WATER AS A CURSE? A quantitative examination of the link between water resources and interstate conflict
The phenomenon of the resource curse links the abundance of natural resources to higher levels of conflict occurrence. Until now, most literature merely focuses on non-renewable resources such as diamonds or gold. This paper sheds the light on water as a renewable resource and takes a new perspective arguing that water abundance can also be linked to conflict occurrence. The main argument for water to be a curse is based on the expectation that the commercialization of water resources can lead through the effects of greed or grievances to interstate clashes. The quantitative time-series cross-section analysis focuses on shared water basins and examines their link to low-level militarized interstate disputes (MID). Multivariate logistic regressions, interaction terms and marginal effects show that larger water basins are associated with a lower conflict risk which means that the expectation of a water curse cannot be confirmed. The results for greed and grievance as determinants of conflict show that greed does in fact increase the conflict risk, but the effect is independent from water abundance. In contrast, grievances turn out to be a conflict-decreasing factor, also when set in relation with water abundance. The results strengthen previous findings suggesting that scarcer water resources are a conflict-contributing factor. However, even though a curse cannot be confirmed at this point, strong improvements in the development of indicators are needed before ruling out the possibility of a water curse.