The general topic of conflict and insecurity
The reading presented touch on the general topic of conflict and insecurity. Further analysis of their contents however shows that the articles are each making a case for the theme of resource inequity and scarcity as a cause of conflict. The theme of resource inequity as a cause of conflict may however be analyzed and reflected upon from two major perspectives. The first perspective has to do with human-caused inequity in resources. The article by Gleditsch (1998) for example touched on cases where conflicts arise over scarce resources including minerals and fish. A more critical analysis and assessment of the issue of scarcity of resources show that they lead to conflict in most cases where some citizens feel cheated in the distribution of gains associated with the resources. It is common knowledge that in most countries, such natural resources are under the absolute dominion of the government to harness them for the collective development of the country. Regrettably, there are cases where sections of society feel they have been deprived of the national cake due to cases of financial mismanagement and corruption. Meanwhile, there is a saying that a hungry person is an angry person and so in their agitations, they may end up in violent reactions and conflicts. Consequently, even though Ellingsen (1998) focuses on scarcity of resources as a contributor to conflicts, the real issue is that if these limited resources are well managed by authorities, they may not be reasons why people pick up guns and begin to fight.
In the second perspective of resource inequity being a cause of conflict, the writers looked at the case of natural causes of scarcity and absence of resources. For example Nel (2008) stressed that issues of natural disasters pose risk of violent civil conflict. In the work of Nel, it emerges that there are three main theoretical perspectives from which the link between natural disasters and violent civil conflicts can be drawn. These three areas are motives, incentives and opportunities. The issue of motives explains the immediate effect of the disaster on people, including widespread suffering, destruction of livelihood, increased poverty, and rising income inequality. Incentives on the other hand focuses on how the people respond to the motives or causes created by the disasters. A major incentive emphasized in the article is increased competition for scarce resources. Opportunities on the other hand emphasizes on how the incentives create chances for conflicts to occur. From this perspective, it is seen that state capacities often become stretched, leading to declining legitimacy of the state. With the core relationships between natural disasters and conflicts, as well as scarcity of resources and conflicts established, Buhaug, Gleditsch and Theisen (2008) lamented that climate change can lead to both natural disasters and scarcity of resources. Barnett (2000) also opined that environmental degradation can bring about scarcity of resources.
It would be admitted that there is a potential linkages between natural disasters (Nel, 2008) and events like climate change (Buhaug, Gleditsch & Theisen, 2008) and environmental degradation (Barnett, 2000) and conflict. The admission notwithstanding, a firm position can also be taken that if the remaining resources caused by natural disasters and events are managed well the state, the cases of conflict associated with them can be controlled. Indeed if citizens can trust leaders for equity distribution of earnings from the management of natural resources, there is only a little chance that the citizens would want to take the law into their own hands in fighting for concessions within the resource fields.
- Barnett, J. (2000). Destabilizing the environment – conflict thesis. Review of International Studies, 26, 271-288
- Buhaug, H. Gleditsch, N. P. & Theisen, O. M. (2008). Implications of climate change for armed conflict. Washington DC: The World Bank
- Ellingsen, W. (1998). Beyond environmental security: Causal pathways to conflict. Journal of Peace Research, 35(3), 299-317
- Gleditsch, N. (1998). Armed conflict and the environment: A critique of the literature. Journal of Peace Research, 35(3), 381-400
- Righarts, M. (2008). Natural disasters and the risk of violent civil conflict. International Studies Quarterly, 52, 159-185
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