which the international community can or should intervene in international natural resource disputes; and whether the extractive industries can go beyond ‘do no harm’ and actively contribute to peace in fragile and conflict-affected situations.