Sustaining Peace? Environmental and Natural Resource Governance in Liberia and Sierra Leone

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Over the last decade environmental and natural resources governance has received a growing share of attention on the international peacebuilding agenda. Few studies have scrutinized in detail the role of international peacebuilders or whether reforms and policies help or hinder peacebuilding outcomes. This dissertation examines international efforts to shape the governance of forests in Liberia and diamonds and minerals in Sierra Leone. I find that international peacebuilding organizations frame the challenge in both cases as transforming conflict resources into peace resources for the purpose of reducing the propensity for violence. To accomplish this transformation, international peacebuilders promote and establish governance reforms and policies designed to securitize and marketize the environment and natural resources. I find that, despite producing the potential peace enhancing benefits of increased stability and revenue, rapidly pushing such a transformation strategy comes with significant linked pathologies that run the risk of recreating pre-war political arrangements, provoking societal competition, undermining environmental management and sustainable livelihoods, and creating unrealistic expectations. These effects can produce contention, foster resistance and increase the likelihood of violence in ways that undermine the conditions essential for achieving a long-term peace. An alternative approach would be to mitigate the effects of securitization and marketization by first addressing issues that have historically led to violence and contention in the environmental and natural resources sector, including land ownership and tenure issues, genuine public participation, government corruption and a lack of sustainable livelihoods.