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Massive open online course on Environmental Security and Sustaining Peace

11 February - 21 April

About this course

Conflicts over natural resources and the environment are among the greatest challenges in 21st-century geopolitics. These conflicts present serious threats to human security at both the national and local levels. Natural resources and the environment can nonetheless serve as a vehicle for peace if managed in a sustainable and equitable manner.

Environmental peacebuilding has emerged as a new frontier in interdisciplinary studies. It offers a conceptual and operational framework to understand the positive peacebuilding potential of natural resources across the conflict lifecycle while mitigating potential risks.

This 8-week course on Environmental Security and Sustaining Peace provides an in-depth introduction to the multiple roles that natural resources and the environment play in the onset, escalation, and resolution of, and recovery from, violent conflicts. Many of the considerations and approaches in this course are also relevant to understanding and addressing social conflicts around natural resources and the environment.

This course is for:

  • Peace and security specialists that want to understand more about natural resources.
  • Natural resource experts that want to design more conflict-sensitive programs.
  • Sustainable development practitioners – as well as private-sector actors – who need to understand how natural resources can be developed in fragile contexts with weak governance.
  • Advanced undergraduates and graduate students interested in the key concepts and practices of this growing field

What you’ll learn

  • How natural resources and the environment impact conflict
  • How conflict harms natural resources and the environment
  • How natural resources and the environment support peacebuilding
  • How you can assess and address the relationship between natural resources and conflict


This course is offered in English, with video transcripts and tests in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Mandarin Chinese.


  • Carl Bruch, Director, International Programs, Environmental Law Institute
  • David Jensen, Head of Programme, Environmental Peacebuilding and MapX, UN Environmental Programme
  • Richard Matthew, Associate Dean of Research and International Programs, School of Social Ecology, University of California – Irvine
  • Marc Levy, Deputy Director, Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Earth Institute, Columbia University
  • Erika Weinthal, Professor, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University


FREE, Add a Verified Certificate for $49 USD

Course Syllabus

Module 1: Course Overview (Week 1)

  • Welcome and Introduction
  • Evolution of Environment, Peace, and Conflict Linkages
  • Conceptual Framework for Environmental Peacebuilding
  • Case Study: Environmental Peacebuilding in Colombia
  • Case Study: Extractives and Peacebuilding in Aynak, Afghanistan

Module 2: Natural Resources and Conflict Causes (Weeks 2 and 3)

  • Introduction to Module 2
  • Drivers of Violent Conflict Emergence
  • Case Study: Diamonds and Conflict in Sierra Leone
  • Climate Stress, Conflict, and Peacebuilding
  • Case Study: Climate Change Dimensions of the Arab Spring
  • Governance and Resilience
  • Transparency and Access to Information
  • Conflict Sensitivity
  • Mediating Natural Resource Conflicts
  • Case Study: Land as a Conflict Driver in Sierra Leone
  • Wrap-up of Module 2

Module 3: Natural Resources and the Environment during Armed Conflict (Weeks 4 and 5)

  • Introduction to Module 3
  • The Importance of Natural Resources during Conflict
  • Environmental Impacts of Armed Conflict
  • Breakdown of Environmental Governance and Social Relationships
  • Conflict Resources and Pillage
  • Case Study: Blood Chocolate – Cacao and Conflict in Côte d’Ivoire
  • National Tools for Addressing Conflict Resources
  • International Law Protecting the Environment during Armed Conflict
  • Implementing International Law during Armed Conflict
  • UN Security Council Tools for Addressing Resource Conflicts
  • Case Study: Diamonds, Timber and Conflict in Liberia
  • Natural Resources in Peace Agreements
  • Wrap-up of Module 3

Module 4: Post-Conflict Environmental Peacebuilding (Weeks 6 and 7)

  • Introduction to Module 4
  • Environment and Natural Resources in Post-Conflict Assessments
  • Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources for Recovery
  • Natural Resources in Security and Stabilization
  • Restoring Livelihoods and Building Resilience
  • Resources as Entry Points for Dialogue and Cooperation
  • Case Study: Cooperation around Shared Water in the Jordan River
  • Rebuilding Environmental Governance
  • Empowering Women in Natural Resource Management and Peacebuilding
  • Spatial Planning and Recovery
  • Mitigating Environmental Impacts of Reconstruction
  • Coordination in Peacebuilding
  • Case Study: Environmental Peacebuilding through Water Management in Wadi El Ku, Sudan
  • Wrap-up of Module 4

Module 5: Course Wrap-up and Final Assignment (Week 8)

  • Course Wrap-up and Final Assessment


Attached File/s


11 February
21 April
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