In many countries, forest areas and non-timber forest products serve as important contributors to economic development and human security. However, in many regions of the world they also are linked frequently to insecurity and violent conflict. The Center for International Forestry Research has found that countries with violent conflict related to their forests "account for about 40 percent of the world's tropical forests." In recent years, the sale of timber helped fuel and fund conflicts in such countries as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cambodia, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. In combination with the socioeconomic tensions and institutional weaknesses common to developing countries, abuses in the extraction, production, and sale of forest resources have potentially destabilizing effects. Analysis of the implications of forest conflict for security and stability contributes to ongoing efforts to prevent instability in weak states. FESS's research and activities contribute to expanding awareness and knowledge of this important issue. Along with other international partners, USAID is increasingly focusing on ways to identify, mitigate, and prevent conflict in and around forest areas. USAID's Forests and Conflict toolkit and ARD's forest conflict web resources are two key sources providing additional information.

FESS's Senior Fellow Mersie Ejigu produced an article for the most recent International Forestry Review journal. The article focuses on how in natural resource-dependent economies, such as those in Africa, land, forests, and water are the primary environmental goods and sources of livelihoods. Specifically, the article examines land and forests, and how, where, and under what conditions the absolute and relative lack of access to or misuse of these resources can trigger, cause, and amplify conflict. It underlines the importance of increased investment in sustainable land and forest management and the value of integrating environmental security into the national development policy agenda as key strategies, which will facilitate progress toward the attainment of enduring peace and sustainable development.

International Forestry Review article Land, forests, insecurity, and conflict by Mersie Ejigu
March 2006 (PDF, 6pp.)
(Courtesy of Mersie Ejigu)