Natural resources and conflict

Natural resources are often an underlying driver of conflict and can be used to finance the activities of armed forces and groups. Studies show that countries where natural resources have been used to sustain conflict are twice as likely to relapse within five years of a peace agreement. At the same time, natural resources provide opportunities for employment, dialogue and reconciliation for recovery. To address these issues, UNDP and UNEP have been working on a Joint Initiative on DDR and Natural Resources since 2009 to raise awareness about these linkages and provide policy and programming guidance to practitioners.

Use of natural resources for armed forces and groups

Armed forces and groups can use natural resources as a means to finance activities, as a grievance to support recruitment and as a means to claim land and ownership of an area. The relationship between armed forces and groups and natural resources can provide DDR practitioners with important information regarding their structure, means of organization and violent behaviours towards civilians. Effectively addressing the role of natural resources could lead to more effective and sustainable DDR programmes overall.

Opportunities for reintegration through natural resource management

Natural resource management can provide prospects for employment and support livelihoods as part of reintegration. Along with wider recovery initiatives, natural resource management can provide economic reintegration opportunities for ex-combatants and associated groups that allow them to meaningfully engage in their communities.  This can also promote social cohesion and provide an opportunity for dialogue and peacebuilding to take root.








Incorporating natural resources into DDR programmes

In order to fully incorporate the risks and opportunities presented by natural resources into DDR programmes, the following points should be considered:

  • Integrate natural resources into conflict analysis and assessments by examining the role of natural resources in the conflict economy and activities of armed forces and groups, paying special attention to gender dimensions.
  • Support a coordinated approach to breaking the linkages between armed forces and groups by working with UN peacekeepers and other actors.
  • Ensure that land and natural resource tenure is considered when planning reintegration, especially for women and groups with specific needs.
  • Incorporate natural resources in the planning and design of reintegration programmes to capture employment opportunities and include natural resource management experts in the planning and design team.
  • Link to external partners with expertise in natural resource management sectors for programme assistance.
  • Promote value chain development in reintegration that complies with due diligence procedures for conflict resources.
  • Include dispute resolution for conflicts over natural resources in reintegration programmes.