Biography

Philippe Le Billon (MBA Paris, PhD Oxford) is a Professor at the University of British Columbia with the Department of Geography and the Liu Institute for Global Issues. Before joining UBC, I was a Research Associate with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), with fieldwork in Angola, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, and the former-Yugoslavia.

Please click on this link to download a PDF copy of my CV.

Research Interests

My research interests include: political ecology; natural resource governance; and international development.

My empirical focus is on primary commodities and relations between environment, development and security. Using a political ecology approach, I investigate socio-environmental relations and commodity networks linking spaces of exploitation, consumption and regulation. Such work engages with the spatiality, materiality and socio-natural construction of 'resources', their political economy and socio-environmental impacts, as well as associated development challenges and conflicts. This research also relates to policy reforms in resource governance as well as international development and trade frameworks, notably to reduce environmental impacts, improve the well-being of populations, and increase the accountability of governments and businesses.

Graduate Students:

I welcome applications from graduate students at MA and PhD levels, please send CV and brief statement of research interests. Current and former students:

  • Guillaume Peterson St-Laurent, PhD, Community participation and social conflicts in Mexico’s mining sector (SSHRC funded)
  • Kelly Sharp, MA, Food security, land reforms and resettlement schemes in Malawi (SSHRC funded)
  • Elaine Tsiao, PhD, Legal geographies of peace parks, 2011 - on-going (UBC Law funded)
  • Melanie Sommerville, PhD, Land reforms and agro-industrial development among historically marginalized populations in Canada and South Africa, 2010 - on-going (SSHRC and IDRC funded)
  • Dawn Hoogeveen, PhD, Extractive industries and North-South relations, 2008 - on-going (with J. Sundberg)
  • Sara Helder, MA, Fair trade coffee and producer health in Rwanda, completed 2011 (with H. Zerriffi, SSHRC funded)
  • Jessica Lehman, MA, Post-tsunami coastal communities in Sri Lanka, completed 2010 (with J. Sundberg)
  • Simon Springer, PhD, Geographies of violence and public spaces ( with J. Peck, SSHRC funded, completed 2009 – now Assistant Professor, Geography, National University of Singapore)
  • Samuel Spiegel, Political ecology of artisanal gold mining, (with M. Veiga, completed 2008, Trudeau Fellowship)
  • Arno Waizenegger, MA, Natural disasters and conflict termination Aceh, exchange student from U. Cologne (with F. Kraas, completed 2008)
  • Ian Baird, PhD, Resources, identities, and territoriality: the case of the Brao in Cambodia and Laos (SSHRC funded, completed 2008 now post-doc. at the University of Victoria)
  • Estelle Levin, MA, Livelihoods and resource governance in the Kono diamonds fields, Sierra Leone (Commonwealth scholarship, completed 2005 - founding director of Estelle Levin Limited, Cambridge)

Courses:

  • Environment and Sustainability / GEOG517
  • Environment, Development, and Security / GEOG 519
  • Human Geography Seminar (theory & methods)/ GEOG 520
  • Geographies of Africa / GEOG 496
  • Introduction to Political Geography / GEOG 329
  • Geopolitics / GEOG 220

Publications

Monographs

Wars of PlunderP. Le Billon (2012). Wars of Plunder: Conflicts, Profits and the Politics of Resources. London, New York: Hurst and Columbia University Press.

From Angola and Liberia to Iraq and the Congo, wars have taken place in resource rich countries full of poor people. Wars of Plunder explores how resources have shaped recent conflicts, and what the international community has tried to do about it.

Focusing on key resources - oil, diamonds, and timber - resources and wars are linked in three main ways. First, resource revenues finance belligerents . Second, resource exploitation generates conflict. Third, economic shocks and poor governance sharply increase the risk of war (the 'resource curse').

