Resource wars: what do they mean ?

Today’s debates about the ‘securitisation’ of resources and commodities are calibrated within the context of massive ‘criminalisation’ as opposed to conflict and war. By deciding what is legal and illegal in terms of trade, governments bestow upon themselves the power to control commerce but tend to be better suited to fight conflicts and war rather than ‘criminalisation’ with its vast array of grinding legal and political issues leading to unpredictable outcomes.

However, failure to stem ‘criminalisation’ provokes a public perception that governments do not care and thereby are abetting the trade and attendant cruelty and misery, further undermining trust in politicians.

Globalisation rests on a central paradox: the same forces which enable market liberalisation and deregulation that promotes wealth creation and social order equally foster ‘criminalisation’ of international transactions, the ‘shadow trade’ and the potential for ‘network war’.

‘Resource wars’ is a meaningless concept by virtue not only because of its lack of clarity but also because of the absence of resources being a primary driver in war and conflict and the same applies to ‘commodity conflicts’. However, this is not the same thing as saying that resources and commodities have not played a role in wars and commodities, as demonstrated in United Nations reports.

Instead the conflicts around resources and commodities will be framed within ‘environmental confrontations’ and ‘criminalisation’. These confrontations, whether a specifically local campaign to stop a mining company, an international campaign such as to stop whaling or to stop rhino horn sales, are driven by the passion and will of the people assisted by the power of NGO’s and special interest groups, making the burden on governments of initiating just due process even heavier.

Additionally ecological protection is adopting the mechanics of the market-place with initiatives like The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation programme (REDD), and ‘catch share’ schemes that encourage long-term sustainable management of fish stocks.

Furthermore peace accords have compressed the open warfare in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sudan and the egregious examples of ‘commodity conflicts’ that occurred in the 1990’s are no longer visible; however the intervening decades have given time for the ‘networks’ of commodity trading to coalesce, harden and expand both within and without the ‘shadow economy’.  Jasper Humphreys, Marjan Centre

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