National Security and the Environment
Authoritarian exploitation of the world’s natural resources — with China and Russia at the forefront — is increasingly an issue of national and global security. It is a threat to the resurging alliance of democracies and the effort to roll back authoritarian actors globally. China’s appetite for natural resources to feed its economic growth has undermined democratic institutions and environmental commitments, leaving local communities across the globe exposed to environmental exploitation and degradation with little political recourse given the involvement of their government in opaque and illicit deals. Similarly, Russia’s war against Ukraine has had severe environmental impacts, and its access to natural resources in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East help bypass sanctions, and fund its growing network of state-supported private military groups, like the Wagner Group, to prop up unpopular, exploitative regimes that are its allies. Both China and Russia exploit the environment as an instrument of authoritarian political and economic control, such as in Tibet and in Ukraine’s eastern provinces.
Simultaneously, there is growing awareness and unified action among the community of democracies to stem the worldwide rise in authoritarianism, and to demonstrate the ability of democracies to better deliver on the issues that matter to citizens globally, like the environment. Against this backdrop, join NDI and Foreign Policy as we highlight the people and policies that have become “game changers” to strengthen democracy and civic activism, protect the environment and natural resources, and help defenders of democracy counter illiberal influences in their own countries.