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Mapping environmental conflicts and cooperation

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Livelihood Conflicts in the Ferghana Valley

Type of conflict main
Intensity 4
Region
Central Asia
Time 1991 ‐ ongoing
Countries Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan
Resources Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water
Conflict Summary The Ferghana Valley, a single 300km geographical formation, has been a source of inter-ethnic conflict since the disintegration of the USSR and the...
Livelihood Conflicts in the Ferghana Valley
The Ferghana Valley, a single 300km geographical formation, has been a source of inter-ethnic conflict since the disintegration of the USSR and the partitions made by the Central Asian republics of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The divided region is characterised by disputes over scarce water and land resources, but also tensions pertaining to borders, their changed status and control regime. Present-day strains are exasperated by the pressures of global climate change and complex cultural and religious constellations.
Conceptual Model

Climate Change

Gradual temperature increases in the region, together with a decrease in the average rainfall has reduced the availability of water in the Ferghana Valley. Global climate change is expected to cause further resource depletion in the region.

Intermediary Mechanisms

Living conditions across the valley decreased sharply as the previous Soviet system of collective farming collapsed. In turn, this has triggered a new competition for resources, especially water and land.

Fragility and Conflict Risks

Disagreements over resources have resulted in a series of minor and major clashes around the predominant ethnic enclaves, particularly between local Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the Osh and Jalal-Abad regions of Kyrgyzstan. These clashes have claimed more than 2,000 lives. Interstate tensions have also transpired between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan when guards exchanged fire along the border of the two countries, seriously injuring one guard. A major humanitarian crisis ensued when approximately 100,000 to 300,000 refugees, predominantly of Uzbek ethnic origin, were attempting to flee to Uzbekistan.

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksSocial and Economic DriversChanging climate leads to decreased water availability.Demographic changes increase pressures on available water resources.Economic developments place additional strains on water resources.Economic developments lead to changes in land use.Freshwater becomes scarce as an essential resource. Changes in land use reduce available/usable land.Land scarcity hampers agricultural production.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources leads to tensions between states.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources leads to distributive conflicts between societal groups.A slow change in climatic conditions, particularly temperature and precipitation.Gradual Change in Temperature and/or PrecipitationAn increase in the scarcity of clean water and/or an increased variability in water supply.Increased Water ScarcityChange in population density, age structure, or ethnic makeup.Demographic ChangeA broad concept to cover economic growth in general but also specific economic changes or changes of incentives.Economic DevelopmentA change in the usage of environmentally relevant land.Land Use ChangeReduced availability of essential natural resources, such as land and water.Change in Access / Availability of Natural ResourcesReduced availability of/ access to land.Increased Land ScarcityTensions between states that may but need not escalate into overt violent conflict.Interstate TensionsNon-violent or violent tensions and conflicts between different societal groups.Grievances between Societal Groups
Context Factors
  • Water-stressed Area
  • History of Conflict
Conflict History

Interethnic tensions in the Ferghana Valley, the most populous region in Central Asia, centre primarily on access to natural resources, especially water and land. Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are highly interdependent concerning their water and energy, and this is a significant, although not exclusive, cause of international disputes and interethnic tensions in the area (Baker, 2011). The region is also seen as an extremely sensitive border area with a high level of militarization. In more recent years, this militarization has seemingly been legitimised by a security discourse which perceives the valley to be a breeding ground for Islamic fundamentalist organisations (Ismailbekova, 2012). 

Multi-dimensional causes of the problem 
The root cause of the problem is multi-dimensional and inherently linked to the break-up of the USSR. On the one hand, in the post-Soviet sphere, the three newly independent states of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan emphasised their newly found national identities whilst understating their diverse multi-ethnic foundations. On the other hand, living conditions across the valley decreased sharply as the previous system of Soviet collective farming collapsed. In turn, this has triggered a new competition for resources and livelihoods (Recknagel, 2010). Since 1991, the region has been divided between the republics of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In terms of population density, 51% of Kyrgyzstan’s population is located in the three provinces of Osh, Jalal-Abad and Batken. 31% of Tajikistan’s population is found in the Sughd province and 27% of Uzbekistan’s population is situated in the three provinces of Andijan, Ferghana and Namangan (IRIN, 2015).

Water concerns in the Ferghana Valley
As population has increased within the Ferghana Valley, so too has water consumption. In the same period, temperatures have risen and average rainfall has decreased (Baker, 2011). Indeed, the average regional surface temperature has increased by an estimated 0.5°C over the past 30 years, thus reducing net water in the region (Mitra & Vivekananda, 2013). Global climate change is set to compound these issues, heightening the threat of resource depletion, competition and conflict. Water concerns in the valley primarily relate to the availability and access to clean water, but also include fears pertaining to rising groundwater and water logging. Increasingly, electricity and agricultural sectors are competing against one another, as there is a twofold demand for electrical production and agricultural irrigation (Baker, 2011). Furthermore, complicated territorial divisions present a challenge to accessing water for drinking purposes and irrigation.  

