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The paperwork of plunder: how rebels govern illicit resources

Dr. Ariel Ahram is Co-Director of Crisis Response Council and a Professor at Virginia Tech School of Public & International Affairs

This article explores how rebels use a combination of physical control and legal claims to ownership in governing natural resources. Most scholars focus on plunder, how rebels physically acquire resource. But rebel governance of resources involves more than just force and fraud. Claims to ownership constrain rebels’ ability to convey resources into global markets and strengthen rebels’ assertions of legitimacy. Still, not every group possessing resources claims to own them and not every rebel group claiming ownership possesses resources. Belligerents leverage de facto control over resources to bolster their claim to sovereignty and use legal standing to gain control over resource-rich territories.

The paper typologizes four distinctive forms of rebel resource governance: disorganized crime; organized crime; shadow resource governance; and rebelocratic resource governance. Case studies illustrate each subtype. The typology suggests new hypotheses about the origins of rebel governance and the impact of these forms on conflict dynamics.

Click here to read the article in the Journal of International Politics.


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