 

OilG. Bridge and P. Le Billon (2012). Oil, Cambridge: Polity Press

Oil politics in the twentieth century was about the management of abundance, state power and market growth. The legacy of this age includes declining conventional oil reserves, volatile prices, climate change, and enduring poverty in many oil rich countries. The oil sector is now in need of reform. Yet no one seems at the helm, leaving a vital source of energy at the whim of dictators, speculators and corporate operators, and our societies locked into unsustainable growth models.

As a new geopolitics of oil emerges, the need for effective global oil governance becomes imperative. Praising the growing influence of civil society and attentive to the institutionalization of producer-consumer cooperation, this book identifies challenges and opportunities to curtail price volatility, curb demand and the growth of dirty oil, de-carbonise energy systems, and improve governance in oil producing countries.

The Geopolitics of Resource WarsP. Le Billon, ed.,(2005), Geopolitics of Resource Wars: Resource Dependence, Governance and ViolenceLondon: Frank Cass, 288pp.

Highlighting the multiple forms of violence accompanying the history of resources exploitation and current business practices supporting predatory regimes, insurgent groups and terrorists, this book provides fresh and in-depth perspectives on so-called 'resource wars'. The book includes conceptual chapters and covers a wide range of case studies including the geopolitics of oil control in the Middle East, Central Asia and Columbia, spaces of governance and 'petro-violence' in Nigeria and 'blood diamonds' and other minerals associated with conflicts in Sierra Leone and the Congo.

This book is a special issue of the journal Geopolitics.

Fuelling War...Fuelling War: Natural Resources and Armed conflicts, Adelphi Paper 373. (London: Routledge for IISS), draft for comments. [PDF available]

A generous endowment of natural resources should favour rapid economic and social development. The experience of countries like Angola and Iraq, however, suggests that resource wealth often proves a curse rather than a blessing. Billions of dollars from resource exploitation benefit repressive regimes and rebel groups, at a massive cost for local populations. This Adelphi Paper analyses the economic and political vulnerability of resource-dependent countries; assesses how resources influence the likelihood and course of conflicts; and discusses current initiatives to improve resource governance in the interest of peace.

It concludes that long-term stability in resource-exporting regions will depend on their developmental outcomes, and calls for a broad reform agenda prioritising the basic needs and security of local populations.

Selected articles

Is Fairtrade certification greening agricultural practices? An analysis of Fairtrade environmental standards in Rwanda, Journal of Rural Studies, 32, 2013, 264–274 (with S. Elder and H. Zerriffi)

Effects of Fair Trade certification on social capital: The case of Rwandan coffee producers, World Development 40(11), 2012, 2355–2367 (with S. Elder and H. Zerriffi).

Landscapes of political memories: War legacies and land negotiations in Laos, Political Geography, Political Geography 31(5), 2012, 290-300 (with I. Baird).

China's weapons trade: from ships of shame to the ethics of global resistance, International Affairs 85(2), 2009, 323-346 (with S.J. Spiegel).

Diamond Wars? Conflict diamonds and geographies of resource wars, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 98(2), 2008, 345-372.

Peace in the wake of disaster? Secessionist conflicts with the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 32, 2007, 411-427 (with A. Waizenegger).

Corruption: reconstruction and oil governance in Iraq, Third World Quarterly 26(4), 2005, 679-698.

Buying Peace or Fuelling War: the Role of Corruption in Armed Conflicts, Journal of International Development 15(4), 2003, 413-26. [PDF available]

The Political Ecology of War: Natural Resources and Armed Conflicts, Political Geography 20(5), 2001, 561-584. [PDF available]

Finance in Conflict and Reconstruction, Journal of International Development 13, 2001, 951-64, (with T. Addison and M. Murshed).

Policy Papers

Extractive sectors and illicit financial flows: What role for revenue governance initiatives? Bergen: Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Issue 2011:13), [PDF link]

Resources for peace. Ottawa: Peabuild (with C. de Freitas, 2011), [PDF link]

The Political Economy of War: What Relief Agencies Need to Know. Humanitarian Practice Network paper no. 33 (with Joanna Macrae, Nick Leader and Roger East, London: Overseas Development Institute, 2000). [PDF link]