New collective identities and social unrest
Additional fears are related to wider issues pertaining to territorialization and the emergence of new collective identities in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union (Starr, 2011). The result of unclear border definitions has seen a constant series of minor and major clashes around the predominant ethnic enclaves. Due to these factors, the region is especially vulnerable to internal and external provocation and environmental pressures. In June 2010, an estimated 200 people were killed and many more injured during violent clashes in Osh and Jalal-Abad. The violence was catalysed by a combination of ethnic tensions, an economic slump and political discontent following the ousting of Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April 2010. A major humanitarian crisis ensured with between 100,000 and 300,000 refugees, predominantly of Uzbek ethnic origin, attempting to flee to Uzbekistan (Baker, 2011). In more recent years, tensions have been identified around the Uzbek area of Sokh, inside Kyrgyzstan. In 2013, disagreements over resources boiled over leading to ethnic clashes. Previously, in September 2012, a number of Tajik and Uzbek guards exchanged gunfire along the border of the two countries, severely injuring one Uzbek guard (Belafatti, 2014).

Resolution Efforts

In terms of conflict resolution, the Ferghana Valley Development Programme (FVDP) established by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was the first project to approach conflict prevention in the region, stressing regional dialogue, the maintenance of inter-ethnic peace and improved community relations. The international community has a modest record of identifying and resolving common problems and interests within the region (Starr, 2011). In November 2010, Saferworld, Foundation for Tolerance International (FTI) and the Association for Scientific and Technological Intelligentsia (ASTI) facilitated the first community security consultations and focus group discussions in parallel villages along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border aimed at improving trust (Saferworld, 2011).  However, violent interethnic clashes which first erupted in 1990 and then again in 2010 in the Osh and Jalal-Abad regions of Kyrgyzstan between the local Uzbeks and Kyrgyz underscore the long-term nature of the issues affecting the region. These clashes alone claimed more than 2000 lives (Rotar, 2012).

The conflict in the Ferghana Valley is multi-dimensional in nature and, although many actors are working in the region, a quick resolution seems unlikely.

Intensities & Influences
conflict intensity scale
Intensities
International / Geopolitical Intensity
Human Suffering

Influences
Environmental Influences
Societal Influences

Manifest Crisis
Diplomatic Crisis Interstate Violence
Fatalities
2 000
Violent Conflict Yes
Salience within nation National
Mass Displacement None
Cross Border Mass Displacement No
Resources
Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water
Resolution Success
Reduction in Violence There was no reduction in violence.
Reduction in geographical scope There has been no reduction in geographical scope.
Increased capacity to address grievance in the future There is no increased capacity to address grievances in the future.
Grievance Resolution Grievances have been mostly ignored.
Causal Attribution of Decrease in Conflict Intensity There has been no reduction in intensity
General opencollapse
Country Data in Comparison
ConflictNoData Created with Sketch.
Fault Lines Defining Conflict Parties
Purely Environmental | Cultural   ♦   Occupational   ♦   Economic   ♦   Urban / Rural   ♦   National / International conflict   ♦   Sub-national political


Actors
Participation Conflict Party     Conflict Resolution Facilitator
Tajik local people
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Kyrgyz local people
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Uzbek local people
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
United Nations
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
Chinese Government
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
Russian Government
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
United States of America Government
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
Saferworld
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
Foundation for Tolerance International
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
Association for Scientific and Technological Intelligentsia
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
Entry Points for Resilience and Peace Building
1 Mediation & arbitration The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) established the Ferghana Valley Development Programme (FVDP) to approach conflict prevention in the region. The project has a modest record of identifying and resolving common problems and interests within the region. Subsequently, Saferworld, Foundation for Tolerance International (FTI) and the Association for Scientific and Technological Intelligentsia (ASTI) facilitated the first community security consultations and focus group discussions in parallel villages along the Kyrgyz-Tajik border aimed at improving trust. However, due to the multi-dimensional nature of the conflict, a quick resolution seems unlikely.
Further Details opencollapse
Conflict Characterization
Character of the contested good Common-pool resource: No one can be excluded from use but the good is depleted.
Structure of decision-making power / interdependence Symmetric: All parties can affect the environmental resource equally.
Broad conflict characterization Resource capture is not present.
Ecological marginalization is not present.
Data of involved Countries
Resources and Materials opencollapse
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