As the Cold War ‘high politics’ of superpower summitry has receded, previous problems of insurgency and ‘low politics’ that included interrelated issues linked to the environment, biodiversity, the global economy and population growth, are growing in prominence.
Political discourse increasingly securitizes the environment as people stretch traditional definitions of ‘security’ in line with the evolution of cultural and moral values; furthermore pressure on governments is increased by commodity price volatility and threats to the global supply of important natural resources which are increasingly either state-controlled and wielded as tools of geopolitical leverage, or dominated by multinational companies and institutions driven by their own strictly commercial interests. And as a result of the globalised economy the trade in wildlife is now the third highest source of illegal income after drugs and guns.
This process of rethinking also applies to conflicts in the 21st century: increasingly it is ‘everywhere war’ where the threats have no defined ‘front-line’ and sometimes in regions not before considered ‘in conflict’. Furthermore, there is growing evidence that transnational criminal networks are expanding out of their traditional areas of control into others and in the process broadening out the ‘shadow’ economy, which includes natural resources and flora and fauna.
A clear link between resources, the environment, with war and conflict was outlined in 1987 by the ground-breaking World Commission on Environment and Development, better known as the Brundtland Commission after its Norwegian chair, Gro Harlem Brundtland, which stated: ‘Nations have often fought to assert or resist control over war materials, energy supplies, land, river basins, sea passages and other key environmental resources.’
To explore these issues The Marjan Centre has a number of research projects:
CONFLICT AND ECOLOGY PROJECT: understanding the inter-play between conflict and the environment.
ECOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT: the integration of conservation more centrally into post-conflict work.
EES PROJECT: understanding energy and environmental security (EES) risks in combination with experts Dr Chad and Tracy Briggs.
ENVIRONMENTAL CONFRONTATION PROJECT: understanding the conflict ‘space’ involving issues linked to the environment.
DR CONGO RESEARCH GROUP: individuals and organisations exchange ideas about how conflict and conservation interact through the prism of eastern DR Congo.
MARJAN-MANAS PROJECT: in combination with representatives in India focusing on issues relating to the Manas National Park in Assam.