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The political ecology and economy of protected areas and violence: a case study of the conflict of the Kivus in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Rainer, Helga (2013) The political ecology and economy of protected areas and violence: a case study of the conflict of the Kivus in the Democratic Republic of Congo. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The role that national parks play in violent conflict has rarely been discussed. Conflict literature focuses on the interaction of specific natural resources on the initiation and perpetuation of war and debate has emphasised the degree to which resource scarcity and abundance are pertinent. The role of space, particularly environmentally-significant areas, in shaping these trajectories has been subject to limited interrogation. Drawing from political economy literature, the dissertation explores the relationship between occupation of these spaces by armed groups and the desire to acquire financial and material resources. Furthermore, by situating the study sites within their historical and political context, the dissertation also investigates linkages to political ecology models which seek to explain how environmental changes shape wider political and economic processes and how they in turn shape environmental change. This work undertakes a case study approach, focussing on two national parks in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo that have been subject since the 1990s to the world’s deadliest conflict in the post-World War II era. By mapping conflict related health data in proximity to the case study sites, comparisons between the two sites were possible due to similar geographic attributes (namely protected area status) and political context. Positive linkages between levels of violence as a result of the armed conflict were established across both sites. Higher levels of violence in proximity to the national park that lacked valuable conflict-related resources point to the relative importance of location versus the economic benefit of occupying these spaces. This is substantiated by qualitative analysis across the two sites and a household survey around one. Therefore, it is concluded that national parks influence violence by virtue of their status as state-owned entities; by their possession of valuable resources; and by the strategic value of their location. Hence, it may be argued that the role of environmentally-significant spaces in armed conflict is worthy of further empirical analysis in studies of political ecology.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Helga Rainer
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Sets: Departments > Geography and Environment
Supervisor: Neumayer, Eric

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