The Nature of Peace Conference: streaming option

We are happy to announce that large parts of the conference held this week will be streamed for those unable to attend physically.

If you’re interested in attending the conference through streaming, please send an email with subject “Streaming NoP” to lina.eklund[at] and we’ll provide you with the link and the password.




Invitation to conference 26-27 of April 2018

‘The Nature of Peace’: exploring links between the natural environment and peace-building in post-conflict societies

About The Nature of Peace research group

This conference is organized by the interdisciplinary research group ‘The Nature of Peace’ at the Pufendorf Institute of Advance Studies at Lund University, Sweden. The research group scrutinizes the role of the natural environment in post-conflict societies, posing questions such as: What role does nature have in peace building? How is the natural environment considered in fragile states that need to develop quickly, during reconstruction period? Does peace always bring sustainable development? How can peace-building activities contribute to sustainable development?

The research group brings together researchers from five different faculties (Social Sciences, Law, Humanities and Theology, Natural Sciences, and University Specialised Centres) to discuss and work on these issues.

Why the Nature of Peace?

Empirical evidence from around the world has shown that post-conflict reconstruction efforts often focus on the short-term and urgent needs of societies transitioning to peace. These processes, however, often fail to consider the root causes of the conflict (such as control over key natural resources) or to integrate post-conflict dynamics such as those linked to the distribution of environmental “goods” (water, land, forest, etc.) and “bads” (pollution, contamination, enclosures, etc.), the participation and restriction in environmental politics by diverse ethnic/social/gender/age groups, or the recognition and denial of diverse value systems with different understandings of nature and human.

In order to present its research results, the research group is organizing a two-days final conference to take place in Lund on the 26th and 27th of April 2018. We intend that the conference serves as well as a platform to engage with different people working with related issues. Therefore, we would like to invite other scholars and practitioners to participate or present their work.

Final conference

The conference is structured in a series of seminars and a panel. We expect to have few papers in each seminar to allow for in-depth discussion and engagement. We intent that the seminars would give presenters the space to share ideas or hypotheses, elaborate on them and debate about the role of nature in post-conflict societies from diverse perspectives. Presenters will be able to choose the best way to communicate their ideas and engage the audience in discussions using different methods (e.g. from a classical power point presentation to a more interactive one such as using on-line tools). In the panel, participants will have the opportunity to share their views from the ground.

The conference is structured in six seminars and a panel:

  1. Natural resources exploitation
  2. Environmental legislation / nature governance
  3. Biodiversity conservation
  4. Monitoring environmental transformation (tools and mechanisms)
  5. Nature, culture and rights
  6. Intersectionality, post-conflict and natural environment
  7. Panel: Local perspectives

In Seminar 1 “Natural resource exploitation” we welcome papers that address the relevance of focusing in natural resource exploitation in different scales. Natural resources (land included) are target of international investors and corporations and national states take advantage of them to promote economic development and foster state reconstruction. However, natural resources are key for local livelihoods and income generation. Disputes over the access and use of natural resources (such as diamonds or forests) can create new conflicts or bring back old ones, attempting against stability and peace in the long run.

In Seminar 2 “Environmental legislation / nature governance” we invite papers that address, for instance, the following questions: Which major governance processes relating to the natural environment (agenda-setting, rule- and decision-making, implementation, enforcement, evaluation) have taken place in post-conflict situations, which ones are missing? What are the major outputs (laws, strategies, guidelines, incentive mechanisms, etc.) and how effective are they? Which actors have been involved in these processes or benefited from them (international or domestic actors; governmental, civil society, private sector, military, scientists, vulnerable groups, other stakeholders), which ones have been absent or marginalized? At which levels have these processes predominantly taken place (national, regional, local)? What is the degree of legitimacy and accountability of post-conflict environmental governance and legislation? And how can we explain or understand the observed types of governance, inclusiveness, effectiveness or legitimacy in a theory-guided manner, e.g. through constellations of power and interests, knowledge claims and gaps, or the contestation of norms and discourses?

In Seminar 3 “Biodiversity conservation” we invite papers that inquire to what extent peacebuilding can potentially bridge developmental objectives with biodiversity conservation. A transition towards post-conflict opens an opportunity to retake control over protected areas, forest ecosystems and biodiversity. Yet, biodiversity conservation is not very high on the peacebuilding agenda and with political stability and security comes development of infrastructure and certain economic sectors that further drive the loss of biodiversity. New roads provide easier access to remote areas and lead to an increase in hunting, degradation of ecosystems and the loss of habitat, affecting biodiversity negatively. Counteracting this negative trend with serious long-term implications for the health of people and ecosystems is fundamental and post-conflict transitions provide a window of opportunity towards a more sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity.

