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REDEGN I: Rethinking Environment and Development in an Era of Global Norms

DEV Key Contact: Thomas Sikor

Project Dates: 2013 - 2015

Project Status: Complete



This research responds to the unprecedented emergence of global environmental norms intended to reconcile natural resource management with poverty alleviation in a just manner. Prominent examples of such norms are the REDD+ safeguards under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the recommendations issued by the World Commission on Dams. The norms possess the potential to transform development practice, so long as they effectively support poor people’s claims on natural resources and rights to sustainable livelihoods.  Their increasing significance also challenges research to develop new theory on the dynamics of environment and development that attends to cross-scale relationships between socio-environmental struggles in specific sites, higher-level mobilizations and global norms.

The research project examines the effects of global environmental norms on marginalized people’s access to natural resources and livelihoods in the Global South. It employs a political ecology approach expanded through attention to notions of justice and cross-scale environmental politics. Notions of justice are at the core of many socio-environmental struggles, relating to issues of distribution, participation, recognition as well as human and ecological capabilities. They affect what people do, what claims they make on natural resources, how they perceive their own capabilities, and how they develop visions of a good life and desirable ecological capabilities. Ideas about justice are an integral element of environmental politics across scales, connecting local struggles to mobilizations at national and international levels as well as global norms – and causing frictions between them.

Building on previous research, this project proceeds by way of four case studies from Nepal, Sudan and Uganda. In the first two case studies situated in western Nepal, Hari Dhungana and Thomas Sikor analyse people’s reactions to a hydropower project in one site and villagers’ participation in a REDD+ pilot project in another.


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