This section of the publication applies political economy and environmental lenses to the challenges of cross-border peacebuilding. Case studies in this section look at sharing scarce fresh water resources among communities in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territory and Jordan; trading for peace across the Line of Control in Kashmir; regulating blood diamonds in West Africa; mineral trading in the African Great Lakes; and economic integration in the Maghreb. Using I William Zartman’s terminology from his paper on Boundaries in war and peace in this publication [see page 11], the case studies in this section concern disputes across boundaries, rather than about them: ie where tensions relate to the territory behind the boundary, not the boundary itself.
Not all of the case studies have significant cross-border economic or environmental conflict dynamics – although such dynamics are fundamental to the west and central African examples. Rather, the common denominator among the case studies relates to the cross-border peacebuilding response, and the premise that economic or resource cooperation across borders in pursuit of a shared goal – access to end markets for local traders, regional economic interaction to promote development and integration, or better management of shared natural resources – can act as an entry point for peacebuilding; for example, opening trade channels that contribute to building trust, or establishing interdependencies across borders that provide incentives for cooperation and collective action and increase the costs of war.
Such a premise presupposes a collaborative approach and a positive result for all involved. But years of research have shown that cross-border economic cooperation can also fuel violent conflict if profits are used for war, as was the case with blood diamonds smuggled out of Sierra Leone, or is still the case in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) regarding proscribed mineral trading.
The case studies reveal that a peacebuilding outcome cannot be assumed. Initiatives need to be context-specific and should mainstream a peacebuilding objective in order to maximise effectiveness and impact, for instance so that increased cross-border trade extends beyond economic activity and addresses the needs of peacebuilding.
Of course, there is no shortage of examples of disputes about boundaries with significant cross-border economic dynamics. For example when the existence of a border is disputed by warring parties and its legitimacy is denied by one of them – such as in Georgia/Abkhazia, Georgia/South Ossetia, Serbia/Kosovo, or Azerbaijan/Nagorny Karabakh. In these types of situation, maintaining the border can become a political goal. If that maintenance then begins to generate an income for a particular armed group or parasitic clandestine activity, the political goal can be reinforced by economic interests.
Regional economic development can promote mutual interdependence. If both sides of the border benefit, this can raise the threshold for mobilising for war and increase the stakes in peace, or at least some form of stability. The case study below on the situation in the Maghreb [see page 96] highlights the need for regional cooperation, in particular between Algeria and Morocco, as a conflict prevention measure among the countries and territories of the region.
Economic development in conflict-affected regions should not be confined to one side of the border. The resulting asymmetry may fuel the conflict or maintain the conflict status quo – as is the case between Israel and Palestine; or may simply be counterproductive to rapprochement efforts – as between Rwanda and the DRC.
Global environmental challenges – such as climate change, energy, disease, or pollution – are increasingly linked with conflict and peace dynamics that transcend state borders. More proximate, regional environmental concerns, such as access to water or natural resources, can provide important lessons for the types of cross-border peacebuilding challenge that are the focus of this Accord publication.
Sharing resources such as water can establish inter¬dependencies to provide incentives for cooperation and collective action across political boundaries and ethnic divides. However, the case study on sharing water in the Middle East [see page 93] illustrates how cross-border cooperation at local and technical levels does not translate easily into higher political spheres.
Cross-border trade in high value natural resources such as minerals, timber or oil can complicate regional peace and security. As the case studies on mineral trade in the DRC and the role of conflict diamonds in West Africa show [see pages 85 and 90], better regulation of mineral trade across borders can help to de-link it from a regionalised war economy and can open opportunities for trade to contribute to peacebuilding and development. Crude analytical linkages between mineral trading and cross-border conflict dynamics lead to equally crude and ineffective policies, and to further corruption and criminalisation.