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Understanding Environmental Peacebuilding

Book manuscript under contract with Cambridge University Press.

‘Understanding Environmental Peacebuilding’ is the first single-authored comparative study on environmental peacebuilding that systematically explores the linkages between social, political, and environmental processes in post-war countries. At the core of this book is the question how does the governance of natural resources and the environment influence peacebuilding after civil wars? In contrast to previous works on the subject, this book embodies a peace and conflict research perspective, which gives it a distinct understanding of the complex social and political processes of post-war countries. The empirical heart of the book are three comparative case studies that assess natural resource management across different post-war contexts that range from very elaborate United Nations missions in Kosovo and East Timor, to US interventions and peacebuilding in Afghanistan and Iraq, to very limited UN interventions in Nepal and Sri Lanka. These studies contribute new knowledge to each of these cases. In addition, the book provides original insight of United Nations and other actors involvement in such post-war situations and how this involvement affects resource and environmental management and the peacebuilding process.

Books | Journal Articles | Book Chapters | Expert Reports | Theses

Peer-reviewed Journal Articles

Investment in resilient food systems in the most vulnerable and fragile regions is critical

2021. Nature Food 2, 546–551 (2021). (with Queiroz, C., Norström, A.V., Downing, A. et al.)

Reversing the alarming trend of rising food insecurity requires transformations towards just, sustainable and healthy food systems with an explicit focus on the most vulnerable and fragile regions. Global food insecurity fell for decades, but it is steadily rising again1. A primary driver of this alarming trend is the double burden of climate shocks and violent conflict in areas that are already food insecure. The recent COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating this trajectory1. Bending the curve of rising food insecurity while achieving global climate and sustainability targets (for example, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)) and remaining within planetary boundaries will require a fundamental transformation of the global food system2. The need for transformative change is widely accepted, but how it will play out in vulnerable contexts is far less explored. Transformations of food systems must explicitly address the challenges and meet the needs of the most vulnerable and fragile regions (Fig. 1). The reasons for this are twofold. First, the impacts of food insecurity are highest in these regions3,4. Exposure to climate shocks and violent conflict is high, most people depend on local food systems for their subsistence, and the capacity to adapt and transform in the face of change is eroded5. If the realities and needs of vulnerable and fragile regions are ignored, the social injustices and environmental pressures experienced by these communities will be aggravated and lead to further food insecurity, conflict, violence and displacement4. Second, many of the main carbon sinks and biodiversity hotspots of global importance are located in these regions, meaning that accomplishing global climate and biodiversity targets will depend on the governance of these natural ecosystems. This poses an extra burden on countries already facing severe challenges and often lacking the institutional capacity for ensuring long-term sustainability6,7,8.

Link to article on the publisher’s website.

Security implications of climate development in conflict-affected states – Implications of local-level effects of rural hydropower development on farmers in Herat.

2021. Political Geography. 90 (October) (with Elizabeth Smith and Daud Hamidi) [Impact factor: 3.660].

Development initiatives aimed at mitigating or adapting to climate change impacts may result in unanticipated effects especially in conflict-affected contexts. To improved understanding of the implications of future climate development projects in conflict-affected states, this article qualitatively examines the experiences of local communities in the Zinda Jan district, located downstream from the Salma Dam in Herat Province, Afghanistan. Conducted in 2018, the research questions what local-level side effects (LLSEs) were experienced by communities downstream of the Salma Dam after its 2016 inauguration, and how these LLSEs might affect the potential for sustainable peace. The article builds from 25 in-depth interviews with local stakeholders in the Zinda Jan district, and highlights how communities generally experienced increased water scarcity after the completion of the dam in 2016, due to poor water management and lack of necessary infrastructure related to the dam. This water scarcity was a factor in grievances related to water access among local communities, and increased the likelihood of related communal violence. However, local perspectives also indicate desire for joint management of water resources between the state and civilians, from the source to their farms. The article provides important insight for research and policy actors to better understand the implications of future climate development projects in conflict-affected states, and their inherent contribution and/or risk to broader peace processes.

Link to article on the publisher’s website.

Sustaining Peace through Better Resource Governance: Three Potential Mechanisms for Environmental Peacebuilding.

