Terror, Oil and Repression in Algeria

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This paper investigates the impact of foreign direct investment (FDI) on human rights in Algeria. No direct link is discovered between foreign investment and the repression of human rights. This is largely due to the peculiarities and, in the special case of Algeria, the location of the hydrocarbon sector, which together make repression less necessary. First, since the hydrocarbon sector uses relatively little labour, there are fewer occasions on which labour rights would be suppressed. Second, oil and gas reserves are concentrated in a thinly populated region of Algeria, where there are fewer people to protest the allegedly negative effects of foreign investment and, hence, fewer people to repress. Nevertheless, case study findings indicate that FDI has indirectly sustained repression in Algeria. Explanation is attributed to the centrality of the country's hydrocarbon resources to the global economy. It is suggested that countries in demand of Algeria's oil and gas have exercised restraint in criticising Algeria's human rights record. Buttressed by the diplomatic support of their partners as well as by large arms transfers, the Algerian government has been able to choose repression over concession as its primary response to domestic unrest. This study also points to ways in which the Algerian experience provides the grist for theoretical refinement. Specifically, it suggests that repression is more likely in industries that are more labour-intensive and concentrated in densely populated regions.