Universiteit Leiden

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Institutions for Conflict Resolution (COI)

Mining conflicts

An effective and equitable approach to resource conflicts?

This research engages two interconnected areas focusing on conflicts over resource extraction. The first part concentrates on constitutional rights related to the environment, while the second delves into just energy transitions. 

Constitutional environmental rights and resource conflicts

One line of research delves into qualitative, contextual studies of environmental constitutionalism within mining disputes, as resource conflicts intensify amid a surge in global environmental justice movements. These movements have prompted international recognition of the right to a healthy environment and national constitutional reforms to protect it, emphasizing the pivotal role of national constitutions in fortifying environmental rights and addressing socio-environmental challenges in the Anthropocene era. However, despite the integration of environmental rights into various domestic constitutions, their effectiveness remains contested due to diverse contexts and interpretations. Case studies (e.g. Canadian oil sands, gold mining in Argentina and Costa Rica) reveal how marginalized communities assert environmental rights to address project-related grievances. This context-specific research aims to enrich our understanding of environmental constitutionalism, its practical implications, and the facilitative legal frameworks and institutions that promote equitable and inclusive resource decision-making in complex conflicts.

Just energy transitions within and beyond European borders

The second area of research focuses on legal doctrinal and empirical studies regarding ‘just’ energy transitions and their repercussions for communities that supply the raw materials for these transitions. With concerns about rapid climate change, the European Green Deal (EGD) has set out a significant energy transition plan to reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The transformative policies under the EGD will impact various sectors across Europe, potentially leading to disparities and regional inequality. Additionally, the EGD's reliance on increased extraction of critical minerals (e.g. lithium) from other regions beyond Euroep raises concerns about outsourcing environmental and human rights impacts, potentially contributing to socio-environmental and geopolitical conflicts. Conflicts over resource extraction that originate in European decision-making but have impacts that are felt beyond its borders will require new approaches in how we conceptualise a ‘just’ energy transition. This research explores how to achieve a truly equitable and sustainable energy transition by incorporating diverse perspectives and the voices of affected communities into the decision-making processes of policymakers that are spearheading the transition, and by developing institutional approaches to prevent or mitigate such conflicts.

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