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From Engines for Conflict into Engines for Sustainable Development: The Potential of International Law to Address Predatory Exploitation of Natural Resources in Situations of Internal Armed Conflict

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Since the end of the Cold War, natural resources have proven an adequate replacement for external funding of armed conflicts. The prospects for parties to an armed conflict to gain ‘easy’ profits from resource exploitation encourage these parties to engage in predatory practices that are highly detrimental to environmental conservation. The environmental degradation caused by predatory resource exploitation by parties to an armed conflict also severely hampers efforts towards the post-conflict reconstruction of a State. Environmental degradation of land may spark new tensions in the fragile phase of post-conflict reconstruction. In addition, natural resources are an important engine to restart the economy of a war-torn State after the conflict has come to an end. If the resources are severely degraded or even exhausted as a consequence of their exploitation during armed conflict, it becomes even more difficult to kick-start the economy of a State emerging from conflict. This article argues that current international law is not sufficiently equipped to deal with these challenges. The existing regulatory framework is fragmented and imprecise. It is only through case specific responses under Security Council sanctions regimes that the challenges are currently addressed.

Affiliations: 1: Doctoral Candidate and Lecturer, Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands


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