2021. World Development, 144 (August 2021). (with Farah Hegazi and Stacy VanDeveer). [Impact Factor: 3.869].

For international and domestic actors, post-conflict peacebuilding is one of the most difficult policy arenas to understand and in which to operate. Environmental and natural resource governance have the potential to facilitate peacebuilding in such contexts, but existing research has not yet produced a cohesive theoretical understanding of the pathways by which natural resource management strategies can facilitate positive peace. This paper explores the wider benefits of natural resource management and discusses their potential for reducing political fragility in affected states and helping to build positive peace. The paper outlines three mechanisms through which improved natural resource governance in post-conflict contexts is theorized to have positive effects on peace: (a) the contact hypothesis, whereby the facilitation of intergroup cooperation reduces bias and prejudice; (b) the diffusion of transnational norms, where the introduction of environmental and other good governance norms supports human empowerment and strengthens civil society; and (c) state service provision, where the provision of access to public services addresses the instrumental needs of communities, thereby strengthening their belief in the state. Guided by an interest in the opportunities presented by natural resource management to support peacebuilding processes in post-conflict states, the paper seeks to revise and advance the current environmental peacebuilding research agenda.

Keywords: Environmental peacebuilding; Natural resource management; Conflict; Peacemaking; Security

Link to article on the publisher’s website

Ownership and inequalities: exploring UNEP’s Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding Program

2021. Sustainability Science. (DOI: 10.1007/s11625-021-00926-x) [Impact Factor: 3.429].

The question of ownership—that is, who is included and excluded from policy processes—has become one of the most pressing issues in the global discourse on peace and conflict. While research shows that the inclusion of domestic actors is critical to success, broader international processes often neglect these actors. Focused on environmental peacebuilding—the sustainable management of natural resources in post-conflict settings—as an emerging area, this article employs qualitative content analysis (QCA) to study four core reports of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)’s Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding Programme (2008–2015). The results reveal that the framing of environmental peacebuilding in these documents contributes to power inequalities being reinforced. The reports’ language suggests that, overall, UNEP favors international ownership of environmental peacebuilding. By contrast, local actors—both state and non-state—appear to be considered a risk in the context of natural resource management. This article discusses the implications of this lack of inclusion for peacebuilding practice.

Link to article on the publisher’s website

The ‘Boomerang Effect’: insights for improved climate action.

2020. Climate and Development. (DOI: 10.1080/17565529.2020.1723470) (with Larry A. Swatuk, Bejoy K. Thomas, Lars Wirkus, Luis Paulo Batista da Silva). [Impact Factor: 2.405].

States have been negotiating climate mitigation actions centred around greenhouse gas emissions for several decades. In the wake of the Paris Agreement, a significant body of research has emerged reflecting on the unintended negative consequences of climate mitigation action. More recently, this research includes a focus on climate adaptation actions. The negative impacts have, together, been labelled ‘maladaptation’. Maladaptation as articulated in the literature takes many forms: e.g. displacement of communities from traditional lands such as forests and pasture, violent conflict at different scales, resource capture by elites. In this article, we argue in support of a careful delineation between local-level side effects of climate action and negative effects reaching back to the state (through different pathways and at different levels). The latter we label ‘boomerang effects’. We illustrate, through several examples, the pathways leading from climate action to local impact to boomerang effect, arguing that careful articulation of policy and program decisions, actions and effects upon the state provide support for improved policy making. Climate action is necessary, and necessarily must be better informed in order to achieve the broadest socio-ecological benefits possible.

KEYWORDS: Adaptationmitigationclimate changeboomerang effectmaladaptationclimate policyNDCs

Responding to Climate-Related Security Risks: Reviewing Regional Organizations in Asia and Africa

2018. Current Climate Change Reports. (with Malin Mobjörk).

Purpose of Review: This paper presents new insight on the approaches and ability to respond to climate-related security risks in four regional intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) in Asia and Africa—ASEAN (South East Asia), SAARC (South Asia), ECOWAS (West Africa), and IGAD (East Africa).

Recent Findings: IGOs are becoming increasingly important in responding to climate-related security risks, given the transnational character of these risks. Previous research has primarily focused on Western-based IGOs, whereas more attention is needed on IGOs in fragile and developing regions to increase our understanding of the emerging challenges and to take adequate measurements to mitigate climate-related security risks.

Summary: We show that the regional security context and vulnerability to climate change affects the framing of climate-related security risks, and that the risks identified often relate to livelihood conditions and development, rather than state security. Measurements are taken, but the key challenge remains the implementation of these policies.

Keywords: Climate-related security risks Intergovernmental organizations Climate change Security

Link to article on the publisher’s website

Water Service Provision and Peacebuilding in East Timor – Exploring the socio-ecological determinants of sustaining peace

2018. Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding. (with Suzanne Gignoux).

