Edible Diamonds? Exploring the Role of Fisheries as a Resource in Conflict Futures in West and Central Africa

Butchart, Anna
Grove, Jairus
Political Science
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There is much scholarship examining the role of resources in causing, prolonging or preventing conflict. Fish have traditionally been considered an open access renewable resource and this has affected both its management as a resource and its position in international relations. However, international law has governed access to this resource since the 1980s and now the climate crisis, ocean acidification, years of overfishing and growing global demand are threatening its renewable nature challenging the traditional understanding of fish being a renewable resource. This dissertation argues that fish present a resource paradox, in that they are both an essential food source for poor coastal communities and a valuable commodity sold for billions annually on international markets. Fish sit in both camps of resource conflict literature both subject to the so-called “resource curse” and providing an essential food source, the scarcity of which could contribute to scarcity conflict. This dissertation focuses on the coastal countries in West and Central Africa and in particular Sierra Leone (a resource rich previously war-torn West African coastal state, historically colonised by Britain) and São Tomé & Príncipe (a small island developing nation with no rich natural resources in Central Africa previously colonised by Portugal). It seeks to build on existing resource conflict literature by exploring how fisheries management in these countries is shaped by colonial legacies, the global political economy, the intrinsic value of fishing licenses and the historic understanding of this essential resource as “renewable.” Management of fisheries in West and Central Africa today will shape its definition and survival in future. Fish scarcity is not inevitable, but only if fisheries management protects this valuable resource. Failures in management shaped by the resource curse could lead to fish scarcity in future with impacts for regional and domestic peace and security. This is a future studies dissertation that conducts, as part of its analysis, a futures studies alternative futures scenario exercise examining how fisheries management could impact conflict futures in West and Central Africa. This analysis hopes to shine light on the paradox of this resource and explore some of the future implications of fisheries management and whether the curse can be broken.
Peace studies, Central Africa, Conflict, Fisheries, Future Studies, Resource, West Africa
276 pages
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