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

Introduction

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fundamental Works

Early works on the topic often conceived environmental peacebuilding as a necessary addition to or even an approach competing with dominant environmental conflict perspectives. Conca 2001 is the first solid theoretical treatment of environmental peacebuilding but lacks empirical evidence. Conca and Dabelko 2002 introduces the concept of environmental peacemaking, laying the foundation for the field of environmental peacebuilding and also providing some first case studies. The articles in Matthew, et al. 2002 are fundamental for debates about environmental conflict prevention. Using transnational peace parks as an example, Lejano 2006 develops a formal theoretical model of environmental peacebuilding. Carius 2006 uses a broad set of cases to bring to the fore new conceptual and empirical insights. An edited volume, Ali 2007 advances the research field significantly by developing fresh conceptual insights and empirical evidence on peace parks, that is, conservation cooperation to enhance international relations. The report commissioned by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) (Matthew, et al. 2009) as well as the review of UNEP’s post-conflict assessments (Conca and Wallance 2009) set the stage for research on environmental peacebuilding in post-conflict (and usually post–civil war) contexts.

Journals

No journal is as yet specifically dedicated to environmental peacebuilding. However, several periodicals are well known for carrying forward general debates on environmental security, including on environmental peacebuilding. Global Environmental Change is a highly ranked, interdisciplinary journal open to a broad range of ontological, theoretical, and methodical approaches. Political Geography has also published high-quality work from a range of different fields, mostly in geography and political science. Geoforum usually features research that is grounded in critical geographical research, while World Development is more geared toward development research. The Journal of Peace Research is a leading international relations outlet with a preference for quantitative and mix-methods research. Cooperation and Conflict is well known for publishing excellent work on peacebuilding, including its environmental dimensions. Global Environmental Politics also contains works relevant for environmental peacebuilding from a broad range of fields in political science. International Affairs is a prestigious international relations journal currently expanding its content on environmental peacebuilding.

Edited Volumes

Conca and Dabelko 2002 have laid the foundation for environmental peacebuilding research. Swain and Öjendal 2018 provides a recent overview about various regions and core topics. Between 2011 and 2016, the Environmental Peacebuilding Initiative (now Environmental Peacebuilding Association) published six edited volumes on environmental peacebuilding, containing a wide range of case studies in conflict and post-conflict contexts with significant input from practitioners: Lujala and Rustad 2012 (on high-value resources); Jensen and Lonergan 2012 (on environmental assessments and resource management); Unruh and Williams 2013 (on land); Weinthal, et al. 2014 (on water); Young and Goldman 2015 (on livelihoods); and Bruch, et al. 2016 (on governance). All six volumes can be downloaded free of charge from the association’s homepage.

Quantitative Studies

While quantitative studies are common in related fields like environmental security or climate change and conflict, so far very few cross-case, statistical analyses of large numbers of cases in environmental peacebuilding research have appeared. Such studies are crucial in testing the conceptual and empirical insights from early environmental peacebuilding research for a broader set of cases. Barquet, et al. 2014 (for some regions) as well as Ide and Detges 2018 find a positive impact of transboundary conservation and international water cooperation on the relations between neighboring states. Ide 2018 confirms their results by showing how environmental cooperation can facilitate the relaxation of international tensions. Other quantitative studies do not explicitly refer to environmental peacebuilding, but they still provide relevant insights, especially on post-conflict settings. Blattman and Annan 2016 focuses on the role of agriculture in reducing the risk of civil war reoccurrence. Keels and Mason 2019 finds that the provision of land reforms in peace agreements reduces the risk of peace failure. Mitchell and Zawahri 2015 identifies features of international river treaties that make cooperation and conflict prevention more likely. According to Linke, et al. 2015, dialogue between communities during droughts decreases the readiness to use violence in Kenya.

  • Barquet, Karina, Päivi Lujala, and Jan Ketil Rød. “Transboundary Conservation and Militarized Interstate Disputes.” Political Geography 42.1 (2014): 1–11.

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    The first quantitative study on the topic in which the authors use advanced statistics to disentangle the interlinkages between interstate disputes and transboundary conversation cooperation.

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  • Blattman, Christopher, and Jeannie Annan. “Can Employment Reduce Lawlessness and Rebellion? A Field Experiment with High-Risk Men in a Fragile State.” American Political Science Review 110.1 (2016): 1–17.

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    A comprehensive investigation of agricultural support programs for ex-combatants in Liberia.

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  • Ide, Tobias. “Does Environmental Peacemaking between States Work? Insights on Cooperative Environmental Agreements and Reconciliation in International Rivalries.” Journal of Peace Research 55.3 (2018): 351–365.

