Conflict and Natural Resources in the Middle-East

In cooperation with the Centre for Conflict Studies, University of Utrecht

The programme ‘Conflict and Natural Resources in the Middle-East’ seeks to make an innovative contribution to existing theories and frameworks related to ‘conflict and natural resources’. For this purpose, it will collect empirical evidence on natural resource conflicts in non-violent contexts as well as settings of armed conflict in the Middle-East. The questions which are addressed are not so much questions about causality, but questions about the evolution of such conflicts, the process dynamics, the nature of these conflicts, the discrepancy between de jure and de facto situations, institutional arrangements and governance questions. The programme focuses on 4 sub-themes:

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‘Conflicts’ related to the use and management of, access to, and control over water and land. This includes topics such as (grievances regarding) inequitable distribution; marginalization, resource capture and ecological marginalization, but also the risk of increasing conflicts due to demographic changes (migration), climate change, or changing water levels due to infrastructural works. Such conflicts are always multi-faceted and path-dependent. Therefore, similar to insights from political ecology, we will also look at historical processes of the dynamic transformation of nature and social groups which has contributed to these conflicts.

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The role of the environment and natural resources in ‘strategies of war’. This research topic has a strong foundation in political geography and conflict studies. It includes topics such as deliberate environmental or infrastructural destruction and the de-facto denial of access to land and water and other resources, which are essential for the economic viability of communities and societies. It includes, though to a much lesser extent, insights from political economy.

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Realities of natural resource management and environmental governance preceding, during and after episodes of armed conflict. This research topic also includes research on the effectiveness and legitimacy of institutional arrangements for natural resource management in countries affected by armed conflict. This research is closely related to ‘governance studies’, and intends to look critically at the assumptions underlying such research.

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Initiatives that create a sustainable basis for peace (environmental peace making or peace building initiatives through shared management of natural resources). It looks at institutional mechanisms for cooperation and conflict resolution, in particular at the process dynamics and impacts of these mechanisms and arrangements and the conditions under which these arrangements have been established and are functioning.

At present, a number of projects have been initiated, in cooperation with other partners:

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Conflict and Environment in North-Lebanon: A longitudinal study of environmental and socio-economic mitigation processes in conflict-affected areas. This research programme aims to identify opportunities for post-war approaches for vulnerability-reduction towards, by and within affected communities in the coastal area of North Lebanon.

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An evaluation of multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSPs) in the context of state-building in fragile states, with a case study in the Palestinian water sector. CSTM collaborates in this research programme as partner of the Centre for Conflict Studies, University of Utrecht.

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SHARE: a research programme on shared aquifer management (Israel/Palestine). The overall goal of this research programme is to support peace building through enhancement and institutionalization of cooperation on water between the parties. This programme is initiated in cooperation with the International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC), a UNESCO institute.

For more information, please contact: Irna van der Molen (p.vandermolen@utwente.nl) or +31-53-4893542.