Do Inaccessible and Lootable Natural Resources Influence the Incidence of Civil Conflicts? Opportunities and Limits in the Study of the Resource Curse in Developing Countries
Abstract: The literature on the so-called resource curse has provided evidence showing that third-world countries rich in natural resources tend to suffer from low levels of economic growth, poor political outcomes and severe intrastate conflicts. In particular, resource abundance is associated with more frequent and longer civil wars, especially in developing countries. Our study aims to assess how a specific mechanism may explain this pattern and ultimately be targeted to prevent the occurrence of hostilities in countries endowed with specific natural resources. The central hypothesis of our study holds that geographically inaccessible and easily exploitable natural deposits are used by rebel groups to finance military activities against central governments, eventually leading to the occurrence of civil conflicts. To test our theory, we set up a probit model and design a set of robustness checks to assess the sensitivity of our results. Our estimates eventually lead us to reject the original theory and motivate us to formulate different explanations to interpret our results. We conclude that researchers need to rely on more accurate and extensive data and adopt more comprehensive analytical specifications to better explain the frequency and the severity of intrastate wars in resource-rich developing countries.
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