Unprecedented Global Resource Demand Will Lead To Severe Market Disruptions And Conflict
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WASHINGTON (May 15 2012) — A study released this week by the Transatlantic Academy reveals that severe market disruptions and violent conflict at the interstate and local level in many hot spots -- especially in Asia, Africa, and Latin America -- are increasingly likely unless the transatlantic community takes the lead in addressing the challenges of unprecedented global demand for a nexus of resources.
The Global Resource Nexus – The Struggles for Land, Energy, Food, Water, and Minerals, a collaborative report by American and European fellows of the Transatlantic Academy, is the first international study that analyzes the nexus of challenges that arise from interconnections between five different key and interrelated resources – energy, fresh water, food, minerals, and land. More than any other factors, these five resources comprise the most valuable ones in terms of international trade, are essential for human security, and will be the most likely to set off international conflict. By looking at the interrelationship of these key resources, the study provides an integrated view and avoids the stove piping of only looking at one resource in isolation from the others and demonstrates how changes in one resource effects the others. The study also emphasizes three additional factors that magnify the basic resource problem: climate change and its impact on weather patterns and rising sea levels; the growth of a new middle class in Asia and Latin America that aspires to the same levels of affluence enjoyed by the West; and the parallel growth of a new global underclass with billions of people lacking the bare necessities for survival.
”Governments are currently making plans in the event of conflict with neighbors over access to resources and the expected growth in large-scale immigration,” said Stephen F. Szabo, executive director of the Transatlantic Academy. “A naval arms race is underway in the Indo-Pacific region as the littoral states engage in disputes, some violent, over offshore fishing and energy resources. Ethiopia and Sudan want to build dams on the Nile to generate electricity, while Egypt has stated that if upstream countries interfere with the Nile it could be a casus belli. Europe is concerned that the Arab uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, sparked in part by rising food prices and political repression, will intensify migration. These are risks we cannot afford to ignore, and the Transatlantic Academy fellows in this study offer ways to strengthen Atlantic cooperation to help stave off some of these crises.”
The Transatlantic Academy is a research institution devoted to creating common approaches to the long-term challenges facing Europe and North America. Each year the Academy brings together scholars, policy experts, and authors from both sides of the Atlantic and from different disciplines to research and analyze a distinct policy theme of transatlantic interest. Working together from a collaborative and interdisciplinary perspective, Academy fellows bridge the Atlantic academic and policy communities, and use research, publications, and seminars to develop policy-relevant contributions to critical debates in North America and Europe.
The Global Resource Nexus – The Struggles for Land, Energy, Food, Water, and Minerals was authored by the 2011-2012 Transatlantic Academy fellows: Philip Andrews-Speed, Chatham House; Raimund Bleischwitz, Wuppertal Institute; Tim Boersma, Groningen University; Corey Johnson, University of North Carolina, Greensboro; Geoffrey Kemp, Center for the National Interest; and Stacy VanDeveer, University of New Hampshire.
To effectively manage the emerging challenges over natural resources, the report offers a number of key actions.
(1) Getting our own house(s) in order. Europe, the United States, and Canada must double resource efficiency in the next 20 years; work together to resolve disputes in the transatlantic neighborhood; reinvest in global leadership by ratifying treaties (the United States should ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea); and reform and strengthen transatlantic and global institutions.
(2) Engaging “the wider Atlantic.” The United States, Canada and Europe should expand the concept of transatlanticism where resource issues are concerned. The Atlantic Basin – North and South – is endowed with substantial reserves of energy fuels and minerals, and opportunities to increase sustainable agricultural production and food security. Early-stage projects should include establishing knowledge centers for coordinating the mapping of resource reserves, extraction rates, agricultural production, fisheries management, and water trends. Other initiatives may include improved coordination of development and technological initiatives, such as new biofuels.
(3) Working with new players. Transatlantic interests and concerns must be better integrated with those in fast-growing developing countries and the many critical resource-exporting states. Transatlantic leaders must redouble their efforts to engage China, India, and Brazil across the spectrum of resource nexus challenges. Also, public and private actors in the transatlantic region have a host of shared interests, and should be pushed to better integrate emerging market states and firms into effective institutions for supply chain management and a host of schemes for increased transparency, certification, and standards harmonization.
(4) Strengthening global cooperation. Transatlantic actors must reinvest and reinvigorate some aspects of global institution-building to address myriad resource-related challenges. Such efforts should be directed at knowledge creation and globally networked, participatory governance. Priorities include: an international data hub to provide harmonized data on different aspects of the resource nexus; a global food and water facility helping to increase capital investments to expand food production, clean water, and sanitation; a network of training centers directed at resource management; guidelines on land-use governance; networks for global policy learning for the improved governance of cities; and the establishment of global, multi-stakeholder forums in collaboration with regional forums to raise the profile of the challenges associated with resource nexus governance.