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    A multi-method study in which the author uses statistics, qualitative comparative analysis (QCA), and case studies to analyze the impact of environmental cooperation on international rivalries.

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  • Ide, Tobias, and Adrien Detges. “International Water Cooperation and Environmental Peacemaking.” Global Environmental Politics 18.4 (2018): 63–84.

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    Using advanced statistics, the authors find that water cooperation contributes to positive peace in shared river basins.

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  • Keels, Erik, and T. David Mason. “Seeds of Peace? Land Reform and Civil War Recurrence Following Negotiated Settlements.” Cooperation and Conflict 54.1 (2019): 44–63.

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    A study of land-related provisions in peace agreements and civil war reoccurrence. It is important for, but unfortunately does not relate to the environmental peacebuilding literature.

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  • Linke, Andrew M., John O’Loughlin, J. Terrence McCabe, Jaroslav Tir, and Frank D. W. Witmer. “Rainfall Variability and Violence in Rural Kenya: Investigating the Effects of Drought and the Role of Local Institutions with Survey Data.” Global Environmental Change 34.1 (2015): 35–47.

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    The authors use an innovative survey-based research design to disentangle the links among rainfall, resource scarcity, and conflict in Kenya.

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  • Mitchell, Sara McLaughlin, and Neda A. Zawahri. “The Effectiveness of Treaty Design in Addressing Water Disputes.” Journal of Peace Research 52.2 (2015): 187–200.

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    Contributes to wider debates about water conflict and environmental peacebuilding by assessing which characteristics of water treaties reduce the risk of international water conflict.

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Case Studies

Case studies are the currently dominant method in environmental peacebuilding research. They are important to test existing theoretical propositions, advance our conceptual understanding, and provide research-based insights to practitioners.

Cases Studies on the Middle East

The Middle East is by far the most well-studied region in environmental peacebuilding research. Reasons for this might include the geopolitical relevance of the region, predominant water scarcity, the abundance of conflicts, and the relatively easy access to many countries for researchers. Harari and Roseman 2008 introduces the perhaps best-known case of environmental peacebuilding, the Good Water Neighbors (GWN) project of EcoPeace (formerly known as Friends of the Earth Middle East) in Israel, Jordan, and Palestine. Ide 2017 and especially Djernaes, et al. 2015 discuss GWN rather positively, while Reynolds 2017 provides a more critical perspective. The Red Sea–Dead Sea Canal is another environmental peacebuilding initiative between these three countries but suffers from various shortcomings, as shown in Aggestam and Sundell 2016 as well as in Fischhendler and Tenenboim-Weinblatt 2019. Other Israeli-Palestinian projects are stronger, led by civil society actors. Roulin, et al. 2017 discusses bird conservation, and Schoenfeld, et al. 2014 treats environmental education in this context. For other examples in the Middle East, the focus remains on interstate relations. Abukhater 2013 provides an excellent discussion of water issues during the Israeli-Jordanian peace negotiations in the early 1990s, and Sümer 2014 outlines the multiple relationships between water and peace in the Euphrates-Tigris Basin.

  • Abukhater, Ahmed. Water as a Catalyst for Peace: Transboundary Water Management and Conflict Resolution. London: Earthscan, 2013.

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    The author provides in-depth insights into the discussion of water issues in the Israeli-Jordanian peace process and compares the case to water relations between Lesotho and South Africa.

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  • Aggestam, Karin, and Anna Sundell. “Depoliticizing Water Conflict: Functional Peacebuilding in the Red Sea–Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project.” Hydrological Science Journal 61.7 (2016): 1302–1312.

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    A convincing critique of the Red Sea–Dead Sea Canal illustrating the potential for environmental peacebuilding to reinforce inequalities by depoliticizing them.

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  • Djernaes, Marina, Teis Jorgensen, and Elizabeth Koch-Ya’ari. “Evaluation of Environmental Peacemaking Intervention Strategies in Jordan-Israel-Palestine.” Journal of Peacebuilding & Development 10.2 (2015): 74–80.

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    Presents the results of an evaluation of EcoPeace’s GWN project and demonstrates the project’s positive impact.

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  • Fischhendler, Itay, and Keren Tenenboim-Weinblatt. “The Peace Dividend as an Intangible Benefit in Mega-Project Justification: A Comparative Content Analysis of the Dead Sea-Red Sea Canal.” Geoforum 101.1 (2019): 141–149.

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    A convincing analysis of how peace is frequently cited by proponents of the Dead Sea–Dead Sea Canal although such an impact is uncertain at best.

