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Prominent institutional economists argue that the failures in reforming dysfunctional economies and notional states worldwide are due to a missing causal link between the suggested measures (imposed institutional change) and the expected result (strong economies). In the quest for economic development in a sustainability frame, natural resources emerge as a vital locus to promote economic development, wealth, equality, and political and social stability, especially where resource scarcity is a particularly pressing issue. In such settings, conflicts between users, sectors or whole countries hamper attempts to utilize the full potential of natural resources as a key element for sustainable development.
The study of conflicts, though, is neither governed by a coherent set of theories nor limited by strict disciplinary boundaries. Rather, it encompasses a multitude of conceptions grounded within a wide array of disciplines, epistemological assumptions and schools of thought concerning the links between scarcity and competition, often concluding in contradictory proposals.
Critical literature, although departing from different ontological standpoints, reaches a consensus regarding the paramount role of institutions in the frame of natural resource management, conflict resolution, and sustainability transformations. Nonetheless, understandings of what institutions are, how they regularize behavior and interactions between people, and how they are formed, replaced or changed constitute not only vague areas within the sustainability sciences or human geography, for instance, but are also a point of contention within institutional economics, which forms the basis for this Special Issue.
In this frame, the Special Issue is divided into three sections with the overall aim of contributing to the discussion on the interplay between natural resources, conflicts, and sustainable transformations.
The objective of the first section is to conceptually unpack conflicts on natural resources. By doing so, we will unravel the economic, social, and environmental factors leading to such conflicts. This is a crucial and necessary step towards the sustainable management of resources, particularly in transformative settings.
Section two empirically explores the spatial dimension of transformations and juxtaposes sustainability pathways of varying and diverse spatial localities. The objective here is to draw attention to the physical dimension of transformations and to the subtle but decisive role of space.
Section three explores several methodological opportunities to investigate conflicts beyond their idiosyncratic dimension. This section focuses specifically on the comparative method to achieve a better understanding of the many contextual factors shaping conflicts and their outcomes. Particular emphasis will lie on analytical methods such as qualitative comparative analysis, cluster analysis, and the newly emerging approach of archetype analysis.
Prof. Dimitrios Zikos
Dr. Ourania Papasozomenou
Dr. Matteo Roggero