The Arctic

The Arctic is a polar region located at the northernmost part of the earth. It is mostly covered with ice. Its area is defined, depending on which definition is used, either as north of the Arctic circle (66°30’N) or the 10°C-isotherm, an imaginary line showing where the average temperature for July is below 10 °C (50 °F). The Arctic region covers the northern parts of three continents: North America, Asia, and Europe. The Arctic region is increasingly in the focus of geopolitical and geoeconomic interests as new shipping routes have been and will be accessed due to the progressive melting of the ice. Some of the territorial claims resulting from this are the subject of current inter-state disputes, as disputing countries suspect larger, economically lucrative deposits of oil, gas, minerals and rare earths.

Causes of conflict and conflict issue

Conflicts and wars escalate because different parties disagree with each other. A conflict issue is often understood as what the conflict appears to be about and what is communicated by the parties to the conflict. A conflict issue can be material, such as natural resources, or immaterial, such as an ideology. There are many and complex causes of conflicts. Causes of conflict are often events that lead to the outbreak of violence in conflicts. They often influence each other and have a temporal component. In its conflict matrix, BICC has defined five different categories of causes of a conflict. For more information, see the backgrounder on "Causes of violent conflicts."

In the following, we will compare the conflict issues as defined by the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK) and the types of war as defined by the Working Group for Research on the Causes of War (AKUF).

HIIK: Autonomy, secession, territory, resources, subnational predominance. The conflict issue subnational predominance characterizes conflicts in which an intra-state group attempts to attain control over a territory or a population without formulating or pursuing the goal of exercising power over the entire state (national power) or that of establishing a new state (secession). Decolonization, system/ideology, national power, international power, other.

AKUF: Anti-regime wars, wars for autonomy or wars of secession, interstate wars, wars of decolonization, other wars.

Conflict resources

Conflict resources are natural resources whose systematic exploitation and trade in a context of conflict can lead to serious human rights violations, violations of international humanitarian law or violations amounting to crimes under international law. Conflict resources can be a means to finance a war but also change the motive of the warring parties when, for instance, personal enrichment becomes a priority. Not all economic activities are equally suited for times of war. So-called markets of violence need goods that secure high prices on the international markets and that, at the same time, can be produced or mined and transported under the conditions of an armed conflict. Gold, diamonds, timber and drugs are examples of conflict resources. Various investigations have shown that the kind and duration of a conflict can be influenced by the type of resource (see resource-related conflict).


Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain, often in the administration, the justice system, in politics, business, but also in organizations or societies. Besides own private gain, the aim of corruption is a gain favouring third parties. Corruption harms society as a whole. In Germany, active and passive corruption, accepting and granting advantages are criminal offences.

Corruption Index

The UN is an international organisation with 193 Member States (at the time of writing), whose purpose is to maintain international peace and security, to develop friendly relations among nations, to promote social progress and respect for human rights, and to improve living standards.

All UN Member States have agreed to settle disputes by peaceful means. Chapter VI of the UN Charter gives different options for this. However, if there is a threat to the peace or a breach of international peace, the UN Security Council can decide on enforcement measures that are binding to all states and that can include military violence, based on Chapter VII of the Charter. "Besides the right of self-defence according to Chapter VII, Article 51, these military enforcement measures constitute the sole use of violence in the international system permitted by international law." (ZIF, 2010)

Dependence on natural resources

For the production of certain goods, countries that only have a limited amount of reserves, depend on the import of resources, such as oil, gas, minerals, agricultural products, wood, cotton, etc. from abroad. These imports often originate in unstable regions and countries, which, in the worst case, can lead to supply shortfalls and failing deliveries. A country that depends on natural resources will, therefore, try to secure the supply of resources to its economy by economic, political and military means. Countries whose economy depends heavily on one or more natural resources is also dependent on natural resources. As a result of global fluctuations in commodity prices, a state's income can be negatively affected. The aim of these countries often is to expand their economy in other sectors to decrease this dependency.


Diamonds are made of a single element, carbon, and are the hardest known mineral in the world. The are formed under high temperature and pressure deep in the earth's mantle. Together with volcanic rocks, they are brought to the earth's surface through volcanic eruptions. This mixture of lava and diamonds is called kimberlite. Once surfaced, diamonds are mined in two different ways.