This article presents an examination of post-conflict water resource management in East Timor through the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) with the aim of contributing to our understanding of the opportunities and challenges inherent to the sustainable management of water resources in post-conflict countries and of gaining insight into its potential long-term benefits for sustaining peace. The article contributes one of the first theory-centred, empirical analyses of post-conflict water resource management, in which the challenges and failures of UNTAET in East Timor shed light on the opportunities and risks inherent to post-conflict water service provision for peacebuilding.

KEYWORDS: statebuildinglegitimacyservice provisionwater resource managementpeacebuildingEast Timor

Link to article on the publisher’s website

Towards Sustainable Peace: A New Research Agenda for Post-Conflict Natural Resource Management. 

2017. Global Environmental Politics 17 (4). [Impact Factor: 3.237].

This forum reflects upon the current state of research on post-conflict natural resource management. It identifies two dominant perspectives on environmental peacebuilding in the literature: one focused on environmental cooperation, the other on resource risk. Both perspectives share a concern for the sustainable management of natural resources in post-conflict settings and prescribe environmental cooperation at large as a means to foster peace and stability. Yet both perspectives also feature notable differences: The cooperation perspective is driven by a faith in the potential of environmental cooperation to contribute to long-term peace through spillover effects. The resource risk perspective, however, recognizes that resource-induced instability may arise after intrastate conflict; stressing the need to mitigate instability by implementing environmental cooperation initiatives. Despite the significant contributions of both perspectives, neither has provided any cohesive theoretical understanding of environmental peacebuilding. This article suggests a timely revision of the research agenda to address this gap.

Link to article on the publisher’s website

Water for peace? Post-conflict water resource management in Kosovo.

2017. Cooperation and Conflict. 52 (2), page(s): 147-165 [Impact Factor: 2.316].

Water resource management (WRM) has increasingly come to be considered within the realm of peacebuilding. Through investigating the case of water resource management in Kosovo after 1999, this study argues that the international community has treated post-conflict water resource management as a primarily technical issue, to the neglect of its complex political nature. This has impeded the peacebuilding process in three ways. First, it consolidated the physical separation of actors through allowing separate water governance structures. Second, it avoided conflictive issues instead of actively engaging in conflict resolution. Third, it incapacitated locals by placing ownership in the hands of external actors. To redress this tripartite dilemma, this study stresses the need for research that provides deeper theoretical and empirical understanding of the political mechanisms that connect WRM to post-conflict reconstruction efforts.

Keywords: Environmental peacebuilding, functionalism, Kosovo, peacebuilding, post-conflict reconstruction, UNMIK, water resource management

Link to article on the publisher’s website

Avoiding catastrophes: seeking synergies among the public health, environmental protection, and human security sectors.

2016. The Lancet Global Health, 4(10), e680–e681. (with Stoett, P., Daszak, P., Romanelli, C., Machalaba, C., Behringer, R., Chalk, F., et al) [Impact Factor: 14.722].

Global health catastrophes have complex origins, often rooted in social disruption, poverty, conflict, and environmental collapse. Avoiding them will require a new integrative analysis of the links between disease, armed conflict, and environmental degradation within a socioecological vulnerability and human security context.

Link to article on the publisher’s website

Empowering Peace: Service Provision and State legitimacy in Peacebuilding in Nepal

2016. Conflict, Security, and Development 16 (1): 53-73.

There is growing demand for an understanding of peace beyond the absence of violence. As such research focuses increasingly on the issue of state legitimacy as a tool to assess and understand peace processes. In this paper the relationship between service provision and state legitimacy is studied to assess whether the provision of services like electricity to rural communities of war-torn countries through state actors contributes to the consolidation of the post-war political system. The qualitative analysis of two localities in post-war Nepal highlights that service provision in the form of electricity through micro-hydropower yields tremendously positive socio-economic effects for rural communities. However, socio-economic development in combination with interactions among villagers has strengthened local autonomy through emphasising alternative local governance structures. This highlights that the relationship between service provision and state legitimacy is more complex than previous research anticipates. The absence of a positive effect on state legitimacy raises the question of whether in its current case-specific form service provision is conducive to the broader peace-building efforts in post-war Nepal, because it stresses the divide between state and society.

Keywords: Service provision, state legitimacy, peace-building, Nepal

Link to article on the publisher’s website

Neue Kriege, neu betrachtet – Neubetrachtung des Forschungsstands und des Fallbeispiels Bosnien und Herzegowina [New Wars, Reconsidered. Viewing the state of research in a new light through the case of Bosnia Herzegovina].

