Conceptualising Conflict in Natural Resource Development [MA Thesis]


This dissertation was submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the MA Social Rural Development. The work aims in particular to expose the partial nature of conflict through an examination of power and culture in relation to perceptions of and responses to conflict. It asserts that development interventions often cause conflict. Yet pessimistic associations are challenged because conflict is inevitable while development remains concerned about evolving sustainable livelihoods. Development agencies are recommended to develop better ways of recognising conflict and to allocate time and resources to understand the underlying reasons for the conflicts they see, especially at the front-end of interventions.

This dissertation was based on a review of published literature, previous work experience especially on the Northwest Fisheries Extension Project in Bangladesh, a field study conducted in Sri Lanka, and personal correspondence and unpublished papers. The sections of the dissertation are as follows:

Introduction. This section introduces the main themes of the dissertation. It shows in brief how conflict is viewed in this work and why the use of the word 'conflict' can be confusing.

  1. This section traces four literary themes to examine why conflict is currently an emerging concern among rural development, particularly in reference to natural resource contexts. It concludes that different approaches to development will determine different approaches to defining conflict and reacting to conflict events.

  2. This section develops the conceptual reasoning about how conflict can be defined as occurring at in terms of competing interests over assets.

  3. This section explores the political dimensions of conflict and quiescence, and draws on experiences from a field study in Sri Lanka.

  4. This section considers conflict and culture and how development agencies may unintentionally cause conflict.

  5. This section reflects on 'do nothing' scenarios and includes findings and experiences from a field study in Sri Lanka.

  6. This presents some reflections on the development agency role in managing conflict.



Smith, J.K. Conceptualising Conflict in Natural Resource Development. (2000) 62 pp. [MA Thesis, University of Reading]

Conceptualising Conflict in Natural Resource Development [MA Thesis]

Published 1 January 2000