Alluvial mining: Over time, kimberlite is eroded by rivers that deposit diamonds in the sediments carried by these streams. These deposits are called alluvial diamond deposits and are often painstakingly mined by small-scale miners using simple tools and equipment, such as sieves and pans.

Kimberlite mining: To get at the diamonds that are still deep under the earth's surface, miners have to dig deep tunnels into the kimberlite. As in many mines, hardly any safety measures are operational, the occurrence of deadly accidents is high.

The value of a diamond is measured by the four 'c's: weight, measured in carat (1 carat equals 0.2 g), its colour, its clarity and, finally, its cut. Deposits and the mining of diamonds can increase the conflict potential of a region (see resource conflict). The revenues of diamonds that are often mined illegally are still often used to finance violent conflicts—by governments and rebels alike—and still are important for the continuation and development of conflicts. To stem the sale of these so-called conflict or blood diamonds, the Kimberley Process was introduced that intends to prevent the sale of such diamonds by certifying their origin.


As a reaction to the financial crisis, US President Barack Obama signed a comprehensive bill in July 2010 for the reform of the US financial markets and consumer protection: the "Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act“, in short, the Dodd-Frank-Act. In Title XV, Miscellaneous Provisions, Section 1502, it formulates the realization that the trade in conflict diamonds originating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is helping to finance conflict characterized by extreme violence in the eastern DRC and contributing to an emergency humanitarian situation. It forbids the trade in conflict minerals, resources or products the revenues of which directly or indirectly finance or benefit armed groups in the DRC or an adjoining country, It defines 'conflict minerals' as columbite-tantalite (coltan), cassiterite, gold, wolframite or their derivatives; or any other mineral or its derivatives determined by the Secretary of State to be financing conflict in the DRC or an adjoining country.

Dutch disease

Dutch disease is the negative impact on an economy of anything that gives rise to a sharp inflow of foreign currency. The term originates from a crisis in the Netherlands in the 1960s that resulted from discoveries of vast natural gas deposits. Foreign trade surpluses, mostly caused by the export of natural resources, such as oil or gas, can cause the national currency to rise. As a result, the export of all other goods can become uncompetitive, which, in the long term, can cause problems such as higher rates of unemployment, wage deflation and recession.

Economy of violence

Explanatory models (such as that of 'war economies') were unable to explain the violence experienced in Somalia, Rwanda and former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. To describe the new phenomenon of mutually dependent, unilateral economic processes on the one hand and the continuing conflict on the other, the term ‘economy of violence’ was coined.
In an economy of violence, conflicts can be financed in various ways: by plunder, theft and hostage-takings, the control of markets and resource-rich territories, war taxes, protection money and illegal trade, but also through external support, such as direct money transfers to relatives, support from the diasporas (remittances), foreign governments and the diversion of humanitarian aid. While structures of violence can be built up as the counterpart to a state's monopoly of violence, governments, members of the state elite or military leaders can also become part of the structures of the economy of violence through corruption and blackmail. The scope of economies of violence can range from the local level (villages, slums) to the national level (financial and customs offices) to international trade and cash flows (trade in gold, oil or drugs).


The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) was founded in 2002 during the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. EITI is a purely voluntary initiative in which governments of resource-rich countries and companies alike can declare their willingness to make transparent their flows of money between governments and the industry. It is EITI's goal to enable civil society to follow the money trail, stem corruption and mismanagement and to strengthen good governance.

EU FLEGT Action Plan

In 2003, the European Union (EU) decided on the Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) as a measure to combat illegal logging and trade in tropical timber. According to estimates, one-fifth of all timber exports to the European Union originate from illegal trade; this is why the EU plays a significant role in the containment of illegal logging and the protection of the world's forests.
Key components of the EU FLEGT Action Plan are Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA) between the EU and timber-exporting countries outside of the EU and a license that guarantees that timber from a VPA country has been harvested, processed and exported in accordance with national laws. These bilateral accords should result in reforms in the forestry sector of wood-producing countries to illegal logging and to fight the causes for illegal logging.


