In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Environmental Peacebuilding

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Fundamental Works
  • Journals
  • Edited Volumes
  • Quantitative Studies
  • Peace Parks
  • Critical Perspectives
  • Areas of Application
  • Relations to Other Fields

International Relations Environmental Peacebuilding
Tobias Ide
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0290


Interest in the environmental dimensions of peacebuilding has emerged from the early 2000s onward due to two developments. First, with an increasing number of peacebuilding interventions by the international community and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), addressing environmental issues in post-conflict contexts has become a major concern. This is especially so as water and land are crucial for (re-)building livelihoods while modern wars produce considerable environmental damage. Second, an increasing number of scholars and policymakers are expressing concerns about the security implications of global environmental change, with the impact of climate change on violent conflict being a particularly salient topic. A focus on environmental cooperation and its potential peace-enhancing effects provides a complementary analytical perspective that can counter determinist and securitizing environmental conflict narratives. Environmental peacebuilding can be broadly defined as efforts to build more peaceful relations through conflict prevention, resolution, and recovery processes that integrate the management of environmental issues. In this context, peace refers to negative peace (the absence of physical violence) as well as positive peace (the absence of structural violence and the inconceivability of physical violence). Environmental peacebuilding can take place at the macro level (e.g., between states) as well as on the meso level and the micro level (e.g., between or within local communities). Environmental peacebuilding includes four sets of practices (which are not mutually exclusive): First, with resources like water or land becoming increasingly scarce in some regions and oil or mining projects often being heavily contested, preventing conflicts over natural resources is increasingly important. Second, in post-conflict contexts, natural resources must be managed well, for instance to reduce land-related grievances or prevent conflict financing through resource revenues. Third, climate change mitigation, adaptation to environmental change, and disaster risk reduction (DRR) can reduce grievances and promote community coherence. Finally, joint and severe environmental problems can act as entry points for cooperation across political divides, hence supporting processes of trust building and deepening interdependence (the respective set of practices is often termed environmental peacemaking). These practices can also fail, however, implying that they have no impact on environmental problems or peace processes. In the worst case, environmental peacebuilding practices can even facilitate new forms of exclusion, conflict, and environmental degradation. Over the past two decades, interest in environmental peacebuilding has grown remarkably, not at least due to the intensification of environmental problems and recent trends toward a less peaceful world. As a result of these developments, the literature on environmental peacebuilding has grown dramatically.

General Overviews

In comparison to the environmental security or climate conflict fields, relatively few overviews on environmental peacebuilding are available. The best way to stay up to date is to follow the homepage of the Environmental Peacebuilding Association, which contains comprehensive and current information on the field. Dresse, et al. 2019 as well as Ide 2019 are, to date, the only review articles on environmental peacebuilding. Both provide good introductions to the state of the art of the research field. An edited volume, Swain and Öjendal 2018 covers various core topics and regional case studies. A brief and forward-looking critique of the state of knowledge is articulated in Krampe 2017.

  • Dresse, Anaïs, Itay Fischhendler, Jonas Østergaard Nielsen, and Dimitrios Zikos. “Environmental Peacebuilding: Towards a Theoretical Framework.” Cooperation and Conflict 54.1 (2019): 99–119.

    An excellent review of the environmental peacebuilding literature with a convincing conceptual view.

  • Environmental Peacebuilding Association. n.d. Environmental Peacebuilding.

    The website provides a comprehensive e-library and a newsletter as well as information on relevant jobs and events.

  • Ide, Tobias. “The Impact of Environmental Cooperation on Peacemaking: Definitions, Mechanisms and Empirical Evidence.” International Studies Review 21.3 (2019): 327–346.

    Another excellent review that systematizes evidence on when and through which mechanisms environmental cooperation facilitates various forms of peace.

  • Krampe, Florian. “Towards Sustainable Peace: A New Research Agenda for Post-conflict Natural Resource Management.” Global Environmental Politics 17.4 (2017): 1–8.

    A constructive critique of knowledge gaps in the research field, addressing, among other topics, conceptual shortfalls and a lack of comparative work.

  • Swain, Ashok, and Joakim Öjendal, eds. Routledge Handbook of Environmental Conflict and Peacebuilding. New York: Routledge, 2018.

    A fine edited volume containing chapters by leading scholars on various core issues and regional examples of environmental peacebuilding.

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