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  • Harari, Nicole, and Jesse Roseman. Environmental Peacebuilding, Theory and Practice: A Case Study of the Good Water Neighbours Project and In Depth Analysis of the Wadi Fukin/Tzur Hadassah Communities. Amman, Jordan: Friends of the Earth Middle East, 2008.

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    An excellent introduction to both environmental peacebuilding and EcoPeace that makes a good read for undergraduate students.

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  • Ide, Tobias. “Space, Discourse and Environmental Peacebuilding.” Third World Quarterly 38.3 (2017): 544–562.

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    Another rather (although not unequivocally) positive discussion of EcoPeace using a framework derived from spatial theory.

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  • Reynolds, Kyra Marie. “Unpacking the Complex Nature of Cooperative Interactions: Case Studies of Israeli-Palestinian Environmental Cooperation in the Greater Bethlehem Area.” GeoJournal 82.4 (2017): 701–719.

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    A thought-provoking article as it discusses shortcomings and unintended side effects of the GWN project.

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  • Roulin, Alexandre, Mansour Abu Rashid, Baruch Spiegel, Motti Charter, Amélie N. Dreiss, and Yossi Leshem. “‘Nature Knows No Boundaries’: The Role of Nature Conservation in Peacebuilding.” Trends in Ecology & Evolution 32.5 (2017): 305–310.

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    This study won the 2019 Environmental Peacebuilding Research Award for discussing how international bird conservation cooperation might contribute to peace. Very accessible to a wide audience.

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  • Schoenfeld, Stuart, Asaf Zohar, Ilan Alleson, Osama Suleiman, and Galya Sipos-Randor. “A Place of Empathy in a Fragile Contentious Landscape: Environmental Peacebuilding in the Eastern Mediterranean.” In Geographies of Peace. Edited by Fiona McConnell, Nick Megoran, and Philippa Williams, 171–193. London: I. B. Tauris, 2014.

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    A detailed discussion of the environmental peacebuilding work of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in southern Israel.

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  • Sümer, Vakur. “A Chance for a Pax Aquarum in the Middle East? Transcending the Six Obstacles for Transboundary Water Cooperation.” Journal of Peacebuilding & Development 9.2 (2014): 83–89.

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    The author provides a brief, yet well-informed and policy-oriented discussion of the interlinkages of water and peace in the Middle East with a focus on Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.

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Case Studies on Africa

Africa is the most studied region in the wider environmental security literature and has also received considerable attention by environmental peacebuilding scholars. Some of these studies make only brief or implicit links to environmental peacebuilding debates, yet they still provide important insights. Critical perspectives on conservation and peace parks feature prominently in this literature, as demonstrated in Duffy 2006, King and Wilcox 2008, Ramutsindela 2017, and van Amerom and Büscher 2005. Bhatasara, et al. 2013 provides a more positive assessment of peace parks in southern Africa. Martin, et al. 2011 analyze the oscillations between cooperation and conflict in the Virunga region in East Africa, hence gaining wider theoretical insights for environmental security research. Going beyond a focus on conservation, Tignino 2016 and Turton 2003 assess transboundary water cooperation and its (potential) positive effects on wider international relations. Focusing on the intrastate level, Johnson 2019 shows how strong environmental governance can fuel conflict and undermine peacebuilding efforts. In a similar vein, Beevers 2019 provides a detailed discussion of natural resource governance in post-insurgency Liberia and Sierra Leone.

  • Beevers, Michael. Peacebuilding and Natural Resource Governance after Armed Conflict: Sierra Leone and Liberia. London: Palgrave, 2019.

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    A detailed case study on resource governance and peacebuilding in Liberia and Sierra Leone that speaks to a wide range of debates on environmental peacebuilding.

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  • Bhatasara, Sandra, Admire M. Nyamwanza, and Krasposy Kujinga. “Transfrontier Parks and Development in Southern Africa: The Case of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.” Development Southern Africa 30.4–5 (2013): 629–639.

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    A rather positive assessment of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park in southern Africa.

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  • Duffy, Rosaleen. “The Potential and Pitfalls of Global Environmental Governance: The Politics of Transfrontier Conservation Areas in Southern Africa.” Political Geography 25.1 (2006): 89–112.

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    The author highlights that international conservation efforts face serious implementation problems and might even have a negative effect on peace.

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  • Johnson, McKenzie F. “Strong (Green) Institutions in Weak States: Environmental Governance and Human (in)Security in the Global South.” World Development 122.1 (2019): 433–445.

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    An in-depth study of Ghana and Sierra Leone showing how transnational environmental governance can result in local exclusions and conflict.