On its website, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations publishes statistical data of its member states. The FAO was established in 1943. Achieving food security for all by improving the production and distribution of food, the living conditions of the rural population and driving forward economic and social progress of all, thus contributing to eradicating hunger lies at the heart of FAO's efforts. The FAO must not get involved in the politics of its member states. The most important tool for achieving their goals is to pass on technical knowledge on food production.

Illegal logging

Illegal felling of trees also called illegal logging or illegal deforestation is the harvesting, transporting, processing, buying or selling of timber in violation of national laws. Often, the legal situation in the wood-producing countries is far from clear-cut. Legal timber is defined by the fact that the logger has legal rights to the timber, the logging lies within a permitted volume and size, the wood is transported and processed with the respective permissions and fees, and levies are paid on the harvest and applicable exports. The adverse effects of illegal logging are threefold: One, effects on biodiversity, habitats of flora and fauna and a decrease in the expansion and quality of the forests, two, the effects on local communities and their livelihoods, and three, the effects of deforestation on global climate change.

Illicit drugs

In medicine, the term 'drug' refers to any substance with the potential to prevent or cure disease or enhance physical or mental welfare.
In the context of international drugs control, drugs are any substances listed in Schedule I and II of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs whose possession, trade, sale or use is limited or not allowed. In general language use, these substances are called illicit drugs. Most illicit drugs are highly addictive and have a high potential for abuse. The by far most used illicit drug in Germany is Cannabis. Cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy and mushrooms are other often used illicit drugs. In Germany, the use of heroin, LSD and crack remains limited to certain, much smaller, groups. There is a global increase in the misuse of amphetamines and medication that is available only on prescription.

Intensity level of a conflict

The Conflict Barometer of the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK) differentiates between violent and non-violent conflicts to show that violent conflicts originate in non-violent conflicts and that non-violent conflicts can also be solved by non-violent means. Non-violent conflicts are categorized into 'dispute' (intensity level 1) and 'non-violent crisis' (level 2). A conflict is classified as a dispute if it is carried out completely without resorting to violence. In a non-violent crisis, one of the actors is threatened with violence. Violent conflicts are categorized into violent crisis (medium intensity, level 3), limited war (high intensity, level 4), and war (high intensity, level 5). A violent crisis is a conflict in which at least one party resorts to violence. It becomes a limited war when this violence is of a recurrent nature and is organized. The most intense conflict, war, uses continuously violent means to a great extent, thus causing long-term destruction.

Kimberley Process (KP)

The Kimberley Process has been internationally adopted by governments, companies and civil society to stop the trade in conflict diamonds. The KP was introduced in January 2003 and is supported by the United Nations. The Scheme requires the governments of diamond exporting countries to certify that rough diamonds do not originate from conflict zones. Each rough diamond requires such a certificate of origin and can only be exported to KP member states. This Certification Scheme is one of the few legally-binding regimes regulating the trade in conflict resources. Today, it has 76 participants (the 27 member states of the European Union count as one participant). Yet, the Scheme has been criticised in recent years. On the one hand, diamonds from the rebel-held areas of Côte d‘Ivoire have reached the international diamond market. On the other, the definition of conflict diamonds is too narrow as it neither includes human rights violations by state security forces and the governments nor the inhumane working conditions for the miners. This is why the Kimberley Certificate is by no means a guarantee for a 'fairly' sourced and marketed diamond.

Natural resources

Raw materials or natural resources in general are natural assets occurring in nature that humans can use for economic production or consumption. One can differentiate between energetic resources, that is those that can be used to produce energy (such as gas and oil) and non-energetic resources (such as metals or soils). Another difference is whether resources are renewable, such as agricultural products or forests, or exhaustible, such as many energy sources and minerals and metals. In terms of the degree of processing, primary natural resources are only those resources that have not been processed after having been sourced. Some natural resources can be recycled; they are called secondary raw materials. There is a difference between resources and reserves. Reserves are the amount of a resource that has been recorded with great detail and that can be mined under the current technical circumstances The amount of natural resources, therefore, depends on the knowledge about the deposits, the price of the resource (that determines the profit margin) and the state of the art of the technology used. The knowledge about the exact amount of the reserves or the reserves themselves can, therefore, fluctuate, for instance, if there is a sharp increase in the price of a resource, the exploitation of difficult-to-access deposits can be profitable or when, due to innovative technology, so far inaccessible areas can be accessed.

