New Quaker report on conflicts involving water, land, and food.

Building Peace around water, land and food: Policy and practice for preventing conflict

This from the Exec summary:

“Water and land are two of the key natural resources that shape billions of peoples’ livelihoods, food security, wellbeing and identity. Developing management of water, land and food that is equitable and peaceful is an increasingly challenging task due to a multitude of factors – such as resource degradation, population growth and violent conflict – that can fuel tensions and exacerbate vulnerabilities around natural resources. Increasing climate uncertainties now lend an additional urgency to the need to develop appropriate policy and practice at international, national and local levels in order to prevent destructive conflict around natural resources. The issues highlighted by this paper are not all directly affected by the impacts of climate change: climate change will, however, exacerbate tensions and vulnerabilities that already exist around water, land and food.

Policy and practice that facilitates improved collaboration among conflicting groups is essential for effective governance of natural resources. Peacebuilding methods such as locally led conflict analysis, facilitation of dialogue among groups with competing interests, and empowerment of vulnerable groups can help to build cooperative and trust-based relationships around natural resource management (NRM). It is not only technical skills that need to be strenghtened, but the skills that enable stakeholders to engage with decision making, communicate effectively and address or mediate disputes constructively. Policy and practice needs to build capacity for these skills among actors at all levels – from government representatives, to stakeholders from the private sector, to local communities

Policy that does not adequately take account of, or respond to, local needs and dynamics can exacerbate tensions around water, land and food. Equally, when civil society groups and local communities are not able to have a voice in resource management or hold decision makers accountable, implementation of good policy frameworks often remains limited2. This can result in management rules and practices that are unclear, contradictory or perceived as illegitimate by certain groups. It can also mean that typically vulnerable groups such as women, small- scale farmers and Indigenous peoples are excluded from decision making and resources, leaving them highly vulnerable. This increases the likelihood of destructive conflict and can in some cases mean that tensions escalate to violence.

Policy frameworks that do take these realities into account can facilitate constructive responses to natural resource conflicts. There are a number of existing international laws and guidelines that set out some of the elements needed for peaceful and equitable NRM. Many provide for inclusive consultation of, and participation by, local communities in decision making, as well as protection of vulnerable groups.

These frameworks can help to inform and shape good national policy and law for NRM. They can also be used to raise awareness of rights and good practices among local communities, helping them to engage constructively with other stakeholders. For Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other civil society groups, they provide a platform for initiating dialogue across sectors and levels, particularly when high level decision makers need to be involved.

However, these frameworks can only be useful tools when the links between policy and practice are strengthened from the bottom up as well as the top down. Good practices developed at the local level can help to inform good national and international policy, ensuring that it supports and builds on local needs and knowledge.

This paper looks at some of the elements of peaceful and equitable NRM, focusing particularly on the need to strengthen peacebuilding skills among actors at all levels. Chapter Two gives an overview of the international laws and guidelines that provide a framework for States and societies to develop and strengthen their governance of natural resources in order to prevent destructive conflict. Chapter Three looks at five case studies that have implemented some of these frameworks, providing examples of good practice for encouraging and facilitating dialogue among groups, empowering communities to understand and resolve conflict, and promoting legal rights and frameworks among government, private sector, judicial and community representatives. Chapter Four draws key lessons from these case studies, suggesting ways in which their experiences could help States and societies when developing and implementing principles for peaceful and equitable water, land and food management.”

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