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  • King, Brian E., and Sharon Wilcox. “Peace Parks and Jaguar Trails: Transboundary Conservation in a Globalizing World.” GeoJournal 71.4 (2008): 221–231.

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    A comparative assessment of South Africa and North America warning of depoliticization and neoliberalization through transboundary conservation.

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  • Martin, Adrian, Eugene Rutagarama, Ana Elisa Cascão, Maryke Gray, and Vasudha Chhotray. “Understanding the Co-existence of Conflict and Cooperation: Transboundary Ecosystem Management in the Virunga Massif.” Journal of Peace Research 48.5 (2011): 621–635.

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    A theoretically convincing case study of conservation cooperation among the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda.

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  • Ramutsindela, Maano. “Greening Africa’s Borderlands: The Symbiotic Politics of Land and Borders in Peace Parks.” Political Geography 56.1 (2017): 106–113.

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    A critical political ecology perspective on peace parks and border construction.

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  • Tignino, Mara. “Joint Infrastructure and the Sharing of Benefits in the Senegal and Niger Watersheds.” Water International 41.6 (2016): 835–850.

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    The author analyzes the contexts, dynamics, and consequences of water-related cooperation along the Niger and Senegal Rivers.

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  • Turton, Anthony. “The Hydropolitical Dynamics of Cooperation in Southern Africa: A Strategic Perspective on Institutional Development in International River Basins.” In Transboundary Rivers, Sovereignty and Development: Hydropolitical Drivers in the Okavango River Basin. Edited by Anthony Turton, Peter Ashton, and Eugene Cloete, 83–103. Pretoria, South Africa: African Water Issues Research Unit, 2003.

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    An overview about transboundary water cooperation in southern Africa with a focus on the Okavango River.

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  • van Amerom, Marloes, and Bram Büscher. “Peace Parks in Southern Africa: Bringers of an African Renaissance?” Journal of Modern African Studies 43.2 (2005): 159–182.

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    A critical assessment of peace parks in the context of the concept of an African Renaissance.

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Case Studies on Other World Regions

In line with the earlier focus of the literature on interstate relations, more case studies exist on international environmental peacebuilding. Cabada and Waisova 2018 are the first to discuss environmental peacebuilding in East Asia. Huda and Ali 2018 analyze energy-related cooperation in South Asia. Regarding Latin America, Barquet 2015 (on Costa Rica and Nicaragua) and Walters 2012 (on Bolivia and Peru) provide detailed insights. But especially since 2011, the number of high-quality cases studies in post-conflict and especially post–civil war settings is growing. Zawahri 2011 shows how India stabilized the situation in Punjab after the partition through changing land tenure and building hydrological infrastructure. Akçalı and Antonsich 2009, by contrast, finds that environmental topics are too low profile to contribute to peacebuilding in Cyprus. Reflecting earlier concerns about depoliticization and local irrelevance, Krampe 2016 (for Kosovo) and Krampe and Gignoux 2018 (for East Timor) also remain sceptical about environmental peacebuilding after civil war.

  • Akçalı, Emel, and Marco Antonsich. ““Nature Knows No Boundaries”: A Critical Reading of UNDP Environmental Peacemaking in Cyprus.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 99.5 (2009): 940–947.

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    The authors discuss several reasons why the success of environmental peacebuilding in Cyprus has been limited.

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  • Barquet, Karina. “‘Yes to Peace’? Environmental Peacemaking and Transboundary Conservation in Central America.” Geoforum 63.1 (2015): 14–24.

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    A critical analysis of the Si-A-Paz (“Yes to Peace”) transboundary protected area between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

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  • Cabada, Ladislav, and Sarka Waisova. “Environmental Cooperation as the Instrument of Conflict Transformation in East Asia.” Journal of Comparative Politics 11.2 (2018): 4–17.

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    A comparative study of environmental peacebuilding between China and Taiwan, the two Koreas, and Cambodia and Thailand.

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  • Huda, Mirza Sadaqat, and Saleem H. Ali. “Environmental Peacebuilding in South Asia: Establishing Consensus on Hydroelectric Projects in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) Basin.” Geoforum 96.1 (2018): 160–171.

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    A fine study on energy and environmental peacebuilding with a focus on the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Basin.

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  • Krampe, Florian. “Water for Peace? Post-conflict Water Resource Management in Kosovo.” Cooperation and Conflict 52.2 (2016): 147–165.

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    This article provides an excellent example of how environmental peacebuilding can fail if deeper lying political fault lines on the ground are not considered.

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  • Krampe, Florian, and Suzanne Gignoux. “Water Service Provision and Peacebuilding in East Timor: Exploring the Socioecological Determinants for Sustaining Peace.” Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 12.2 (2018): 185–207.

