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NATURAL RESOURCE CONFLICTS AND MEDIATION: A Very Quick Introduction MICHAEL BROWN SENIOR MEDIATION EXPERT STANDBY MEDIATION TEAM UN DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL.

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Presentation on theme: "NATURAL RESOURCE CONFLICTS AND MEDIATION: A Very Quick Introduction MICHAEL BROWN SENIOR MEDIATION EXPERT STANDBY MEDIATION TEAM UN DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL."— Presentation transcript:

1 NATURAL RESOURCE CONFLICTS AND MEDIATION: A Very Quick Introduction MICHAEL BROWN SENIOR MEDIATION EXPERT STANDBY MEDIATION TEAM UN DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS

2 OVERVIEW OF PRESENTATION 1.The nature of conflict 2.Natural resource conflicts 3.Mediation as a conflict management and peacebuilding tool 4.Effectiveness of mediation for natural resource conflicts

3 Conflict = a relationship involving two or more parties who have, or perceive themselves to have, incompatible interests or goals (Fisher et. al., 2000) Conflict is a fact of life... and can be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on how it is handled (a force for positive change and development, can generate violence and destruction) 1. THE NATURE OF CONFLICT

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5 Conflicts are dynamic and ever-changing.  Can sometimes be thought of as a cycle (from emergence to resolution)  Generally do not progress linearly  Ideally, should be managed at the latent ‘stage’ FAO, 2005

6 DEFINITIONS Natural resources = materials or substances (such as minerals, forests, water and fertile land) that occur in nature that can be exploited for economic gain Natural resource conflict = a disagreement or dispute over: access to natural resources control over natural resources, and/or use of natural resources 2. NATURAL RESOURCE CONFLICTS

7 TYPES OF NATURAL RESOURCE CONFLICTS Commonly categorized by type of resource:  Extractive industries (mineral, oil and gas)  Fresh water  Land  Timber  Fisheries Most conflicts involve an interplay of different resources

8 CHARACTERISTICS OF NATURAL RESOURCE CONFLICTS They are often complex because... Technical issues:  Scientific and technical dimensions are common (often complex)  Uncertainty, confusion and disagreement over technical information is frequently part of conflict Cultural and symbolic dimensions:  Cultural and symbolic meaning of resources is often high  Can have historical and/or spiritual grounding  Links to national or group identity common

9 Multiple levels that frequently interconnect  Resource conflicts frequently occur or are expressed at multiple levels:  International transboundary (multilateral, bilateral)  Widespread national (within a country)  Regional (within a state)  Local  Interaction between the different levels is extremely common  Integrated solutions linking levels are ideal, but often not possible  A mediation at one level may relate to other kinds of processes at other levels (e.g., dialogue)

10 Potential actors can be wide-ranging  Actor can be framed from a range of often overlapping categories:  Nation states  Sub-national governments and local administrations  Non-state actors, ethnic groups, local communities, civil society organizations  Private sector organizations  A range of other resource users  Certain categories may warrant special attention due to unique vulnerabilities (e.g., indigenous peoples, women)

11 A DEFINITION OF MEDIATION “Mediation is a process whereby a third party assists two or more parties, with their consent, to prevent, manage or resolve a conflict by helping them to develop mutually acceptable agreements” (United Nations Guidance for Effective Mediation) 3. MEDIATION AS A CONFLICT MANAGEMENT AND PEACEBUILDING TOOL

12 Avoidance: Acting in ways that prevent a conflict from becoming public knowledge Negotiation: Voluntary process in which parties reach agreement through consensus. Consensus means a decision that all can support. Mediation: Using a third party to facilitate the negotiation process. Arbitration: Submitting a conflict to a mutually agreeable third party, who renders a decision that can be binding or non-binding (depending) Adjudication: Relying on a judge or administrator to make a binding decision. MEDIATION IN THE CONTEXT OF CONFLICT MANAGEMENT TOOLS

13 MEDIATION AS A PEACEBUILDING TOOL (and a few words about dialogue) The UN sees mediation existing alongside peacebuilding and conflict prevention tools such as dialogue, good offices, etc. Dialogue: The process of people coming together to build mutual understanding and trust across their differences, and to create positive outcomes through conversation. (Democratic Dialogue: A Handbook for Practitioners, 2007) Facilitation of Dialogue: Facilitation of a dialogue process by a third party. When dialogue can be useful:  Build mutual trust and understanding across differences  Expand public participation around relevant issues  Analyze a problem or context jointly  Develop a shared agenda of action (e.g., around public policy issues)  Develop conflict-sensitive programming with broad buy-in  Extend the reach of a mediation through wider participation (e.g., broader buy-in of Track I mediation)

14 WHY MEDIATION CAN BE SUITED TO RESOURCE CONFLICTS :  Relationships: suited to long-term relationship situations  Sustainability: parties create and ‘own’ the solution  Complex, technical and inter-disciplinary conflicts:  Suited to complex inter-disciplinary issues  Can address technical issues  Win-win interest-based solutions:  Can help unlock entrenched or zero-sum positions  Can help maximize mutual benefit derived from resources 4. EFFECTIVENESS OF MEDIATION FOR NATURAL RESOURCE CONFLICTS

15 LIMITATIONS OF MEDIATION REGARDING NATURAL RESOURCE CONFLICTS Three factors worth highlighting that limit its suitability... Intractable nature of some conflicts, when some parties refuse to enter into negotiation (win-win solutions are not always possible) Major power imbalances between the parties (e.g., local community versus a large multinational corporation) Protracted or deep-rooted structural issues which require legal, economic, political or social reforms in order to address the conflict adequately (e.g., not intended to transform unequal or unjust power relations or social structures)

16 FAO, EFFECTIVENESS OF MEDIATION (AND CONSENSUS-BASED NEGOTIATION) Bringing the suitability and limitations of mediation together, we see where mediation can be most effective...


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