Improving Natural Resource Management in Post-Conflict Countries

Natural resources can — and increasingly do — play a central role in building a sustainable peace in post-conflict societies. Many conflicts were directly related to or fueled by valuable natural resources such as timber or minerals, and the transition to peace in fragile post-conflict societies requires a careful consideration of natural resource management. An inability of governments to deliver key services (water, food, shelter, livelihoods, and other resource-dependent essentials for life) can destabilize weakened societies recovering from conflict. Unresolved issues surrounding land tenure administration can reignite tensions. In addition to eliminating potential obstacles to peace, natural resource management can also provide opportunities for confidence-building measures as well as models for more effective and equitable governance. The Environmental Law Institute’s work on natural resource management in post-conflict countries focuses on both the role that natural resource management can play in peacebuilding as well as the sustainable management of those resources.

ELI, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the University of Tokyo, and the Specialist Group on Armed Conflict and the Environment of the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law are partnering to assess experiences in post-conflict natural resource management and peacebuilding. This project engages practitioners and scholars to highlight both successful and problematic examples, contrast the approaches and contexts, identify lessons learned, and develop a roadmap for strengthening post-conflict natural resource management and peacebuilding. Case studies are focusing on particular issues (e.g., land tenure or delivery of water services) in a specific post-conflict context. In addition, thematic analyses examine cross-cutting issues, such as the role of natural resources in peace agreements, high-value natural resources (e.g., diamonds, oil, timber, gas), land tenure, water, and governance. For more information, please visit the project website, Environmental Peacebuilding.

The Environmental Law Institute has also worked extensively with partners to develop forestry law and policy in Liberia as it recovered from decades of civil war. As part of the Liberia Forest Initiative (LFI) and with support from the U.S. Forest Service, ELI played a leading role in assisting Liberia’s post-war government to develop and enact the National Forestry Reform Law of 2006. The landmark law seeks to prevent corruption and mismanagement in the logging industry. Passage of the new law marked a signal moment in Liberia’s effort to turn the corner on a recent past of the Charles Taylor regime when “blood timber” fueled local and regional conflicts. ELI worked closely with in-country partners and international donors to craft the new law which provides for the sustainable and beneficial use of Liberia’s forest resources, among the most treasured in Africa. The law’s adoption gave the United Nations Security Council confidence to lift its three-year ban on exports of Liberian timber. ELI subsequently worked with the LFI and other in-country partners to develop a set of 10 regulations to implement the new forestry law, model concession agreements, and capacity building to implement the new forestry regime. ELI has also provided assistance in the early development of a new Wildlife Law.

In recent years, the Environmental Law Institute has provided technical assistance and built capacity in several post-conflict countries. In Afghanistan, ELI provided comments on a new forestry law. In the early 1990s, ELI helped secure environmental protection and facilitate cooperation around the Gulf of Aqaba through its recommendations during U.S./Israel/Jordan negotiations which led to the Gulf of Aqaba Treaty. ELI staff have also provided technical assistance to other post-conflict countries, including Democratic Republic of the Congo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and South Sudan.