2009. Zeitschrift für Genozidforschung 10 (1): 61-92.

This study aims to review the state of art of the new wars debate from 1999 till today. In a critical reflection, it analyses Mary Kaldor’s approach and identifies three core elements that guide the follow-up case study on the Bosnian war. It does so to critically reflect on the political naivety, which welcomed the concept of New Wars as a tool to justify policies and the lack of scientific accuracy and nobility by several study programmes. The study concludes that, firstly, identity politics are not a unique feature of new wars as Kaldor argues. Rather identity must be considered the main ingredient in each Conflict. Secondly, it must be questioned in how far wars today can be compared to their predecessors since the quality those wars are analyzed increased tremendously. Peace and Conflict Research are one of these features that came up within the 1960s as well as a globalized moralization of war. Thirdly, Kaldor argument of a brutalization of new wars is falsified. New studies clearly falsify this argument empirically for the Bosnian war. The study infers that ten years after Kaldor introduced the conception of New Wars, there are loads of theoretical and empirical doubts that question the theory as a helpful tool in Peace and Conflict Research.

Link to the article

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Peer-reviewed book chapters

2021. Environment and Human Security. Book chapter in preparation for Routledge Handbook of Environmental Security edited by Richard Matthew. London: Routledge. (with Anders Jägerskog and Ashok Swain).

  1. Environmental Peacebuilding. In Oliver P. Richmond and Dr Gëzim Visoka (eds). The Oxford Handbook of Peacebuilding, Statebuilding, and Peace Formation. Oxford University Press. (with Ashok Swain).
  1. Post-War Legitimacy – A framework on Relational Agency in Peacebuilding. In Oliver Richmond and Roger MacGinty (eds). Local Legitimacy and International Peacebuilding. Edinburgh University Press. (with Lisa Ekman)
  1. Climate-Related Security Risks in the Middle East. In Anders Jägerskog, Michael Schulz, and Ashok Swain (eds.) Routledge Handbook on Middle East Security. London: Routledge. (with Dan Smith).
  1. The Boomerang Effect: Overview and Implications for Climate Governance. In: Larry A. Swatuk and Lars Wirkus (Eds) Water, Climate Change and the Boomerang Effect: Unintentional Consequences for Resource Insecurity. London & New York: Routledge (with Larry A. Swatuk, Lars Wirkus, Bejoy K. Thomas, Luis Paulo Batista da Silva).
  1. Sub-Saharan Africa. In Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. SIPRI Yearbook 2018. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (with Ian Davis and Neil Melvin).
  1. Environmental Peacebuilding in Nepal: Lessons from Nepal’s Micro-Hydropower Projects. In Ashok Swain and Joakim Öjendal. Routledge Handbook on Environmental Conflict and Peacebuilding. London: Routledge.
  1. Human Development and Minority Empowerment – Exploring regional perspectives on peace in South Asia. In Oliver P. Richmond, Sandra Pogodda, Jasmin Ramovic (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Disciplinary and Regional Approaches to Peace, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 363-375. (with A Swain).
  1. The Liberal Trap – Peacemaking and Peacebuilding in Afghanistan After 9/11. In M. Eriksson & R. Kostic (eds.), Mediation and Liberal Peacebuilding: Peace From the Ashes of War? London: Routledge. pp. 57–75.
  1. Liberal Statebuilding and Environmental Security: The International Community Between Trade-Off and Carelessness. In Ramses Amer, Ashok Swain and Joakim Öjendal (eds.), The Security-Development Nexus: Peace, Conflict and Development. London: Anthem Press, pp. 41-64. (with R Kostic and A Swain)
  1. Stability and Sustainability in Peace Building: Priority Area for Warfare Ecology. In G.E. Machlis, T. Hanson, Z. Špiric & J.E. Mckendry (eds.) Warfare Ecology. Springer Netherlands, pp. 199-210. (with A Swain).

