Resource scarcity can be explained through three principals. First is basic human security requires adequate resources in the specific location. The human population is unable to meet its basic requirements to sustain human life. This is minimalist approach and needs a minimum amount of resources.

Second, it can be defined as existing resource availability to meet the increased demand of growing population. The resources in the case will be considered scarce if there are inadequate resources to meet expected demands of the population. Another approach is maximalist that includes both human and non-human demands of a particular resource. For example, water is needed for both human and animals for their survival.

The conditions in Guinea are alarming. Guinea has accommodated thousands of refugees coming from the conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia for about two decades. Refugees are settled in both urban and rural areas. Consequently, the hosting of many refugees the land use has been altered. The excessive use of uncultivated land leads to soil depletion. The increasing demand of arable land has increased the deforestation and lead to the shortage of water resources. It causes loss of biodiversity due to loss of habitat for local flora and fauna of the respective areas. The over-consumption of resources may lead to conflict between indigenous and refugees in Guinea. 

According to the neo-Malthusians school of thought the increase in population growth, environmental degradation, resource depletion, and unequal resource distribution collectively causes poverty and income inequality in world’s least developed countries. The deprivations of resources can turn into grievances by increasing the risks of the societal conflict. The Internal disputes are increasing due to local environmental degradation. For instance, the factory emissions pollute the main freshwater sources.  The Ethnic clashes can emerge if the migration of the population will increase demand for scarce resources such as water or timber.

The potential of violent conflicts on scarce resources is growing with the increase in population. Conflicts mostly damage infrastructure like pipelines or oil fields to decrease the productivity of energy sector. As a result, it affects the economies through conflict. In addition, poor management and political instability lead to economic decline. The people in conflict blamed their governments, businesses and other groups as they get the benefit from the illicit use of natural resources.  The natural resources are controlled by powerful groups which increase the wealth gap between the elites and marginal groups. The growing gap will cause grievances in local population and they become susceptible to environmental damage.[1]

Some countries have tried to depoliticize natural resources by adopting a co-management approach that indulges the local community, the government and other stakeholders in the management of the resources. Guatemala has a long history of political conflict over the land ownership. The Guatemalan border with Mexico, nearly 50 percent of the forests are lost due to the past thirty years in form of commercial logging, cattle ranching, oil exploration, illegal drug plantings, and roads and caused deforestation. Guatemala is using the biosphere-reserve model to address the environmental conflict that is changed into political conflict as it fails to prevent it in an effective manner.

The biosphere-reserve model tries to resolve environmental degradation and poverty in developing countries by maintaining a balance between the environmental protection and needs of a growing population on natural resources. The biosphere-reserve model decreases the role of politics at the local and regional landscapes by developing an institutional framework. It will make the local farmers responsible for degradation and conservation of their land. This will prevent the poverty in Guatemala. The project is the collaboration of the Guatemalan government, NGOs, international aid partners and the local population along with the migrants living in the region.

The rapid increase in demand for natural resources is changing the dynamics of conflicts to make conflict management and resolution difficult in the contemporary world. However, globalization promotes the resolution of conflict by forcing states and communities to work together to sustain peace. The natural resources are required for life and growth. The resource scarcity, environmental degradation, and unsustainable consumption may cause violent conflicts. Furthermore, there is a dire need to address natural resource issues to manage the conflicts.  There is need to deal with the issues of resource scarcity by using different approaches to resolve the conflicts.[2]

According to the Thomas Homer-Dixon, the impact of scarcity of water, cropland, and pasture and climate change will increase conflict in Africa and Asia. Homer-Dixon is the view that resource scarcity is because of the decrease in the supply of resources for example, the depletion of a fish due to overfishing. The increase in demand for natural resources because of overpopulation has changed the modes of production or consumption. Similarly, the institutional factors such as the privatization of resources are another contributing factor in provoking conflict between locals and foreign investors. Homer-Dixon predicts that resource scarcity will induce violent civil conflicts in Asia and Africa in coming years.[3]

The linkage between resource scarcities and conflict is often overlooked by major power players. Climate change is aggravating the chances of conflict by exposing people to shortage of resources for meeting their needs.  To conclude, the warning and response system are effective mean in monitoring and warning local people to prevent violent conflict. According to the recent report integration of environmental management and natural resources can ensure stability. Therefore, it is essential to address the issue of resource scarcity and the prevention of violent conflicts. It requires the attention of all the stakeholders at the international level to give due consideration to the distribution of the natural resources justly.


[1] Renewable Resources  and Conflict," Welcome to the United Nations, accessed September 19, 2017http://www.un.org/en/events/environmentconflictday/pdf/GN_Renewable_ Consultation.pdf.

[2] B. Klem, "Dealing with Scarcity and Violent Conflict," Clingendael Institute | Clingendael, last modified 2003, https://www.clingendael.nl/sites/default/files/20031000_cru_working_paper_24.pdf

[3] Richard A. Mathew, "Resource Scarcity: Responding to the Security Challenge," International Peace Institute, last modified 2008, https://www.ipinst.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/rscar0408.pdf.

Mehwish Akram

Mehwish Akram holds masters degree in International Relations and currently doing M Phil in Political Science. Her areas of interest are Democracy, Political theory and Environmental politics .

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