Approaching the Human-Environment Nexus Beyond Conflict: A Peace and Coviability Perspective

  • Mohamed Behnassi


The perception of the natural environment in terms of resources to meet anthropogenic ‘needs’ may stimulate competition among actors, which could eventually lead to conflict, especially in times of scarcity. Based on this core assumption, a great number of studies have investigated the human-environment nexus from a conflict and security perspective. Later on, many researchers have critically questioned the relevance of this literature and alternatively envisioned the environment as an incentive for cooperation rather than for violence. Accordingly, the concept of ‘environmental peacebuilding’ has been developed to investigate the evolution of environmental cooperation into a conflict transformation tool. Against such a background, this work aims at reviewing and discussing the relevance of both research trends with a focus on their ability to appropriately approach the human-environment nexus and to provide a useful theoretical and policy-making framework. Regarding the literature on environmental conflict, the analysis shows that its core assumptions remain questionable and its empirical and theoretical conclusions are contested. In respect to environmental peacebuilding, despite its attractiveness, more systematic research is still needed to make it a robust framework. Therefore, the analysis suggests the coviability of social-ecological systems as an alternative to properly perceive the human-environment nexus. This is based on the belief that the viability of human societies depends intimately on the living components of natural and managed systems, and that the coviability approach has the potential to adjust our perception with regard to the position of humans in the biosphere. A position which should be mainly oriented towards ensuring solidarity between humans to maintain viable ecosystems instead of conflict or limited, pragmatic cooperation driven schemes. This may raise hopes that future targets can be achievable and that human societies and ecosystems are sufficiently resilient and better prepared for a world of universal ecological change.


Environment Natural resources Conflict Peace-building Nexus Coviability 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mohamed Behnassi
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Research on Environment, Human Security and Governance (CERES)Ibn Zohr University of AgadirAgadirMorocco

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