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Expert Reports

  1. Climate, Peace and Security Fact Sheets: Somalia, South Sudan, Mali, Sahel. (SIPRI – NUPI, Stockholm/Oslo, 2021). Series editor with Cedric de Coning.
  1. Climate-Related Security Risks and Peacebuilding in Mali. (SIPRI, Stockholm: April 2021) (with Farah Hegazi and Elizabeth Smith).
  1. Why United Nations peace operations cannot ignore climate change (SIPRI, Stockholm: February 2021).
  1. Pathways of Climate Insecurity: Guidance for Policymakers(SIPRI, Stockholm: November 2020) (with Malin Mobjörk and Kheira Tarif).
  1. Environment, Peace and Security Challenges in Central and South America. Internal Discussion Paper prepared for UN Environment Programme, (SIPRI, Stockholm: September 2020).
  1. The Peacebuilding Commission and Climate-related Security Risks: A More Favourable Political Environment? SIPRI and International Peace Institute, Stockholm and New York: September 2020 (with Jake Sherman).
  1. Climate Security in the Horn of Africa – Perspectives on Addressing Climate-Related Security Risks from the Horn of Africa. Fredrich Ebert Stiftung, Berlin, Germany. (with Henrik Maihack and Mithika Mwenda).
  1. Climate-related Security Risks and the African Union. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute: Stockholm. (with Vane Aminga).
  1. Water Security and Governance in the Horn of Africa. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute: Stockholm. (with Luc van de Goor, Anniek Barnhoorn, Elizabeth Smith and Dan Smith)
  1. Multilateral cooperation in the area of climate-related security and development risks in Africa. Norwegian Institute of International Affairs: Oslo, Norway. (with Cedric de Coning).
  1. Multidimensional risks in the Lake Chad region. Commissioned by World Bank Group. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute: Stockholm.
  1. Climate-related security risks and peacebuilding in Somalia. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute: Stockholm.
  1. Climate change, peacebuilding and sustaining peace. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute: Stockholm.
  1. Climate Security – Making it #Doable. Clingendael and SIPRI: The Hague.
  1. Climate change and violent conflict: Sparse evidence from South Asia and South East Asia. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute: Stockholm. (with Pernilla Nordqvist).
  1. Responses to climate-related security risks: Regional organizations in Asia and Africa. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute: Stockholm. (with Roberta Scassa and Giovanni Mitrotta).
  1. Climate Change and the Risk of Violent Conflicts in Southern Africa. Global Crisis Solutions: Pretoria. (with A Swain, R Bali Swain and A Themnér).
  1. Armed Conflict, Non-State Conflict and One-Sided Violence and its Relation to Climate Change in the Period 1989 – 2008, A commissioned study by the Swedish Defense Research Agency, Stockholm, March 2010.

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Building Sustainable Peace. Understanding the Linkages between Social, Political, and Ecological Processes in Post-War Countries

2016. Report / Department of Peace and Conflict Research 110. Uppsala: Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University. ISBN 978-91-506-2584-4.

Post-war countries are among the most difficult policy arenas for international and domestic actors. The challenge is not only to stop violence and prevent violence from rekindling, but moreover to help countries reset their internal relations on a peaceful path. The indirect, long-term effects of wars further exaggerate this challenge. Many of these relate to political and social aspects of post-war countries. Lasting impressions of human rights abuses committed during wars continue to shape the relations among members of societies for decades to come. Both, socio-economic impacts and political impacts challenge the stability of post-war countries for many years. The challenges to public health have been found to be especially severe and affect disproportionately the civilian population of post-war countries. Environmental and climate change exposes post-war populations further to new risks, exaggerating the human costs of war long after active combat has ceased.

These challenges are not new. The problem, however, is that in practice all these elements are simultaneously happening in today’s peacebuilding interventions. Yet, practitioners as well as researchers remain settled in a silo mentality, focusing only on one aspect at a time. As such they are unaware of the unintended consequences that their focus has on other important processes. The four essays that lie at the heart of this dissertation provide new insight into the linkages between the social, political and ecological processes in post-war societies and how the interactions of different groups of actors are shaping the prospects for peace.

The argument drawn out in this dissertation is that to build peace we need to acknowledge and understand this long-term interplay of social, political, and ecological processes in post-war countries. It will be crucial to understand the potential and dynamics of natural resources and environmental issues in this context. As the essays in this dissertation show, the interactions of these processes divisively shape the post-war landscape. It is therefore essential to build a peace that is ecologically sensitive, while equally socially and politically relevant and desirable. I call this sustainable peace.

Link to dissertation

2009. Changing Identity – Belligerents Transformation towards Reconciliation. An explorative study on Zimbabwe and South Africa. Uppsala University. (MA Thesis)

2007. Soziologie der Neuen Kriege. Kritische Analyse der Rezeption des Bosnienkriegs durch eine Soziologie des Neuen Kriegs [Sociology of New Wars – Critical analysis of the reception of the Bosnian War through a sociology of New Wars]. Ruhr–University Bochum. (BA Thesis)

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Book reviews

2018. The Peacebuilding Puzzle: Political Order in Post-Conflict States, by Naazneen H Barma, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2016, 280 pp., $75 (hardcover), ISBN 9781107169319. South African Journal of International Affairs, 25 (1): 148-150.

2011. The art of mediation (Review of: The Go-Between. Jan Eliasson and the Styles of Mediation by Isak Svensson and Peter Wallensteen. USIP: Washington D.C., 2010), New Routes, 16 (1): 34-35.

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