• Course Code:  ESSP

  • Term:  March 2018

  • Start Date:  Mar 1 2018

  • End Date:  May 11 2018

  • Duration:  11 weeks

  • Course Author(s)
    Erika Weinthal, Richard Matthew, Marc Levy, David Jensen, and Carl Bruch

This course has ended

Mooc 17 course card

Environmental Security and Sustaining Peace

March 2018

  • Sdg academy website announcment
    The SDG Academy Team


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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 massive open online course (MOOC) 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 that 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.


Core Faculty: 

Erika Weinthal 

Lee Hill Snowdon Professor of Environmental Policy, Duke University 

Richard Matthew

Director, Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation and Sustainable Development, University of California Irvine 

Marc Levy

Deputy Director, CIESIN, Earth Institute, Columbia University 

David Jensen

Head of Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding Programme, UN Environment

Carl Bruch

Director, International Programs, Environmental Law Institute 


Guest lecturers: 

Silja Halle

Coordinator: Women, Natural Resources and Peace, UN Environment

Ken Conca 

Professor of International Affairs, American University 

Bernarda Elizalde

Principal and Co-Founder, Centre for Responsible Mineral Development

Rebeca Arias Flores

Resident Coordinator (United Nations) and Resident Representative (United Nations Development Programme), Guatemala


Course Structure & Requirements

The course will launch on March 1st, 2018. The course includes eight weeks of lectures and two additional weeks for catch-up, so it will remain open until May 10th, 2018. Students can enroll anytime. After May 10th, 2018 the course content will no longer be available.


Course materials are made available each Thursday and remain available for the duration of the course. All course components (videos, readings, and quizzes) can be completed at a time that is convenient for students and anytime before the course ends.


Course materials each week include pre-recorded lectures, readings, discussion questions, quizzes, and a final assignment. In addition, live webinars are offered throughout the course so that you can ask questions directly to instructors.


Time commitment: Approx. 2-4 hours per week

Cost: Free

Full Language Courses: English

Video Transcripts: English, Mandarin Chinese, French, Portuguese, Spanish

Requirements: An internet connection.

Certificates: Students who successfully complete the course will receive a digital certificate of proficiency. In order to successfully complete the course, students must score an average of 70% or higher on the quizzes, all of which are multiple choice. Students who score 85% or higher will receive certificates of distinction.


While this course is not credit granting, we encourage students to work with their own institutions to explore the option of granting credit for online coursework.


Questions about the course structure or requirements? Email the course team at enviropeace@sdgacademy.org. For technical questions about the platform, please email support@edcast.com.


Course Syllabus

Module 1: Course Overview (Week 1)

1.1 Welcome and Introduction 

1.2 Evolution of Environment, Peace, and Conflict Linkages

1.3 Conceptual Framework for Environmental Peacebuilding

1.4 Case Study: Environmental Peacebuilding in Colombia

1.5 Case Study: Extractives and Peacebuilding in Aynak, Afghanistan


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

2.1 Introduction to Module 2

2.2 Drivers of Violent Conflict Emergence

2.3 Case Study: Diamonds and Conflict in Sierra Leone

2.4 Climate Stress, Conflict, and Peacebuilding

2.5 Case Study: Climate Change Dimensions of the Arab Spring

2.6 Governance and Resilience

2.7 Transparency and Access to Information

2.8 Conflict Sensitivity

2.9 Conceptual Frameworks to Understand the Context, Process, and Determinants of Mineral-Related Conflicts

2.10 Mediating Natural Resource Conflicts

2.11 Case Study: Land as a Conflict Driver in Sierra Leone

2.12 Wrap-up of Module 2


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

3.1 Introduction to Module 3

3.2 The Importance of Natural Resources during Conflict

3.3 Environmental Impacts of Armed Conflict

3.4 Breakdown of Environmental Governance and Social Relationships

3.5 Conflict Resources and Pillage

3.6 Case Study: Blood Chocolate - Cacao and Conflict in Côte d'Ivoire

3.7 National Tools for Addressing Conflict Resources

3.8 International Law Protecting the Environment during Armed Conflict

3.9 Implementing International Law during Armed Conflict

3.10 UN Security Council Tools for Addressing Resource Conflicts

3.11 Case Study: Diamonds, Timber, and Conflict in Liberia

3.12 Natural Resources in Peace Agreements

3.13 Wrap-up of Module 3


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

4.1 Introduction to Module 4

4.2 Environment and Natural Resources in Post-Conflict Assessments  

4.3 Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources for Recovery

4.4 Natural Resources in Security and Stabilization

4.5 Restoring Livelihoods and Building Resilience

4.6 Resources as Entry Points for Dialogue and Cooperation

4.7 Case Study: Cooperation around Shared Water in the Jordan River

4.8 Rebuilding Environmental Governance

4.9 Empowering Women in Natural Resource Management and Peacebuilding  

4.10 Using Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue to Navigate Natural Resource Conflicts

4.11 Spatial Planning and Recovery

4.12 Mitigating Environmental Impacts of Reconstruction

4.13 Coordination in Peacebuilding

4.14 Case Study: Environmental Peacebuilding through Water Management in Wadi El Ku, Sudan 

4.15 Wrap-up of Module 4


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

5.1 Course Wrap-up and Final Assessment 

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