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Natural Resources and Armed Conflicts under International Law: Rationalizing a Heterogenous Legal Framework

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Better protecting natural resources

International laws regulating the link between natural resources and armed conflict have been addressed to create awareness of contradictions and reduce inconsistencies.

Climate Change and Environment

Natural resources and international conflict have long been linked. In recent years, this link is an issue at the forefront of society and consequently a main agenda of international organisations. One such organisation is the United Nations and its two main veins: The General Assembly and The Security Council. Based on results of recent political debates revolving around international resource conflicts, the EU-funded NATRESACIL project aimed at a deeper understanding of the paradox of legal regimes. From this, the project developed a method to help reduce fragmentation and inconsistencies that are present despite the fact that resource conflicts seem like a unitary phenomenon. This diversity can influence behaviour of the entities participating in the conflict. NATRESACIL found that wars of depredation are prohibited at the inter-state level by international law. Conflicts regarding natural resources are also prohibited. Though land/boundary conflicts over natural resources are common, international law offers flexible means to approach such conflicts. In this light, states can negotiate the aim of their authority over natural resources through such options as joint development agreements. Another option is for legal entities to resolve disputes of territory or boundaries that are connected to natural resources. When it comes to non-international resource conflicts, the rules are aimed at the position of third parties, not allowing them to finance conflict by acquiring natural resources. As such, one of the project's main results exhibits the possibility of a duty of vigilance for states on the activities of transnational corporations. The project was successful in highlighting the main challenges for effective regulation of resource conflicts under international law. It also addressed the issue of double standards related to natural resources and armed conflicts. Findings will be of particular interest to academics as well as members of civil society and government practitioners.


Natural resources, international laws, armed conflict, international conflict, resource conflicts, depredation, joint development agreements

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