Beyond Scarcity: Rethinking Water, Climate Change and Conflict in the Sudans

  • Citation: Selby, Jan, and Clemens Hoffmann. “Beyond Scarcity: Rethinking Water, Climate Change and Conflict in the Sudans.” Global Environmental Change 29 (2014): 360–370.
    • Topics:
    • Global Development
    • Keywords:
    • water
    • conflict
    • climate change
    • scarcity
    • Sudan

This article develops a new framework for understanding environment-conflict relations, on both theoretical grounds and through a qualitative historical analysis of the links between water and conflict in the states of Sudan and South Sudan. Theoretically, the article critiques the dominant emphases on ‘scarcity’, ‘state failure’ and ‘under-development’ within discussions of environmental security, and proposes an alternative model of environment-conflict relations centring on resource abundance and globally-embedded processes of state-building and development. Empirically, it examines three claimed (or possible) linkages between water and conflict in the Sudans: over trans-boundary waters of the Nile; over the links between internal resource scarcities and civil conflict; and over the internal conflict impacts of water abundance and development. We find that there exists only limited evidence in support of the first two of these linkages, but plentiful evidence that water abundance, and state-directed processes of economic development and internal colonisation relating to water, have had violent consequences. We conclude that analysts and policymakers should pay more attention to the impacts of resource abundance, militarised state power and global political economic forces in their assessments of the potential conflict impacts of environmental and especially climate change.

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