Resource management and their ownership have given rise to many conflicts in history. Natural resources such as land, timber and water have often been the bone of contention between the powerful and the weak. The United Nations (UN) believes that such conflicts can be resolved and prevented through mediation. With this focus in mind, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Department of Political Affairs have published a guide for mediation professionals with good practices and strategies.
The landmark document, titled “Natural Resources and Conflict: A Guide for Mediation Practitioners”, draws on decades of experience pertaining to good practices on the successful mediation of resource conflicts—whether those disagreements are violent, have the potential to turn violent, or are part of a larger political struggle, including within a peace process. It is based on the field experiences of mediators and mediation experts, specifically those with natural resource expertise.
“Mediation is a vital tool in preventing and resolving conflicts. Yet, for various reasons, it is underutilised in the context of conflicts involving natural resources. This guide helps bridge the gap. It intends to equip mediators and mediation practitioners with practical advice, tools and strategies they may need,” UN under-secretary general for political affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, said in a press release.
Jan Eliasson, UN deputy secretary-general, notes in the foreword to the guide that it bridges the gap between the technical and political aspects by providing a much-needed conflict resolution framework for disputes that centre on natural resources. “It can be applied in localised or transboundary conflicts, as well as natural resource disputes that arise in the context of broader peace negotiations,” he says.
The guide can be used to address conflicts involving governments, communities, companies and non-governmental organisations. The governments of Finland and Italy and the European Union have also contributed to the report.
UNEP executive director Achim Steiner notes that the guide is a timely analysis.
“With climate change, rapid population growth and environmental degradation placing new pressures on environmental and social systems, effectively preventing and resolving resource conflicts has never been more urgent. Mediation can be particularly effective in helping parties identify ways to maximise and share resource benefits,” he adds.
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