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Natural Resources, Conflict, and Conflict Resolution


  • Macartan Humphreys

    (Department of Political Science, Columbia University)


The interpretation of the resource-conflict link that has become most publicized—the rebel greed hypothesis—depends on just one of many plausible mechanisms that could underlie a relationship between resource dependence and violence. The author catalogues a large range of rival possible mechanisms, highlights a set of techniques that may be used to identify these mechanisms, and begins to employ these techniques to distinguish between rival accounts of the resource-conflict linkages. The author uses finer natural resource data than has been used in the past, gathering and presenting new data on oil and diamonds production and on oil stocks. The author finds evidence that (1) conflict onset is more responsive to the impacts of past natural resource production than to the potential for future production, supporting a weak states mechanism rather than a rebel greed mechanism; (2) the impact of natural resources on conflict cannot easily be attributed entirely to the weak states mechanism, and in particular, the impact of natural resources is independent of state strength; (3) the link between primary commodities and conflict is driven in part by agricultural dependence rather than by natural resources more narrowly defined, a finding consistent with a “sparse networks†mechanism; (4) natural resources are associated with shorter wars, and natural resource wars are more likely to end with military victory for one side than other wars. This is consistent with evidence that external actors have incentives to work to bring wars to a close when natural resource supplies are threatened. The author finds no evidence that resources are associated with particular difficulties in negotiating ends to conflicts, contrary to arguments that loot-seeking rebels aim to prolong wars.

Suggested Citation

  • Macartan Humphreys, 2005. "Natural Resources, Conflict, and Conflict Resolution," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 49(4), pages 508-537, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:jocore:v:49:y:2005:i:4:p:508-537

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