Afghanistan; Colombia; Sudan; Political Economy; Resource Conflicts; Forced Migration; Taliban; FARC; Displaced Persons


Afghanistan, Colombia, and Sudan are the world’s three longest producers of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Why? To answer this question, we evaluate the conventional and dominant geopolitical model of forced migration, as well as alternative models that focus on resource-based conflicts and political economy. We demonstrate that in each of the three cases, natural resources are at the heart of the conflicts that precede the involuntary movement of people both across international borders (refugees) and within national borders (IDPs). But the presence of resources by itself does not cause conflicts or forced migration. In Afghanistan, Colombia and Sudan, it is the political economy of resources--the ways in which these resources are accessed, appropriated, produced, distributed, and transported--that generates the conflicts which create refugees and IDPs. We conclude that alternative models of forced migration are important to policy-making and planning at the regional, national, and global levels in order to reduce the underlying causes of forced migration.