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How Do Natural Resources Influence Civil War? Evidence from Thirteen Cases

  • Michael L. Ross (a1)
Abstract

Recent studies have found that natural resources and civil war are highly correlated. Yet the causal mechanisms behind the correlation are not well understood, in part because data on civil wars is scarce and of poor quality. In this article I examine thirteen recent civil wars to explore the mechanisms behind the resource-conflict correlation. I describe seven hypotheses about how resources may influence a conflict, specify the observable implications of each, and report which mechanisms can be observed in a sample of thirteen civil wars in which natural resources were “most likely” to have played a role. I find that two of the most widely cited causal mechanisms do not appear to be valid; that oil, nonfuel minerals, and drugs are causally linked to conflict, but legal agricultural commodities are not; and that resource wealth and civil war are linked by a variety of mechanisms, including several that others had not identified.For their comments on earlier drafts, I am grateful to Paul Collier, J. R. Deshazo, Pierre Englebert, Barbara Geddes, Anke Hoeffler, Macartan Humphreys, Philippe Le Billon, Roy Licklider, Dan Posner, Ken Shultz, and Libby Wood.

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