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    A broad discussion of water and post-conflict peacebuilding in East Timor.

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  • Walters, Todd J. “Environmental Peace-Building in Peru and Bolivia: The Collaboration Framework for Lago De Titicaca.” In Parks, Peace, and Partnership: Global Initiatives in Transboundary Collaboration. Edited by Michael S. Quinn, Len Broberg, and Wayne Freimund, 135–154. Calgary, BC: University of Calgary Press, 2012.

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    The authors in this longitudinal study analyze in detail why water cooperation between Bolivia and Peru could facilitate improved relations between both states during some time periods, but not others.

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  • Zawahri, Neda A. “Using Freshwater Resources to Rehabilitate Refugees and Build Transboundary Cooperation.” Water International 36.2 (2011): 167–177.

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    An excellent study on land and water in post-partition Punjab.

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Case-Based Insights from Other Fields

Environmental peacebuilding is a young and highly interdisciplinary research field. Consequentially, case studies from neighboring fields like environmental conflict, natural resource management, and development studies can greatly enrich our understanding of the topic. Several such excellent contributions exist that do not refer to environmental peacebuilding explicitly. Bogale and Korf 2007; Adano, et al. 2012; and Bukari, et al. 2018 all provide examples of how pastoralists and farmers in sub-Saharan Africa cooperate in the face of drought, and how such cooperation might contribute to peace. Taher, et al. 2012 and Lichtenthäler 2014 draw similar conclusion for water scarcity in conflict-ridden parts of Yemen. Using within-case comparisons, Tubi and Feitelson 2016 make an important contribution by disentangling the factors enabling Bedouin-Jewish cooperation during the 1957–1963 drought in southern Israel. Castro 2018 demonstrates that even in highly illiberal and violent settings, natural resource management and conflict resolution is possible. Johnson 2019, by contrast, shows that internationally supported environmental governance can reconfigure local power relations, hence leading to new inequalities and conflicts. Relevant insights on international projects are provided in Scheumann and Shamaly 2016 (on the Syrian-Turkish Friendship Dam) and Zikos, et al. 2015 (on bi-communal water infrastructure on the divided island of Cyprus).

  • Adano, Wario, Ton Dietz, Karen M. Witsenburg, and Fred Zaal. “Climate Change, Violent Conflict and Local Institutions in Kenya’s Drylands.” Journal of Peace Research 49.1 (2012): 65–80.

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    An important study from the climate-conflict literature showing how drought can induce cooperation rather than conflict.

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  • Bogale, Ayalneh, and Benedikt Korf. “To Share or Not to Share? (Non-)Violence, Scarcity and Resource Access in Somali Region, Ethiopia.” Journal of Development Studies 43.4 (2007): 743–765.

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    The authors provide an insightful analysis of farmer-herder cooperation under drought in a conflict-prone region.

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  • Bukari, Kaderi Noagah, Papa Sow, and Jürgen Scheffran. “Cooperation and Co-existence between Farmers and Herders in the Midst of Violent Farmer-Herder Conflicts in Ghana.” African Studies Review 61.2 (2018): 78–102.

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    Brings theories of cultural neighborhood and everyday peace to the study of farmer-herder cooperation and conflict.

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  • Castro, A. Peter. “Promoting Natural Resource Conflict Management in an Illiberal Setting: Experiences from Central Darfur, Sudan.” World Development 109.1 (2018): 163–171.

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    A rich analysis of resource management and peacebuilding that deliberately decides not to engage with environmental peacebuilding debates.

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  • Johnson, McKenzie F. “Strong (Green) Institutions in Weak States: Environmental Governance and Human (In)Security in the Global South.” World Development 122.1 (2019): 433–445.

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    Based on in-depth field research, the author demonstrates how strong environmental governance can undermine peace and human security in Ghana and Sierra Leone.

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  • Lichtenthäler, Gerhard. “Customary Conflict Resolution in Times of Extreme Water Stress: A Case Study of a Document from the Northern Highlands of Yemen.” In Why Yemen Matters: A Society in Transition. Edited by Helen Lackner, 183–196. London: Saqi, 2014.

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    This study shows convincingly how even in contexts of violent conflict and severe water scarcity, local communities can initiate cooperation over shared water resources.

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  • Scheumann, Waltina, and Omar Shamaly. “The Turkish-Syrian Friendship Dam on the Orontes River: Benefits for All?” In Water Resources Management in the Lower Asi-Orontes River Basin: Issues and Opportunities. Edited by Aysegül Kibaroglu and Ronald Jaubert, 125–137. Geneva, Switzerland: Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, 2016.