In Seminar 4 “Monitoring environmental transformation” we seek to discuss the possibilities to use Earth observations from satellite to monitor natural environments and resources in post-conflict situations. Time series of satellite images analyzed in a geographic information system (GIS) are objective means to access status and changes in environmental parameters e.g. spatial distribution and area of different land use, land use changes, biological production, and natural forest area issues. Earth observation methods, together with contextual information and data collected with other methods, might be able to tell us something about how socio-economic and political changes lead to inequalities among different groups and across socially constructed boundaries, particularly in peacebuilding. This seminar also intends to include debates regarding what we can and cannot say about nature in post-conflict situations using satellite images.

In Seminar 5 “Nature, culture and rights”, we invite presentations focusing on how cultural beliefs and practices, especially the relationship between human beings and the non-human world, can be of relevance for post-conflict peace-building. Culture can be defined as a body of beliefs and practices in terms of which a group of people understand themselves and the world and organize their individual and collective lives. These beliefs, practices and value systems might be shaped by religion, but also by Enlightenment ideas about rationality, secularism and progress, and be a reflection of power dynamics within or between societies. Both theoretical discussions from fields such as philosophy, religious studies and human rights studies, as well as case studies from local contexts, are invited.

In Seminar 6 “Intersectionality, post-conflict and natural environment” we particularly welcome papers interested in addressing gender aspects that relate to nature in post-conflict and peacebuilding. However, we have a broad understanding of intersectionality, referring to overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination, oppression, and disadvantage according to social categorizations not only gender but also ethnicity, social class, age, sexuality, etc.

The panel “Local perspectives” invites practitioners (including activists, politicians, lawyers, NGO staff working on the ground) working with local communities from different continents in post-conflict situation and/or peace-building to present their views from the ground. With this panel we want to show regional differences in relation to how the natural environment and peacebuilding are interconnected (or not).

Participation and contact

Papers interested in discussing the role of nature in post-conflict societies and/or during peacebuilding are welcome!

If you would like to participate, please send an email to Andrea Nardi ( or Lina Eklund ( If you are interested in presenting a paper, please submit an abstract and the name of the seminar you would like to do so.

Submissions should consist of a text with no more than 500 words and a brief CV containing the author’s name, institutional affiliation and contact information. We should receive the abstract no later than 15 February 2018. All participants will be notified of the final selection by 28 February 2018.

Working towards Paradise; Environmental peacebuilding in practice, part 1

By Joshka Wessels

Our Theme Nature of Peace explores links between the natural environment and peacebuilding in post armed-conflict societies. This is a blogpost in two parts with some reflections on environmental peacebuilding, based on my experience doing postdoctoral research on this topic and a documentary that I produced about environmental cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians in 2010.

PART 1: Theories of Environmental Peacebuilding

Our main question at Nature of Peace, investigates what role the natural environment can play in post-conflict peacebuilding. In each armed conflict on our planet, environmental dimensions, effects and causes can be identified (Homer-Dixon, 1999).  Often these are an integral part of a plethora of political, psychological, cultural and territorial dimensions of armed conflicts. Exploring the linkages between humans and their environment has a long history in both the social and the biophysical sciences but the potential of a shared environment for peace building is a relatively under researched area. The empirical body at local level is actually quite slim. There is not a lot of extensive data on how and if the environment enhances cooperation between adversaries, after an armed conflict. Several interdisciplinary academic fields are working within our main Theme question, such as the upcoming fields of warfare ecology (Machlis et al. , 2011),  environmental politics, political ecology and environmental peacemaking (Waisová 2017; Dresse et al., 2016; Carius, 2007; Conca and Dabelko, 2002), which are all areas and fields of social and physical science research investigating the environmental dimensions to armed and unarmed conflicts.

