venerdì 23 gennaio 2015

The struggle for natural resources in a demographically overcrowded planet: are we facing the threat of a new World War?

Contemporary global society is living an extremely delicate moment of its existence due to the fact that unlike other previous periods of history all international challenges are not just uniquely limited to a certain area of the planet, but instead significantly bear a worldwide range. Amongst many, one of the challenges is the issue of natural resources demand and supply. This problem originates from the unfair relationship between possession and control of natural resources by a number of States on one side, and demands and needs of the ever growing population of the world, especially in newly developing countries and economies, on the other. Unfortunately, the distribution of natural resources is unequally spread throughout the world and this is clearly highlighted when considering the demographic strengthening and economic growth of emerging countries, which imply a broader use of food and energetic resources, over demographic low-rate and economic stagnation of many developed ones.
Firstly, a natural resource frequently responsible for the outbreak of international and humanitarian crises is water. Water is perhaps is the most precious resource and its supply is often uncertain. Many countries lack of a decent supply in order to satisfy the needs of their own population. Economic growth and industrial production rely on the availability of water. Countries that lack of hydric supply are mostly the African and Asian ones. Those that instead have a greater access to water tend to plan a hydro-geopolitical strategy often conceived as a tool for threatening neighbours or dominate over them. In terms of comparison between developed and developing economies, water is still much wasted in the formers whereas it is beginning to be exploited in an exaggerate manner in the latters.
Secondly, other natural resources of high importance are both oil and natural gas. Contemporary global economies still rely their growth and productivity on oil and gas exploitation. Some of the harshest international crises imply the use and furniture of these two key resources: conflicts in the Middle East, tensions between the Russian Federation and the European Union and the United States, the quick development of BRIC countries and their impact on environmental sustainability, and so forth.
Thirdly, food is to be acknowledged as another natural resource that, if lacking, is capable of strengthening social clashes between developed and developing countries. It is a sad datum to consider that over two-thirds of the world’s population still has insufficient access to food.
Finally, it is worth underlining that uranium is another key resource through its enrichment and use both in civilian and military fields. Some emerging countries like Iran and Northern Korea consider the production of nuclear energy an undeniable right in order to carry out their social growth, whereas Western countries consider such plans as menacing the world’s security and peace.
Despite the difficulties, in the last years the international community has been trying to enforce important initiatives to conciliate natural exploitation and fair treatment for all States and peoples. Multilateral diplomacy has been focusing its attention on studying strategic plans on the subject. For instance, the United Nations approved an ambitious plan to eradicate extreme poverty and to guarantee a more fair access to resources through the Millenium Development Goals. At the same time UN agencies such as FAO and the WFP have contributed to help poor countries in obtaining food and water supply; UNCTAD acted in a similar way too. Moreover, economic international institutions organisations like the IMF and the WB have approved several initiatives to reduce the poverty gap amongst countries through the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, the Assistance Development Framework, the humanitarian aid. The European Union as well has strengthened her links with ACP countries (i.e. former European colonies in African, Caribbean and Pacific area) with the creation of free trade agreements. Furthermore, important agencies like the UN Committee of International Law or the Council of Europe have elaborated numerous conventions and protocols on environmental exploitation and ecological sustainability, concerning the sovereignty on natural resources and their utilization, recalling the priority of sharing and cooperating.

In conclusion, the international community cannot ignore that the emerging of highly populated countries like China, India or Brazil rejuvenates and nourishes the issue of resource distribution. What should be clear and desirable is that this challenge will be ever more debated and considered through multilateral diplomatic procedures, activating all the tools available to find common solutions respectful of ecological sustainability and human rights. The omission of a diplomatic dialogue could quickly lead the major military powers of the world in the need of solving the dispute over resources through the use of military might. Could the reason for the break out of World War Three be the resource supply?

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