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Theme Group 3: War and the exploitation of natural resources

The appropriation of natural resources has always been a cause of war. With the consolidation of capitalism, private companies invest billions in and lobby heavily for the exploitation of natural resources. Almost always, the extraction of these resources severely damages the lives of local communities living near the extraction sites. To get access to natural resources, multinational corporations use a variety of methods, which include bribery and extortion of local leaders, pressuring national governments, conditioning financial aid on their support for the extraction project, and the most shameless example – the use of foreign military interventions under various justifications, such as bringing democracy or defending human rights. These interventions are often strategically located in countries particularly rich in natural resources, which can then be sold at a very convenient price to multinational corporations.

This is a vicious circle, in which multinational corporations use all means to exploit natural resources, mostly to support the energy-heavy lifestyle of the North. The circle includes the displacement of local communities and the loss of their sources of livelihood, protracted conflicts and the destruction of the environment. The ones who benefit from this circle are the corporations exploiting the resources, the few leaders who make the deals with these corporations and – as most such actions spark violent conflicts – the arms trade and industry that gain big market opportunities for selling their products. On many occasions lobbying efforts by these corporations are so strong that they can decide where to intervene and where military presence is needed.

In this theme group, we will look at concrete examples of such practices. These will include, among others, the impact of the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) project on the people of West Papua, the strong presence of oil and gas multinational corporations in Venezuela (its government’s anti-capitalist pathos notwithstanding), and their impact to the environment and the livelihood of local communities, all these done despite a strong discourse from the Venezuelan government against capitalism and foreign corporations and the impact of oil extraction, mostly by Shell, on the Ogoni people in Nigeria.

Emerging trends

The theme group will look at the emerging trends in this process. We will examine the strategies being used by corporations to get access to natural resources. We will also link our discussion with the other themes focused on in the seminar. Thus, we will consider how new technologies, such as drones, are being used to support corporations in taking over natural resources, as well as the connection between corporations and financial institutions and governments to support the industries involved.

Campaigning tools

Local communities resisting the exploitation of natural resources make use of a rich and diverse repertoire of tactics and strategies. We will look at some specific cases where local communities have been successful in driving corporations out and at the conditions that made their success possible. We will also look at cases of unsuccessful struggles and at the causes of these failures. We will discuss the role that the movement against war profiteering can play in supporting local struggles. We will also explore the potential for nonviolent tactics for the resistance of local communities and look at the impact our lifestyles have on exacerbating these problems and consider the importance of building alternative ways of living.

Internationalising the issue

As presented, the vicious circle of exploiting natural resources, is an international circle, with many different players all over the world forming a part in this chain. This makes it difficult to put the target only in one place, but also means that it is very likely that one way or another, wherever you are, you can play a part in a campaign against this circle. We want to explore the potential of support by organisations campaigning against war profiteering and its impact on local communities in other parts of the world, but also at cooperation between different affected communities.