Geopolitics of natural ressources

ldvlp2325  2017-2018  Louvain-la-Neuve

Geopolitics of natural ressources
5 credits
30.0 h
Hinojosa Valencia Leonith (compensates Legrand Vincent); Legrand Vincent;
Main themes
This part of the course aims to examine the role that social, economic, political and cultural factors play in the geopolitics of natural resources and development and is organized in two sections. Drawing on concepts from Political Ecology, Ecological Economics and Development Studies, the first section provides the foundations to understand the main topics that explain the geopolitics of natural resources and its implications for sustainable development. The interplay of these topics is illustrated by a review of socio-environmental conflicts observed in and development strategies pursued by low and medium-income countries. The second section analyses the developmental possibilities, risks and threats arising out of the current distribution and management of natural resources, notably land and water, in relation to food security and sustainable agriculture. This section discusses the policy and institutional options that countries from the Global South can pursue in order to influence the global governance of natural resources.

At the end of this learning unit, the student is able to :


After completing this part of the course students will:

  • Be knowledgeable of the main concepts of Political Ecology, Ecological Economics and Development Studies that underpin the geopolitics of natural resources.
  • Be able to critically discuss the relationship between the access, distribution and control of natural resources and development outcomes from an inter-disciplinary perspective.
  • Be able to analyse natural resources policy with focus on land and water.

In addition to developing analytical skills, students are expected to strengthen their capacity for team work, essay-writing and oral presentation by integrating knowledge from multiple disciplines and approaches to development.


