SDC-52806 Resource competition worldwide: Issues and perspectives


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Individual Paper0
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. G van der Haar
Lecturer(s)dr. ir. G van der Haar
Examiner(s)dr. ir. G van der Haar

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

This course is open to students from different disciplinary backgrounds. We expect you to have prior knowledge in one of the following fields- broadly defined: development studies, natural resource management, social geography, land use planning, social anthropology, conflict studies. If you have doubts about your entry level or the added value of the course, please contact the course coordinator to discuss your concerns.

Continuation courses:

This course is part of the BSc Minor Natural resource conflict and environmental justice, but it may be followed as a stand-alone course. The immediate follow-up course in the Minor is Environmental Justice in Practice: Cases of competing claims. Other courses are offered in the Minor as Restricted Optionals. These include:

ENP 37306 Water Governance: Concepts and practices

WRM 33806 Gender and Natural resource governance

FNP 31306 Communities, conservation and development

Other courses, offered at the MSc level, may also be of your interest, but you may need to verify whether you meet the entry levels:

SDC 51306 Fieldwork in conflict and post-conflict settings; SDC 30806 Political Ecologies of Natural Resource Distribution; SDC 31306 Property Rights, Natural Resources and Conflict.


One of the big questions of our time is how to deal with competing claims to scarce natural resources. Global problems around resource grabbing continue to be high on the agenda and it remains difficult to reconcile large scale land acquisition and infrastructural investment with equitable and sustainable development. The current concern with climate change adds to these pressures: measures related to carbon emission reduction, alternative sources of energy and climate adaptation tend to have considerable land foot prints and compete with other uses. This course offers students a broad understanding of current day processes of resource competition and provides key conceptual building blocks to analyze its dynamics and outcomes. The course covers different kinds of resource competition, including  'new enclosures'  as well as property disputes at the level of communities and families. We discuss the different ways in which competition manifests itself, the strategies people use to make their claims, and reflect on the relation between open competition and structural forms of exclusion and dispossession.  A range of theoretical perspectives will be brought in to understand resource competition, most importantly: political ecology, critical agrarian studies and legal anthropology. These theories help us move beyond understandings of competition as a 'simple' response to resource scarcity to consider the underlying dynamics of resource appropriation and unequal access. The course ends with a consideration of current approaches to address resource conflict and prevent ‘grabbing’, such as due diligence, multi-stakeholder dialogue, land rights registration and dispute resolution. It will become clear that though there is a clear need for equitable and sustainable solutions, how to achieve this remains an issue of much debate.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- Identify sources and manifestations of resource competition;

- Analyze dynamics of power and contention in resource competition with the use of suitable theories;
- Identify approaches to address natural resource competition and critically reflect on the potential of these approaches to contribute to equity and sustainability.


This course combines lectures with tutorials and the writing of an individual reflection paper. A wide range of guest lecturers from within and outside of the university will be brought in to cover the different topics. Students will be activated to formulate their own learning goals. In weekly tutorials they will discuss what they learnt that week and work towards the individual reflection paper.


Examination of the course will exist of a written exam (50%), individual assignments (25%) and a reflection paper (25%)


The course literature will be made available through Brightspace prior to the start of the course.

Compulsory for: WUNCGBSc Minor Natural Resource Conflict and Governance1MO