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Resource Scarcity and Armed Conflict: A Qualitative Comparative Analysis of Social, Political and Economic Conditions

Judith Bretthauer
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Judith Bretthauer
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Open Panel

Abstract

“The Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change”, Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General, stated in the Washington Post in 2007. The idea that environmental change and resource scarcity can lead to conflict has become a wide-spread assumption. Yet, academic studies on the issue provide contradicting conclusions: While there are strong theoretic arguments and qualitative case studies supporting the link between resource scarcity and armed intra-state conflict, quantitative studies contradict these findings, finding no or weak links between resource scarcity and armed conflict. This study aims to solve this contradiction by arguing that the social, economic and political conditions in countries that suffer from resource scarcity play an important role in determining whether conflict erupts over scarce resources. Employing a fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis (fs-QCA), I compare 22 resource-scarce cases with conflict like Burundi, Algeria, Peru and Lebanon and cases without conflict like Malawi, Jamaica, South Korea and Jordan. I will focus on conditions drawn from the wider conflict studies literature and case studies: regime type, political corruption, poverty, dependence on agriculture and agricultural decline, ethnic heterogeneity and education. The research provides insights into the factors that mediate the relationship between resource scarcity and armed conflict and reveal the specific sets of social, economic and political conditions under which resource scarcity leads to armed conflict. This will contribute to the literature on environmental conflict by explaining the contradictory evidence of qualitative and quantitative studies.