The management of natural resources is one of the most critical challenges facing developing countries today. The exploitation of non-renewable natural resources, including oil, gas, minerals and timber has often been cited as a key factor in triggering, escalating or sustaining violent conflicts around the globe. Furthermore, increasingly the pressure on and competition for diminishing renewable resources, such as land, water and fisheries – a trend exacerbated by degradation, population growth and climate change – is driving new conflicts and obstructing the peaceful resolution of existing ones. There is increasing recognition that the challenges facing effective natural resource management (NRM) are heightened by the complex interplay between natural resources on the one hand, and economic, political, cultural and social dynamics on the other.
In recognition of these concerns, the EU partnered with the UN Interagency Framework Team for Preventive Action in late 2008. The outcome of this partnership is an innovative project entitled 'Toolkit and Guidance for Preventing and Managing Land and Natural Resources Conflict' – financed by the Peace-building Partnership component of the EU's Instrument for Stability under the auspices and coordination of the Framework Team and the EU Service for Foreign Policy Instruments.
The objective of the partnership is to build the capacity of the UN, the EU and their in-country counterparts to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts related to natural resources. This aim is grounded in an understanding that natural resources can underpin development, stability and livelihoods; natural resources that are mismanaged, however, can also contribute to negative outcomes such as poor growth, corruption, erosion of state authority and destructive conflict. The partnership therefore seeks to foster good practices of NRM, including:
- Reconciling interests of extractive industries, local authorities and local communities through systematic dialogue and participation of all actors in land and NRM.
- Preventing forced displacement, tensions and violent conflict around land and natural resources through improved capacities for: conflict resolution; security of land tenure; local development; benefit-sharing; transparency and harmonization; and alignment of national policies with international standards.
- Assuring that the population benefits from and has access to natural resources.
The first outcomes of this project are an inventory of existing tools and capacity within the UN system and a set of Guidance Notes on addressing NRM and conflict prevention, accompanying training material and an online, interactive training module. The subject matter of the Guidance Notes cover: (i) land and conflict, (ii) extractive industries, (iii) renewable resources and conflict, (iv) strengthening capacities for natural resource management, (v) conflict prevention in resource rich economies, (vi) capacity inventory for natural resource management
Based on the Guidance Notes, the second outcome of the project is to deliver a series of trainings and workshops modules for UN and EU country staff, as well as local partners, to enhance the knowledge and skills needed to understand, anticipate, prevent and mitigate potential conflicts over land and natural resources. Participants will acquire the skills to formulate and operationalize preventive measures in relation to NRM and conflict.
In countries where special NRM and conflict challenges are identified, the project will aim to provide focused technical assistance for the development of conflict prevention strategies. This could include deployment of staff and other experts to assist the UN Country Team (UNCT), and the Resident Coordinator (RC) or Peace and Development Advisor, in analyzing options and designing programmes. Where needed, dedicated follow-up measures will also be undertaken on an interagency basis, in partnership with the EU.