Nature and the environment are often neglected in peace treaties or regarded as lower priorities in conventional and (neo)liberal peace building efforts. In any case, the environment is not a priority in peace negotiations or ceasefire agreements. Liberal and neoliberal peacebuilding, influenced by rational choice theory and a Western-centric approach to peace, often focuses on the economic and state building benefits, the ”Victor’s peace”, the institutional peace, the constitutional peace and the goal of state building (Richmond 2010, 2008; Rittberger and Fischer, 2008). Conventional approaches to peacebuilding are much less concerned with inclusion of nature or ecosystem services in peacebuilding. Environmental or ecological peacebuilding is also outside of the spotlights of mainstream media covering peace building initiatives. Therefore, in order to include nature in peace, there is a need for a paradigm shift from conventional peacebuilding principles to a more holistic approach. This is where we can find the concept of environmental peacebuilding (Carius, 2007; Conca and Dabelko, 2002).

Initially coined as environmental peacemaking, over the past twenty years, several research projects and inititatives developed an approach that takes the sharing of natural resources and environmental cooperation as a tool for conflict resolution (Waisová 2017; Conca and Dabelko, 2002) The concept of environmental peacebuilding is based on a more holistic approach to peacemaking; for this approach of peace building, there are no “war heroes”, there are “peace heroes” (Wessels, 2009).  Whilst liberal peace building and rational choice tend to ignore biological, psychological, cultural and sociological dimensions of violence and conflict, environmental peace building gives room for holistic and cognitive theories on the relationships between Humanity and Nature in a changing global ecosystem (Wessels, 2016).

Not only conventional peacebuilding needs a paradigm shift, but also conventional approaches towards ecosystems should change, as they fail to account how environmental peacebuilding could work in practice. In the conventional approach to ecosystems, within conservation sciences, places human beings outside of nature and views human activities as ”anthropogenic disturbances”. Human beings are seen as dominating species over other non-human living beings and the flora with an overwhelming negative effect on the natural environment. A less anthropocentric approach includes human beings as integral part of the ecosystem, applying the so-called Human Ecosystem Model to human-natural systems (Dalton, 2011; Wessels, 2008). In the Human Ecosystem approach, activities by human beings can have negative effects (war), also called anthropogenic disturbances on the natural environment, whilst at the same time there is the possibility that their activities can have positive effects (peace) and contribute to a sustainable and balance of the natural environment.

In this regard, it is interesting to look at anthropologist Clifford Geertz’ theories of culture. Geertz defined culture as “a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life” (Geertz, 1973). When local cultures, religions or ideologies of a particular society are heavily influenced by the worship of nature and the “dreamed-of order” of a “human ecological paradise”, there is a suggested tendency of members and religious leaders of that society to work together to reach that ecological paradise. This perceived human ecological paradise could form common ground between environmentalists and farmers sharing an ecosystem. Any destruction to that perceived ecological paradise is considered a threat and unites those opposed to this threat in their struggle to preserve the environment. This is the core principle of environmental and ecological peace building. Thick descriptions of specific case studies of ecological peace building provide then an insight in the human cognitive processes of environmental peace building (Wessels, 2016).

Our shared natural environment can thus form a positive incentive for enemies to cooperate to achieve the dreamed-of order of an ”ecological paradise” whereby human beings have the right to healthy and sustainable environment, of being at peace with nature, which constitutes a process of healing and the achievement of an, almost religious, “inner-peace”. Geertz’ symbolic anthropology, where the role of symbols in constructing culture and public meaning is emphasized, describes the “dreamed-of order” (Geertz, 1973). Ecological peacebuilding is thus like ”working towards paradise” based on the principle that a balanced human ecosystem with fair distribution of natural resources, leads to a societal and balanced  ”dreamed-of order” of peace, democracy and a sustainable natural environment.


Theories of environmental peacebuilding come from a variety of different disciplines within the social and biophysical sciences. I argue that in order to come to a comprehensive theory of environmental peacebuilding, there is a need to two paradigm shifts; 1) one in peace and conflict studies, from the liberal peacebuilding to a more holistic approach and 2) one in conservation sciences, from a conventional anthropocentric ecosystem approach to a Human Ecosystem approach, whereby human beings are integral part of the natural environment, linking the biophysical, terrestrial, physical, cultural and socio-economic components of the environment. The example of Wadi Fukin within the Jordan River Basin was taken as point in case for the potential of environmental peacebuilding. Combined with Geertz’ definition of culture as a ”dreamed-of order”, environmental peacebuilding in practice can be seen as working towards a shared vision of an ”ecological paradise”.

In the next part of this two-part series, I will illustrate how environmental peacebuilding works in practice in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt)


This blogpost is partly based on a bookchapter published earlier last year; Wessels, J.I. (2016) “Valleys of Hope and Despair; peace building through independent environmental documentaries” in Mediating Peace, Reconciliation through Visual Art, Music and Film by Sebastian Kim, Pauline Kollontai & Sue Yore (eds.), Cambridge Scholars Publishing, UK. ISBN (10): 1-4438-8371-9 ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-8371-9.