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    An exemplary discussion on the interlinkages between interstate relations, in general, and water-related interactions, in particular.

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  • Taher, Taha, Bryan Bruns, Omar Bamaga, Adel Al-Weshali, and Frank van Steenbergen. “Local Groundwater Governance in Yemen: Building on Traditions and Enabling Communities to Craft New Rules.” Hydrogeology Journal 20.6 (2012): 1177–1188.

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    Another example of how groundwater scarcity in Yemen sets incentives for cooperation rather than conflict between local communities.

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  • Tubi, Amit, and Eran Feitelson. “Drought and Cooperation in a Conflict Prone Area: Bedouin Herders and Jewish Farmers in Israel’s Northern Negev, 1957–1963.” Political Geography 51.1 (2016): 30–42.

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    The authors develop a simple, yet convincing, framework that can explain the presence or absence of cooperation over drought impacts in a set of similar cases.

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  • Zikos, Dimitrios, Alevgul H. Sorman, and Marissa Lau. “Beyond Water Security: Asecuritisation and Identity in Cyprus.” International Environmental Agreements 15.3 (2015): 309–326.

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    This study builds on securitization theory to illustrate the peace dividends of water cooperation between Greek and Turkish communities on Cyprus.

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Peace Parks

The study of conservation areas intended to improve relations between parties in conflict—so called peace parks—is a vital subfield of environmental peacebuilding. While many of its insights apply to environmental peacebuilding in general, studies of peace parks also recognize the particularities of their research object, such as a lower political relevance of conservation compared to water or energy. Notable is the focus of peace parks research on transboundary conservation areas, while intrastate cases are rarely considered. Brock 1991 is a fundamental article on peace parks that precedes the environmental peacebuilding literature by a decade. Lejano 2006 (cited under Fundamental Works) is a milestone in terms of theory development. But it is the edited volume Ali 2007 that has set the stage for future research efforts by providing advanced theoretical and empirical insights. Cross-case studies like Barquet, et al. 2014 as well as Ide 2018 indeed find evidence that transboundary conservation cooperation facilitate less violent international relations in some world regions. But authors of works such as Duffy 2002 show that peace parks might also serve to extend state control and marginalize local inhabitants. Especially with regard to southern Africa, controversies have arisen between critics of peace parks, in works such as van Amerom and Büscher 2005, and those with a more positive attitude, in works such as Bhatasara, et al. 2013. Mjelde, et al. 2017 enrich the literature by analyzing a case in East Asia, and Mackelworth 2012 provides the only study on maritime peace parks so far.

  • Ali, Saleem H., ed. Peace Parks: Conservation and Conflict Resolution. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007.

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    A comprehensive and groundbreaking edited volume on peace parks.

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  • Barquet, Karina, Päivi Lujala, and Jan Ketil Rød. “Transboundary Conservation and Militarized Interstate Disputes.” Political Geography 42.1 (2014): 1–11.

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    The first quantitative study on the topic showing that transboundary conservation reduces the risk of military interactions between states.

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  • Bhatasara, Sandra, Admire M. Nyamwanza, and Krasposy Kujinga. “Transfrontier Parks and Development in Southern Africa: The Case of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.” Development Southern Africa 30.4–5 (2013): 629–639.

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    A well-balanced, yet overly positive discussion of peace parks in southern Africa.

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  • Brock, Lothar. “Peace through Parks: The Environment on the Peace Research Agenda.” Journal of Peace Research 28.4 (1991): 407–423.

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    The first article on peace parks putting them in the context of wider peace and conflict studies. Remains skeptical about the potential of peace parks.

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  • Duffy, Rosaleen. “Peace Parks: The Paradox of Globalisation?” Geopolitics 6.2 (2002): 1–26.

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    A critical assessment of peace parks as means of extending state control in Central America and southern Africa.

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  • Ide, Tobias. “Does Environmental Peacemaking between States Work? Insights on Cooperative Environmental Agreements and Reconciliation in International Rivalries.” Journal of Peace Research 55.3 (2018): 351–365.

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    A multi-method, cross-case study providing evidence for a peace-enhancing effect of international conservation cooperation.

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  • Mackelworth, Peter. “Peace Parks and Transboundary Initiatives: Implications for Marine Conservation and Spatial Planning.” Conservation Letters 5.2 (2012): 90–98.

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    The first and, so far, only study of maritime peace parks. Compares nine cases from different world regions.

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  • Mjelde, James W., Hyesun Kim, Tae-Kyun Kim, and Choong-Ki Lee. “Estimating Willingness to Pay for the Development of a Peace Park Using CVM: The Case of the Korean Demilitarized Zone.” Geopolitics 22.1 (2017): 151–175.