Oil/oil sands

The geological oil fields are the result of a process in which organic substances decay in an environment of heat and pressure. These substances, buried deep in the earth's crust and consisting of a mix of different hydrocarbons, are part of the group of fossil fuels. They serve to generate electricity, as fuel for nearly all means of transport, as an additive in the chemical industry and the production of plastics and other chemical products. The untreated oil extracted from reservoir rocks is also called crude oil. After having reached the maximum rate of oil extraction (peak oil) and the decline in the capacities of traditional sources of oil, oil-producing countries are now trying to extract oil from unconventional oil resources. These procedures, however, are highly controversial, both in economic and ecological terms.
Oil sand is a mixture of clay, silicates, water and hydrocarbons that may take various forms, such as bitumen or plain crude oil. Oil sand deposits are exploited preferably in open cast mining and are, with under current conditions economically viable reserves of 35 billion tonnes, the most important unconventional source of oil.

Publish What You Pay Initiative (PWYP)

Publish What You Pay is a global coalition of more than 800 civil society organizations that mobilizes the citizens of resource-rich countries of the Global North to demand of their governments to treat the income from the oil, gas and mining sector responsibly. The goals of PWYP go beyond the transparency of income and also demand a transparent and responsible handling of public funds as well as disclosing commodity contracts and licensing procedures. Oil companies trading at the foreign exchange ought to be required to publish the details of all information on taxes, income, fees and other payment flows to governments.

Rare earth metals

A rare earth metal is one of a set of 17 chemical elements: Lanthanum and the 14 following elements in the periodic table, called lanthanoides, plus yttrium and scandium. Rare earths can be grouped into light rare earths (Cer-group) and heavy rare earths (yttrium-group). The amount of individual rare earth oxides that can be mined depends on the composition of the deposits. Rare earths cannot be produced separately. The world's largest discovered deposits of rare earths so far are found in China, followed by Australia. Main uses of rare earth elements are (in per cent, share of total consumption, 2006): catalysts (20 %), magnets (19 %), metallurgy (16 %), polishing (13 %): glass (12 %): lamps (8 %): ceramic (5 %): others (7 %) (Source: BGR: Commodity Top News 31 (2009)).
List of rare earths: Lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, lutetium, scandium, yttrium.

Rentier states

Rentier states are national economies that receive a significant amount of their income from external rents. The income of these states is not based on investments or productive work but from payments by large foreign companies, governments or individuals to the respective state. Rentier states are mostly independent of the other economic activities in the country and national tax income. This may result in a loose connection between state and society that may present itself as an unequal spatial development of the country, the establishment of economic elites and the mixing of business and state power, up to high corruption. Typical rentier states are oil-producing countries of the Middle East and many resource-rich states in Africa.

Resource control regime

There is often a high discrepancy between the potential and the actual wealth of resource-rich countries or those that depend on natural resources (see resource curse). An important factor to avoid this discrepancy is a functioning control regime, that is good governance and a just distribution of the revenues through national laws and the monitoring of these laws. Another factor are high social and environmental requirements for companies that extract and process natural resources. On the international level, resource-importing countries can also be made responsible through initiatives and norms. International norms address governments and/or companies. A distinction must be made between voluntary and binding agreements as well as sectoral or general norms.

Resource curse

The population of resource-rich countries often do not enjoy economic wealth. On the contrary, the performance of various different economic variables in resource-rich countries is worse than that of comparable resource-poor countries. Growth in the resource-exporting sector can markedly reduce the competitiveness of other sectors and thus weaken the entire national economy (see Dutch disease and rentier state). Governments, thus, do not succeed to pass on the wealth to their citizens. The type of political regime can depend on the deposits and the extraction of certain types of natural resources, which can also influence the occurrence, frequency and type of conflict (cf. resource-related conflict).

Resource governance

Resource governance describes how governments and non-state actors decide, formally but also informally, on the state, economic, transnational and societal use and re-distribution, allocation and administration of the income from and levies on resources. This includes regulative and administrative processes during extraction, processing and trade, but also the control over the income generated from the sale of the resources.

