Seeking Justice for All
The world is losing its resources, increasing the chances of exacerbating existing conflicts and sparking new ones. Yet there are ways that we can help ensure that these conflicts do not lead to violence.
Globally, there are already water shortages, biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented pace and farmland is increasingly infertile. These losses have, and will continue, to fuel tensions and social upheaval.
Over the past 60 years, 40 percent of internal wars can be associated with natural resources; since 1990, there have been at least 18 violent conflicts fueled or financed by natural resources.
In the worst affected parts of the world, environmental refugees are forced to travel to areas that barely support the population already there, creating a vicious cycle of conflict.
In such situations, an often-overlooked key is the lack of local, just and practical institutions that can navigate ethnically complex societies and mediate toward solutions.
This combination of resource loss and a lack of peaceful-resolution methods is repeated frequently across the globe. Disputes over all types of resources — from water and oil to timber and diamonds — have contributed to conflicts as diverse in impact and scope as those found in Brazil, Liberia and Iraq.
Yet conflicts over resources do not have to lead to violence. Strong institutions, based on a global idea of justice, can allow us to negotiate our changing world.
A just outlook would recognize that in many cases it is the communities who have done the least to deplete resources that are the most affected by the shortages.
And that idea is gaining momentum. The idea of justice is currently being expanded to ensure that communities affected by pollution or water shortage can use local, national and international avenues to protect themselves.