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    An economic analysis of support for a peace park along the Korean border.

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  • van Amerom, Marloes, and Bram Büscher. “Peace Parks in Southern Africa: Bringers of an African Renaissance?” Journal of Modern African Studies 43.2 (2005): 159–182.

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    A well-balanced, yet rather critical discussion of peace parks in southern Africa.

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Critical Perspectives

Critical perspectives have emerged in environmental peacebuilding research early on. Drawing on constructivist, Marxist, or political ecology approaches as well as case-based (usually field) research, the respective authors highlight how environmental cooperation might be unsustainable and deeply conflictive. Duffy 2002 and Duffy 2006 are the first studies developing an explicitly critical perspective on peace parks as a tool of state control. Ide 2020 provides a comprehensive summary of the potential negative effects of environmental peacebuilding. Excellent regional case studies can be found in Barquet 2015 (on Central America), Ramutsindela 2017 (on southern Africa), and Reynolds 2017 (on Israel and Palestine). All three accounts highlight, among others, how environmental peacebuilding is tied to business interests and new forms of exclusion. Also focusing on the Middle East, Aggestam and Sundell 2016 discusses how environmental peacebuilding facilitates the depoliticization of underlying conflicts.

  • Aggestam, Karin, and Anna Sundell. “Depoliticizing Water Conflict: Functional Peacebuilding in the Red Sea–Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project.” Hydrological Science Journal 61.7 (2016): 1302–1312.

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    A fine study on depoliticization and environmental peacebuilding focusing on Israel, Jordan, and Palestine.

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  • Barquet, Karina. “‘Yes to Peace’? Environmental Peacemaking and Transboundary Conservation in Central America.” Geoforum 63.1 (2015): 14–24.

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    The study shows convincingly how transboundary conversations between Costa Rica and Nicaragua had little effects on peace but resulted in militarization and reduced rights for local populations.

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  • Duffy, Rosaleen. “Peace Parks: The Paradox of Globalisation?” Geopolitics 6.2 (2002): 1–26.

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    The first explicitly critical study of environmental peacebuilding focusing on peace parks in Central America and southern Africa.

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  • Duffy, Rosaleen. “The Potential and Pitfalls of Global Environmental Governance: The Politics of Transfrontier Conservation Areas in Southern Africa.” Political Geography 25.1 (2006): 89–112.

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    Employs a political ecology perspective to analyze local conflicts about the establishment of peace parks.

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  • Ide, Tobias. “The Dark Side of Environmental Peacebuilding.” World Development 127.1 (2020): 1–9.

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    A comprehensive discussion of the negative effects on environmental peacebuilding within six categories.

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  • Ramutsindela, Maano. “Greening Africa’s Borderlands: The Symbiotic Politics of Land and Borders in Peace Parks.” Political Geography 56.1 (2017): 106–113.

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    An in-depth analysis of the intertwinement of conservation, peacemaking, and neoliberal logics in southern Africa.

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  • Reynolds, Kyra Marie. “Unpacking the Complex Nature of Cooperative Interactions: Case Studies of Israeli-Palestinian Environmental Cooperation in the Greater Bethlehem Area.” GeoJournal 82.4 (2017): 701–719.

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    The author provides evidence for the lack of success of community-level environmental peacebuilding between Israelis and Palestinians.

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Areas of Application

Environmental peacebuilding is still a young and comparatively small field, and so as yet little work has been done on particular aspects, or areas of application, of the topic. Most studies take a cross-topic approach when focusing on, for instance, the impact of environmental cooperation on interstate relations or natural resource management in post–civil war contexts. However, topic wise, Bruch, et al. 2020 focuses on the judicial aspects of environmental peacebuilding, while Ide and Tubi 2020 takes an education perspective. Similarly, Huda and Ali 2018 focuses heavily on energy; Griffin and Ali 2014 on wetlands; and Jama, et al. 2020 on the role of civil society. A groundbreaking book, Kelman 2012 studies how disaster-related cooperation can contribute to better relations between groups or states (disaster diplomacy). Kyrou 2007 aims to further the research field by developing a peace ecology perspective based on broader understandings of environment, peace, and science.

  • Bruch, Carl, Erika Weinthal, and Jessica Troell. “Water Law and Governance in Post-conflict Settings.” In Special Issue: Water Protection and Armed Conflicts in International Law. Edited by Mara Tignino and Britta Sjöstedt. Review of European, Comparative & International Environmental Law 29.1 (2020): 7–20.