Resource-related conflict

One speaks of a resource-related conflict if the control over resources in a conflict is a motive of at least one conflict party for the use of violence or if one conflict party finances itself directly or indirectly from the resource revenues. In general, one can differentiate between five constellations as regards actors, and these constellations usually occur as a mix: International conflicts between resource importers, international conflicts between exporters and importers of natural resources, international conflicts between exporters of natural resources, internal conflicts in exporting countries and conflicts with transit countries for resources. Yet, there is not necessarily a direct connection between reserves or the production of a resource and the outbreak of violence. Various factors can influence this, such as the dependence on natural resources of a country and the prevalence of control regimes. Additionally, the type of resource influences the type and duration of the conflict. Easily accessible diamonds, such as alluvial diamonds, can increase the risk of violent conflict while industrial diamond mines are hardly suited to finance rebel groups in civil wars.

Tropical woods, tropical rain forests, tropics

Tropical woods are defined by their origin, the tropical rain forests. Tropical rain forests can be found on both sides of the equator, up to latitude 10 approximately. The term comprises different types of forest the majority of which has not been adulterated by people. Tropical rain forests' biodiversity is one of the highest in the world; according to estimates, 40 to 60 per cent of all species living on Earth can be found in evergreen rain forests. Tropical rain forests are particularly endangered due to commercial harvesting of timber. Tropical woods do not show annual rings but have a more complex structure (alternating spiral grain) that gives many of them more stability. They are hardwearing and weather resistant—this is why they are often used outdoors. Many consumers consider the colour and grain of tropical woods as pleasing; this is why they are also used in furniture, musical instruments and tools. Most tropical woods can be easily replaced by local woods both in technical and in visual terms. In the experience of the wood industry, even controlling timber imports furnished with environmental labelling is difficult or even impossible when trading with many tropical countries.

UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also called the "Constitution of the seas," was concluded in 1982 and came into force in 1994. It specifies the rights, tasks and responsibilities of states for a more peaceful and responsible use of the world's oceans. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea grants each state with access to the sea a 12-nautical mile zone for its territorial waters. Furthermore, it defines an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) extending 200 nautical miles (377 km) from the coastal baseline unless there is an overlap with a neighbouring state which then requires the states to achieve an equitable solution by delineating the actual maritime boundary. The EEZ can be “expanded” when the seabed of their continental shelf extends further than the said 200 miles even though the extra miles do not form part of the EEZ. Should a country make a claim for an expanded EEZ, this claim must be documented within a 10-year period after the ratification of the UN Convention. An international continental shelf commission will confer about this claim (Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) . If this claim is justified, the country is allowed to extract natural resources in that area but shall have to make payments for that. The outer limit of the continental shelf shall not exceed 350 nautical miles from the coastal baseline or 100 nautical miles from where the continental shelf reaches 2,500 metres—the 2,500-metre isobath, which is a line connecting the depth of 2,500 metres. Outside these zones lie the high seas that are open to all states and are considered common heritage of humankind.

UN Office on Drugs and Crime

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) annually publishes the World Drug Report. The data of the 2011 Report are mainly based on information provided by the 107 states or territories in the annual report questionnaire (ARQ) between March and December 2010 and that describe the drugs situation in 2009. While for Europe and Asia more than 60 per cent of the member countries filed a report, the data situation for North and South America (53%) and Africa and Oceania (12% respectively) is much more incomplete.


The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international organization located in Geneva that deals with the rules of trade between nations at a global or near-global level. The organization that was established in 1995 strives for the removal of trade barriers, the liberalization of the markets and international free trade. By coordinating the economic policy and settling disputes of the 157 member states, these goals are implemented. Central elements of trade policy agreements are the principle of 'most favoured nation' (i.e. tariff concessions of a country must be applicable to all of its trading partners) and that of non-discrimination (i.e. permitted exceptions from the ban of quantitative restrictions must be valid for all participants). Global trade has never before been that important. Furthermore, the world trade regime was expanded beyond the classic trade in goods to other areas, the most important ones being trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS), the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMS).
In its current structure and functioning, the WTO is heavily criticized by various organizations. Many criticise the WTO's opaqueness when it comes to decision-making and its lacking control mechanisms. It is said that many countries of the Global South have little influence on decisions despite the WTO's declared goal to support these countries. Its tolerance towards subsidies with which rich countries advance the exports of their goods and thus underbid domestic goods in countries of the Global South is also being criticised.

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