31 January 2013

Africa: ISS Paper 243 - Besides Greed and Grievances, Natural Resource Characteristics and Conflicts in Africa, Andrews Atta-Asamoah


This paper addresses the debate on natural resources and conflict from the point that conceptualisations of the linkages between conflicts and natural resources have generally concentrated on the human aspects of the relationship.

By so doing, the nature of natural resources and the influence their inherent and locational characteristics have on the roles they play in conflicts are seldom taken into account.

Drawing on African conflict experience, the paper adduces evidence to establish an argument that this approach is one-sided for a proper understanding of the issues involved, and maintains that a more holistic understanding and conceptualisation should appreciate the role of natural resource characteristics.

It posits that a given resource has a higher chance of fuelling conflict when it has characteristics that require less specialised skills for its exploitation and refinement, has high liquidity, and is easily portable and therefore 'smugglable'.

Andrews Atta-Asamoah is a senior researcher in the Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis Division of the ISS. He is also a doctoral candidate at the Political Studies Department of the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

This paper was made possible through the generous funding of the Government of the Netherlands and the Swiss Embassy (Pretoria). In addition, general Institute funding is provided by the governments of Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

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