    DOI: 10.1111/reel.12319Save Citation »Export Citation »

    An article of broad scope outlining the relations between water law, water governance, and peacebuilding in post-conflict contexts.

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  • Griffin, Pamela J., and Saleem H. Ali. “Managing Transboundary Wetlands: The Ramsar Convention as a Means of Ecological Diplomacy.” Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences 4.3 (2014): 230–239.

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    The first study on wetlands under the Ramsar convention and environmental peacebuilding.

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  • Huda, Mirza Sadaqat, and Saleem H. Ali. “Environmental Peacebuilding in South Asia: Establishing Consensus on Hydroelectric Projects in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) Basin.” Geoforum 96.1 (2018): 160–171.

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    This study focuses on energy (rather than the usual suspects of water or conservation) and international environmental peacebuilding.

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  • Ide, Tobias, and Amit Tubi. “Education and Environmental Peacebuilding: Insights from Three Projects in Israel and Palestine.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 110.1 (2020): 1–17.

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    The authors provide a broad discussion on how education can contribute to environmental peacebuilding before discussing empirical evidence from Israel and Palestine.

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  • Jama, Osman M., Guijian Liu, Abdishakur W. Diriye, Balal Yousaf, Ibrahim Basiru, and Abdulhakim M. Abdi. “Participation of Civil Society in Decisions to Mitigate Environmental Degradation in Post-conflict Societies: Evidence from Somalia.” Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 63.9 (2020): 1695–1715.

    DOI: 10.1080/09640568.2019.1685957Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A survey study on civil society participation in environmental management and peacebuilding in Somalia.

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  • Kelman, Ilan. Disaster Diplomacy: How Disasters Affect Peace and Conflict. London: Routledge, 2012.

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    An important book summarizing a decade of research on the interlinkages among disasters, cooperation, and diplomacy. Valuable for the field despite a lack of references to environmental peacebuilding debates.

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  • Kyrou, Christons N. “Peace Ecology: An Emerging Paradigm in Peace Studies.” International Journal of Peace Studies 12.1 (2007): 73–92.

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    The author seeks to develop the environmental peacebuilding approach further by broadening it conceptually and methodologically. The contribution is contested, however, as it conceives environmental peacebuilding very narrowly.

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Relations to Other Fields

Environmental peacebuilding is not the only research field dealing with environmental governance, natural resource management, conflict prevention, and peace. This leads to considerable overlaps with other areas of study, with researchers trying to build bridges and combine insights from different fields. Barnett 2019 criticises the conflict-centred ontology of climate-conflict research and highlights how environmental peacebuilding is a promising approach for climate security studies. In a similar vein, Ide and Scheffran 2014 aim to integrate insights from environmental peacebuilding into climate-conflict research. Ratner, et al. 2013 demonstrate how the governance of the commons literature in the tradition of Elinor Ostrom can enrich and benefit from work on resource conflicts and cooperation. The contribution of Krampe 2017 outlines pathways toward a connection between environmental peacebuilding and mainstream peacebuilding research, while Maertens 2019 draws connections to academic work on peacekeeping. According to Ide 2017, the research field can also profit immensely from drawing on spatial theory as developed by human geographers.

  • Barnett, Jon. “Global Environmental Change I: Climate Resilient Peace?” Progress in Human Geography 43.5 (2019): 927–936.

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    The author makes a strong argument for a peace-oriented ontology in the wider research on climate change, conflict, and security.

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  • Ide, Tobias. “Space, Discourse and Environmental Peacebuilding.” Third World Quarterly 38.3 (2017): 544–562.

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    Adapts the geographical categories of scale, place, and boundary for environmental peacebuilding research.

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  • Ide, Tobias, and Jürgen Scheffran. “On Climate, Conflict and Cumulation: Suggestions for Integrative Cumulation of Knowledge in the Research on Climate Change and Violent Conflict.” Global Change, Peace & Security 26.3 (2014): 263–279.

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    A review article that aims to outline the role of environmental peacebuilding in the climate-conflict literature.

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

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    A forward-looking article calling for a tighter connection of the field to mainstream peacebuilding research.

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  • Maertens, Lucile. “From Blue to Green? Environmentalization and Securitization in UN Peacekeeping Practices.” International Peacekeeping 19.3 (2019): 302–326.

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    A detailed analysis of the integration of environmental peacebuilding ideas into UN peacekeeping missions.

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  • Ratner, Blake D., Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Candace May, and Eric Haglund. “Resource Conflict, Collective Action, and Resilience: An Analytical Framework.” International Journal of the Commons 7.1 (2013): 183–208.

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    Develops a comprehensive framework for how collective natural resource management can contribute to conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

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