Publication: Forests, Fragility and Conflict : Overview and Case Studies

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Harwell, Emily
Farah, Douglas
Blundell, Arthur G.
This book provides a synthesis of key themes and current knowledge about the links among forests, armed conflict, poverty, and various aspects of state fragility. The main themes addressed are: how predatory, incapable, or absent states are fragile in different ways, and their diverse relationships to forests and conflict; the mechanisms by which forests facilitate or prolong conflict, including financial flows from logging to state and non-state belligerents, the use of forests as patronage, the traffic of weapons by loggers, and the employment of belligerents by logging companies for security; the impact of conflict and fragility on forests and forest livelihoods, with a focus on cross-sectoral issues associated with managing forests after conflicts end; and the focus of reform in post conflict interventions to more effectively protect forests and forest-based livelihoods, and to mitigate further conflict. Because forests have multiple and often competing constituencies for commercial, subsistence, and cultural uses, they are frequently at the center of struggles over control of access and use. While these contests can be widespread, they tend to be nonviolent, or if violence breaks out it tends to be localized. Indeed, the quantitative evidence shows that countries with large amounts of forest (either in total area or as a proportion of national territory) are no more likely to experience civil war than those without forest. There is, however, an association between the likelihood of conflict and the size of the forest industry. And for countries experiencing civil war that have other extractive resources available, the abundance of forest increases the duration of the conflict. This effect is heightened with increasing accessibility of forest. That is, forests do not cause conflict, and armed conflicts tend not to be fought over forests. Instead, armed conflicts are often exacerbated by certain aspects of forest use, especially when forests are lootable (requiring low cost and low skill for extraction).
Harwell, Emily; Farah, Douglas; Blundell, Arthur G.. 2011. Forests, Fragility and Conflict : Overview and Case Studies. © Program on Forests (PROFOR), World Bank, Washington, DC. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
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