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Natural Resources and Armed Conflicts


Credits: 4 ECTS

Second semester

Elective Courses




Both scholarly research and media reports have made a link between natural resources and the onset, duration, and intensity of armed conflicts. Abundance in valuable commodities, such as diamonds or gold, is a potential source of revenue for warring parties and can motivate actors to start or prolong a conflict. At the same time, the scarcity of other natural resources (e.g. water or land) can also contribute to the outbreak of violent conflicts. However, the picture is not always that grim: in some cases, natural resource abundance or scarcity has stimulated cooperation and helped preventing or ending armed conflicts. This course’s aim is to look on the relationship between natural resources and armed conflicts. First, it will show how they can contribute to the outbreak of armed conflicts. Is resource abundance a curse or a blessing? Does scarcity lead to more conflicts, or exactly to more cooperation? Then, the course will discuss the role of environmental factors in ongoing armed conflicts. This section will shed some light on the role of ‘conflict resources’ in war economies. Finally, the course will look on the role natural resources can play in ending armed conflicts and peacebuilding.

The sessions of the course will combine lecture and seminar elements. In the first part, the professor will explain the key concepts related to the topic of the class. Then, students will give short oral presentations of empirical cases. Professor and students will discuss together the literature to see how it applies to these cases.  


Class participation: Students are required to attend class and to read the provided readings. During class, the mandatory literature will only be briefly discussed to have more time for discussions and other interactive elements (10% of the final grade).

Midterm paper: In order to support the writing-process of the final paper, students are expected to submit before seminar 7 a paper with a minimum of 500 words. In this midterm paper, the students are supposed to explain the chosen topic and provide a first outline of their final paper. This structure will allow the instructor to give some feedback along the way (10% of the final grade). 

Presentation: During the course, each student will give an oral presentation in one of the classes in which he/she discusses a research question about an empirical case related to the session’s topic (10-12 minutes). The syllabus proposes two possible questions for each session, but students can also suggest their own topics. The topic has to be approved in written form by the professor until, ultimately, two weeks before the talk. (20% of the final grade).

Simulation: In the final class, the students will simulate in groups a resource-driven conflict. The students are expected to gather some information about the case prior to the class and to write as a group a brief policy paper for the actor they play (500 words) (10% of the final grade).

Final paper: The students will be asked to write a paper of 3,000 words (plus or minus 10 percent leeway) about a topic of their choice (within the scope of the course). This final paper will be a continuation of the midterm paper (50 % of the final grade).