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Conflict-Sensitive Conservation

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Natural resource management can often be a source of conflict.

Conservation practitioners know all too well that their work is a form of conflict management, trying to reconcile competing (and sometimes incompatible) interests in the same—often dwindling—natural resource base. The links between natural resources and conflict are particularly evident in developing countries, where poverty, population growth and dependence on natural resources are high. Here, the availability of and access to natural resources are more likely to affect livelihood security, wealth distribution, power structures and even group identities—some of the most common sources of conflict. By trying to protect and sustainably manage the natural resource base and improve human well-being, conservationists are effectively working to minimize important causes of conflict. Conservation, in this regard, can be seen as a mechanism for conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

However, managing competing interests over scarce natural resources has its risks. Conservation policies and practices can create or exacerbate grievances that, in turn, lead to conflicts with, between and within local communities. Thus, efforts to manage and resolve natural resource-based conflicts through conservation can in themselves lead to other forms of conflict.

These dynamics underscore the need for practitioners to design and implement conservation strategies and activities that are sensitive to the causes and impacts of conflict. IISD’s conflict-sensitive conservation approach does just that: it offers guidance for conservation programming and implementation that takes into account the causes, actors and impacts of conflict in order to minimize conflict risks and maximize peacebuilding opportunities.

Since developing the approach, IISD has worked in a number of different contexts (East, West and Central Africa; Latin America) to integrate conflict sensitivity into conservation programming.

  • Paper
    Gorillas in the Midst: Assessing the peace and conflict impacts of International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) activities

    Gorillas in the Midst: Assessing the peace and conflict impacts of International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) activities

    Conservation work in conflict zones and across international borders has impacts on more than just wildlife populations and their habitats; it can Read More
  • Paper
    Conserving the Peace: Analyzing the links between conservation and conflict in the Albertine Rift

    Conserving the Peace: Analyzing the links between conservation and conflict in the Albertine Rift

    Strategy Report prepared following the Project Inception Meeting in Nairobi, 1-2 February 2006. Read More
  • Paper
    Protected areas and the security community

    Protected areas and the security community

    Protected Areas are often situated in remote areas prone to conflict, but they can also make important contributions to peace. This paper draws from Read More
  • Book
    Conserving the Peace: Resources, Livelihoods and Security

    Conserving the Peace: Resources, Livelihoods and Security

    In 2000, IISD and IUCN convened an international Task Force of leading experts to assess the linkages between environment and security and to begin converting what has largely been an academic debate into tools for conservation planning. The Task Force subsequently commissioned a number of case studies from around the world that illustrate the linkages between environment and security. Read More
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