Natural Resources and Territorial Conflict

Natural Resources and Territorial Conflict

Source: University of North Texas, 2013

Author(s): Christopher Macaulay and Paul R. Hensel

Topics: Conflict Causes, Extractive Resources, Governance, Land

Added: 08/10/2017


Studies of interstate territorial conflict have recognized natural resources as one of the elements that makes many territories "salient" or valuable to the claimant states. These studies have generally treated all resources as equivalent, though, with no distinction made between issues based on their value or renewability. We suggest that natural resources show great variation in such characteristics, with important consequences for the management of territorial claims. For example, territorial claims involving non-renewable resources or resources with a direct military benefit (such as oil) are likely to produce a zero-sum game for disputants, resulting in more conflictual relations than contention over other types of resources. We test our hypotheses using an updated version of the Issue Correlates of War (ICOW) territorial claims dataset that indicates the specific resource(s) involved in each claim. We conclude by discussing the implications of these results for the scholarly understanding of natural resources, with respect to territorial claims as well as interstate conflict and cooperation more generally.


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