Call for Abstracts: The Nature of Peace session at AAG 2018

We welcome contributions to our session at the AAG Annual meeting in New Orleans, 10-14 April 2018!

Title: The Nature of Peace – links between the natural environment and post-conflict societies

Organizers: Torsten Krause, Andrea Nardi and Lina Eklund (Lund University)

Sponsors: The Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies

Please send abstract (max. 300 words) by October 25 to the following email addresses: &

With warm regards

Torsten, Andrea & Lina


Description of session: 

In a situation of armed conflict, environmental protection concerns are usually not high on the agenda. During conflict, natural resources are often extracted in an illegal and informal manner because of a lack of oversight from a weak state engaged in war or because of various groups (e.g., political or ethnic) battling for access to, and control over, resources and lands in order to enrich themselves and finance their activities. Conversely, notwithstanding the often-devastating social consequences, armed conflicts may also provide an unintended protection for ecosystems, such as forests (McNeely 2003, Burgess et al. 2015). This is largely due to the lack of infrastructure construction and other external investments in rural areas during the armed conflict because of security concerns (Sanchez-Cuervo and Aide 2013). In Sierra Leone, a country ravaged by civil war for many years, deforestation was substantially lower than in neighboring countries as a result of the armed conflict (Burgess et al. 2015). Similarly, Colombia has a relatively low deforestation rate compared to other countries in South America (FAO 2012). However, this odd form of protection can quickly disappear when armed conflicts end and make way for reconciliation and transition to peace.

This session proposes to scrutinize post-conflict peacebuilding and reconstructions processes that take place after the termination of an internal armed conflict. Particularly, the focus will be on the links between post-conflict developments and the effects on the natural environment, natural resources management, and, more broadly, environmental justice.

We seek contributions to the following questions:

How does a transition from armed conflict to peace impact the natural environment?

And what (negative and/or positive) consequences can these impacts have for various social groups?

Empirical evidence from around the world has shown that post-conflict reconstruction efforts often focus on the short-term and urgent needs of societies transitioning to peace. These processes, however, often fail to consider the root causes of the conflict and to integrate factors, such as the management of natural resources, that will contribute to a transition to durable peace and sustainable development (Krampe, 2016; Matthew, 2014). It is therefore of key importance to investigate if peace also brings environmental justice in the long term. For instance, the end of the civil war in Cambodia opened the doors for large-scale natural resources exploitation and infrastructure development, often at the indirect detriment of people who are dependent on natural resources to sustain their livelihoods (Le Billon 2000, Milne et al. 2015). Therefore, what is frequently framed as progress and development by governments and investors often leads to the exacerbation of environmental injustices (Bernstein 2001). In South Africa, an already water-scarce country, addressing the legacies of apartheid also involves tackling unequal access to natural resources such as land, water and electricity. In short, land restitution, social and environmental justice, go together during post-conflict situations.

Despite the above mentioned, there is a disconnection between natural resources management and the post-conflict/peacebuilding research communities. Not enough is known about when, how and why environmental factors can work for peace, and vice versa, how peace processes can contribute to environmental sustainability (Altpeter, 2016; Matthew, 2014).


  • Bernstein, S. (2001). The Compromise of Liberal Environmentalism. New York, Columbia University Press.
  • Burgess, R., E. Miguel and C. Stanton (2015). “War and deforestation in Sierra Leone.” Environmental Research Letters 10(9).
  • FAO (2012). State of the World’s Forest 2012. Rome, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
  • Le Billon, P. (2000). “The political ecology of transition in Cambodia 1989-1999: War, peace and forest exploitation.” Development and Change31(4): 785-805.
  • McNeely, J. A. (2003). “Conserving forest biodiversity in times of violent conflict.” Oryx 37(2): 142-152.
  • Milne, S., P. Kimchoeun and M. Sullivan (2015). Shackled to nature? The post-conflict state and its symbiotic relationship with natural resources. Conservation and Development in Cambodia: Exploring frontiers of change in nature, state and society28-50.
  • Sanchez-Cuervo, A. M. and T. M. Aide (2013). “Consequences of the Armed Conflict, Forced Human Displacement, and Land Abandonment on Forest Cover Change in Colombia: A Multi-scaled Analysis.” Ecosystems 16(6): 1052-1070.