The contribution of this Teaching Unit to the development and command of the skills and learning outcomes of the programme(s) can be accessed at the end of this sheet, in the section entitled “Programmes/courses offering this Teaching Unit”.
Section 1. Conceptualizing the geopolitics of natural resources: concepts and illustrative cases
Session 1 (3 Oct)
1.1 Introduction: the challenges of sustainable development for an efficient use and fair distribution of natural resources from an inter-disciplinary perspective
1.2 Concepts from Political Ecology, Ecological Economics and Development Studies developed for understanding the geopolitics of natural resources
Session 2 (10 Oct)
1.3 Socio-environmental conflicts: economic, cultural and ecological arguments
1.4 The resource curse
Section 2: Use and management of natural resources in relation with the Sustainable Development Goals of food security and sustainable agriculture
Session 3 (14 Nov)
2.1 Access and control of land and water for food security: economic, social and cultural arguments
2.2 Climate change and the geopolitics of natural resources
Session 4 (21 Nov)
2.3 Governance of natural resources and policy for water security and sustainable agriculture
2.4 Presentations from students
Students' work in groups
At the end of Section 1, students will organize in groups of about 4 or 5 people to choose a topic that will be presented and discussed at the end of Section 2.
Topics among which the team work will develop include: land security, land sustainability, water security, water sustainability, socio-environmental conflicts associated with extractive industries (mining, oil or gas), socio-environmental conflicts associated with large-scale infrastructure projects (for example, dams, hydroelectrics, roads).
Teaching methods
The course is designed to accommodate students from all fields interested in the role of the geopolitics of natural resources in development. Students are expected to leverage their previous experience as relevant or explore new avenues related to their career aspirations.
Sessions will be conducted through lectures, guided discussion and students' presentation. Class participation is an essential part of the course and students will be required to demonstrate knowledge of the readings and be able to critically assess the contents. They will be asked to present a 10-minutes discussion based on a case study and others will be expected to participate in discussion. It is advised that students choose their case oriented towards the short essay that will be part of the course assessment.
Evaluation methods
Each student should produce a 1500-words essay (bibliography excluded). This can be the review of a particular case study, a conceptual discussion of a particular theme, or the analysis of a particular natural resource policy. Students should develop the essay in an academic style. At the end of section 1, students should produce a short outline that will identify a topic and relevant literature for their essay.
Class participation: 30% (of which 15% is the presentation) will be evaluated on the basis of: (a) familiarity with the readings; (b) critical approach to the topic.
Essay: 70%. No more than 1500 words of text (references excluded) will cover a conceptual argument from the fields covered by the course, with case material whenever appropriate, and identification of policy implications. Essay to be submitted during the exam session on January 2018.
Lectures (* signifie obligatoire)
Section 1
1.    *Badeeb RA, Lean HH, Clark J. 2017. The evolution of the natural resource curse thesis: A critical literature survey. Resources Policy 51: 123-134.
2.    *Bebbington A.; Hinojosa L.; Bebbington D.; Burneo M.L. and Warnaars X. (2008) Contention and ambiguity: mining and the possibilities of development. Development and Change, 39(6): 965'992.
3.    *Gomez, E. T., Sawyer, S. (2012). State, capital, multinational institutions, and indigenous peoples. In S. Sawyer, & E. T. Gomez (Eds.), The politics of resource extraction: Indigenous peoples, multinational corporations, and the state (pp. 33'45). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan and UNRISD.
4.    *Hardin, Gareth (1968).  The Tragedy of the Commons. Science. 162(3859):  1243 - 1248
5.    *Le Billon, P. (2004). The Geopolitical Economy of 'Resource Wars.' Geopolitics 9(1): 1 ' 28
6.    *Sachs, Jeffrey and Andrew M. Warner. (2001) Natural Resources and Economic Development: The curse of Natural Resources. European Economic Review 45. pp. 827 ' 838.
7.    Agnew, John (2003). The Three Ages of Geopolitics. Chapter 6 in Geopolitics: Re-Visioning World Politics. Second Edition. pp. 85 ' 114.
8.    Bebbington, A., Humphreys Bebbington, D., Hinojosa, L., Burneo, M.-L., & Bury, J. (2013). Anatomies of conflict: Social mobilization and new political ecologies of the Andes. In A. Bebbington, & J. Bury (Eds.), Subterranean struggles: New dynamics of mining, oil and gas in Latin America (pp. 241'266). Austin: University of Texas Press.
9.    Costanza, R., Cumberland J. H., Daly, H., Goodland, R., Norgaard R. (1997). An Introduction to Ecological Economics. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
10.*Costanza, R., d'Arge R., de Groot, R., et al. (1997) The value of the world's ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature 387, 253-260
11.EJOLT ' Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade. Atlas of Environmental Justice.
12.Hall S. (1992). The West and the Rest: Discourse and Power, in Hall and Gieben (Eds) Formations of modernity, pp. 276 ' 318.
13.Haslam, P.A., Tanimoune N.A. (2016). The Determinants of Social Conflict in the Latin American Mining Sector: New Evidence with Quantitative Data. Word Development 78: 401-419.
14.Hinojosa, L. (2013). Change in rural livelihoods in the Andes: Do extractive industries make any difference?' Special Issue 'The extractive industries, community development and livelihood change in developing countries,' Community Development Journal 48(3): 1 '16
15.Hinojosa, L. Bebbington A., Cortéz G., Chumacero J.P., Bebbington D., Hennermann K. (2015). Gas and Development: Rural Territorial Dynamics in Tarija, Bolivia. World Development 73: 105-117.
16.ICMM (2006). Resource endowment initiative: The analytical framework. ICMM, UNCTAD and The World Bank, London.
17.ICMM, (2010-2013). Good Practice Guide. Indigenous Peoples and Mining. ICMM. London.
18.Dell'Angelo J, D'Odorico P, Rulli MC. (2017). Threats to sustainable development posed by land and water grabbing. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 26: 120-128.
19.Kumar, K. (2014). The sacred mountain: confronting global capital at Niyamgiri. Geoforum 54: 196-206.
20.Lee H., Clark William C., and Devereaux C. (2008). Biofuels and Sustainable Development: Report of the San Servolo Roundtable. Cambridge, MA: Sustainability Science Program, Harvard Kennedy School.
21.Martinez-Alier, J., G. Kallis, S. Veuthey, M. Walter, and L. Temper. (2010). Social metabolism, ecological distribution conflicts, and valuation languages. Ecological Economics 70(2): 153-158.
22.Reidy, Michael S. (2011). From the Oceans to the Mountains: Spatial Science in an Age of Empire. Chapter 1 in Knowing Global Environments: New Historical Perspectives on the Field Sciences. pp. 17' 38.
23. Schlosberg, D. (2007). Defining environmental justice (Part I, 1). In Defining environmental justice: theories, movements, and nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
24.Schlosberg, D. (2013). Theorizing environmental justice: the expanding sphere of a discourse. Environmental Politics 22(1): 37-55.
25.UNCTAD (2016). The Least Developed Countries Report 2016. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Geneva. Overview.
26.Valdivia, G. (2015). The Sacrificial Zones of "Progressive" Extraction in Andean Latin America. Latin American Research Review 50(3): 245-253.
27.van der Ploeg F. (2011). Natural Resources: Curse or Blessing? Journal of Economic Literature 49: 366-420.
Section 2
28.*Cassman KG. (2012). What do we need to know about global food security? Global Food Security 1: 81-82.
29.*Jepsen MR, et al. (2015). Transitions in European land-management regimes between 1800 and 2010. Land Use Policy 49: 53-64.
30.*World Bank (2009). World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change, World Bank, Washington, DC. / Overview, pp. 1-30.,,contentMDK:23062354~pagePK:478093~piPK:477627~theSitePK:477624,00.html
31.Akhmouch A, Correia FN. (2016). The 12 OECD principles on water governance ' When science meets policy. Utilities Policy 43: 14-20.
32.Allen P. (2013). Facing food security. Journal of Rural Studies 29: 135-138.
33.Allouche J. (2011). The sustainability and resilience of global water and food systems: Political analysis of the interplay between security, resource scarcity, political systems and global trade. Food Policy 36, Supplement 1: S3-S8.
34.Ayres RU. (2008). Sustainability economics: Where do we stand? Ecological Economics 67: 281-310.
35.Barrett CB, Palm C. (2016). Meeting the global food security challenge: Obstacles and opportunities ahead. Global Food Security 11: 1-4.
36.Bennett EM, et al. (2015). Linking biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human well-being: three challenges for designing research for sustainability. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 14: 76-85.
37.Brooks J. (2014). Policy coherence and food security: The effects of OECD countries' agricultural policies. Food Policy 44: 88-94.
38.Ericksen PJ. (2008). Conceptualizing food systems for global environmental change research. Global Environmental Change 18: 234-245.
39.Hinojosa L., Lambin E., Mzoughi N., Napoléone C. (2106). Place attachment as a factor of mountain farming permanence: a survey in the French Southern Alps. Ecological Economics: 308-315
40.Hinrichs, C. Clare (2013). Regionalizing food security? Imperatives, intersections and contestations in a post-9/11 world. Journal of Rural Studies, 29, 7-18
41.Latorre, S., Farrell, K., Martinez-Alier, J. (2015). The commodification of nature and socio-environmental resistance in Ecuador: An inventory of accumulation by dispossession cases, 1980'2013. Ecological Economics 116: 58-69.
42.Mudd, G. M. (2007). Global trends in gold mining: Towards quantifying environmental and resource sustainability? Resources Policy, 32, 42'56.
43.Orihuela, J. C. (2013). How do ''Mineral-States' Learn? Path-dependence, networks and policy change in the development of economic institutions. World Development, 43, 138'148.
44.Ostrom, E. (1990). Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
45.Ostrom, E. (2010). Polycentric Systems for Coping with Collective Action and Global Environmental Change. Global Environmental Change, 20, 550 ' 557.
46.Özkaynak, B., B. Rodriguez-Labajos, C.' Ayd'n, I. Yanez, C. Garibay (2015). Towards environmental justice success in mining conflicts: an empirical investigation. EJOLT Report no. 14.
47.Pahl-Wostl C. (2017). Governance of the water-energy-food security nexus: A multi-level coordination challenge. Environmental Science & Policy.
48.Qadir M, Sharma BR, Bruggeman A, Choukr-Allah R, Karajeh F. (2007). Non-conventional water resources and opportunities for water augmentation to achieve food security in water scarce countries. Agricultural Water Management 87: 2-22.
49.Ramankutty N, Rhemtulla J. (2013). Land sparing or land sharing: context dependent. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11: 178-178.
50.United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (2015). Mapping Mining to the Sustainable Development Goals: A Preliminary Atlas. Executive Summary.
51.van Dijk M, Meijerink GW. (2014). A review of global food security scenario and assessment studies: Results, gaps and research priorities. Global Food Security 3: 227-238.
52.Vos J., Hinojosa L. (2016) Virtual water trade and the contestation of hydro-social territories. Water International, 41(1): 37-53
Faculty or entity

Programmes / formations proposant cette unité d'enseignement (UE)

Title of the programme
Master [120] in Anthropology

Master [120] in Population and Development Studies

Master [120] in Geography : General

Master [120] in Public Administration

Minor in Development and Environment