Sub-theme 1. Our common SDGs?
Challenges and opportunities of the SDGs for the Commons: Sanctioning Grabs or Grabbing Opportunities for Collective Action from Below?
The commons, especially common property regimes, are absent in the SDGs. Common property rights are not recognized in this guiding framework, and as the SDGs are implemented by governments and the private sector, there is a danger that the goals can be used by these actors to legitimize and sanction ‘green’ commons grabbing (see Larsen et al 2022). First, this panel calls for case studies showing how the SDGs provide governments and the private sector with new options, discourses and financial means that undermine local common property institutions. Contexts, including local responses, might range from protected areas and conservation efforts (see SDGs 14,15), to (green) energy policies (wind, solar, biofuel, SDG 13) and mega-infrastructure projects (SDG 9). Second, the panel explores cases of commoner’s organisations and communities using the SDGs strategically, trying to reinforce their claims and strengthening the commons management. Examples may include engaging with the state implementation process, selecting specific SDGs for their aim (institutional shopping), building coalitions and other. We invite contributions with case studies which explain how, why and under which conditions this is possible. Submissions with case studies should aim to illustrate various trends and practices in relation to commons grabbing via SDGs or using SDGs strategically. The panel will explore similarities and differences between these two dynamics and their corresponding drivers. In addition, theoretical and methodological contributions on better understanding the intersections between SDGs and commons discourse in the context of achieving equitable and sustainable development will be equally considered.
Panel 1.1. A
1. Understanding absence and exploring strategic use: The commons in and out of the SDGs
1Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern, Switzerland, 2University of Geneva, Switzerland, 3University of Halle, Germany
This contribution revisits the general absence of the commons, especially common property systems, while laying out ways in which SDGs nonetheless are strategically mobilized to include commons. First, through discourse analysis the contribution aims to understand and explain this absence despite Nobel recognition. Whereas scientific literature, notably in reference to Hardin, relegated commons as a tragedy, it would only recuperate its social and ecological solution. The discrepancy between the commons as a field of study and that of policy making is striking. While the movement of commons studies flourished, the commons as a policy agenda were only partially taken up, and mainly in the context of the ‘global commons’. This is problematic as many cultural landscape ecosystems are used and maintained by commoners. Until now they were able to resist commodification of resources based on territorial rights or faced less commons grabbing pressures as not (yet) being of interest for profit-making or conservation. We will reflect on the reasons why these commoners are ignored in the SDGs and how therefore the SDGs contribute to undermine these systems. Second, using case studies we address ways in which a wide range of community organizations have managed to raise commons issues within – and between – SDG spaces in practice despite the formal exclusion. We investigate both procedural (SDG space as a meta-normative policy arena) and substantial (commons that have thrived and that have not) dimensions through which SDGs are being commoned through both localized and networked forms of collective agency and grassroots politics.
2. From contested commons to governance beyond the state? Practices of assemblage and community conservancies in northern Kenya
U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute., Bergen, Norway
The African commons have become a key site where state-centric governance models have been challenged and complemented by a multi-centric and multi-level system of governance, where power is shared across multiple levels and within a diverse set of actors. In northern Kenya’s rangelands, implementing state-led/backed “development visions” informed by the sustainable development goals (SDGs) has been a significant catalyst behind the mobilization of financial and technical resources by development agencies seeking sustainable strategies to “fix” the region. Drawing on the analytical framework of assemblage to explore the differences in the objectives and forms around these visions, this paper argues that the constitutive processes that animate approaches to these “visions,” aligned with the language and practices of SDGs, are primarily enacted through forms of technical intervention for natural resources extraction incompatible with local land use, giving rise to a spatially discontinuous commons. The paper examines two large-scale development initiatives – the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project and NRT’s Community Conservancies – to explore five practices of assemblage associated with natural resource extraction and the commons (the administrative ordering of nature and society, high modernist ideology, authoritarian government, and a prostrate civil society with little capacity resist), how they are conducted in practice, and their impacts and implications for commons governance. The paper concludes by reflecting on the legitimacy of these “new” governance mechanisms as an emerging space of struggle between a cross-cutting mix of institutional agencies and local communities and the role of such managerial solutions in depoliticizing and dispossessing the commons.
3. The wetlands of the city of Cotonou: What will remain in 2030
Université d’Abomey-Calavi, Bénin
In Benin, after the adoption of the Agenda in 2015, the socio-political conditions and strategies were favorable for the consideration of the SDGs in national policies in Benin (ANCB, 2020). Upon its installation in 2016, the government of Benin adopted a 2016-2021 Action Plan. In this program there are nine sectors broken down into forty-five flagship projects, including the Cotonou Rainwater Drainage Program.
This program is implemented in Cotonou and responds to SDG 6: clean water and sanitation and SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities, which do not clearly take into account the use local populations make of the wetlands they use and manage. People use plant resources for food (37%), grazing domestic livestock (26%), medicine/medico-magic (26%), crafts or wrapping rope or foil (9%), the use of firewood (2%).
There is therefore a danger for local people to lose access to the commons in the context of the implementation of the SDGs, because these wetlands are declared to be sensitive and thus to be protected. Effective tools will be put in place by governments and will restrict people’s access to the resources they derive from wetlands, exposing them to social and economic risks.
To reverse this situation, it is necessary to involve the populations in the implementation of SDGs 6 and 11 through the installation of local committees for the management of common resources. These committees must take into account the different socio-cultural groups and gender and will ensure the sustainability of the resources. It would also be necessary to set up a Communication Plan for the Change of Behavior of the local populations.
4. Mitigating the social risks of land-based investments in pursuit of SDGs: the case of National Oil Palm Project (NOPP) Uganda
1CIFOR-ICRAF, Kenya, 2AUPWAE, Uganda
The National Oil Palm Project (NOPP) is central to the Government of Uganda’s rural transformation agenda and progress towards poverty alleviation (SDG-1), food security and food sovereignty (SDG-2) and social and gender inclusion (SDG 10, SDG 5). The GoU aims to lower its trade deficit and improve foreign exchange earnings by commercializing the oil palm sector and transitioning smallholders from subsistence farmers to outgrowers within an expansive network of oil palm clusters and hubs. NOPP is the third iteration of the Vegetable and Oil Palm Development Project (VODP) which faced backlash at the height of public debate over state land grabbing for large-scale agricultural development in sub-Saharan Africa. While VODP saw the GoU consolidate large parcels of land for lease to commercial oil palm estates, displacing and compensating occupants under a diversity of tenure arrangements, the NOPP phase endeavors to mitigate against the worst effects of delocation, loss of livelihood, and enclosure of communal resources. This paper examines the social learning of state and donor institutions intent on pursuing their sustainable development commitments through large-scale land-based investments. NOPP includes outgrower schemes to improve social inclusion and benefit sharing, and interventions targeted at left-behind and vulnerable households, including alternative livelihoods, household-level visioning and counselling, and gender transformative approaches (GTAs) for the economic empowerment of women and single-headed households. We present the developmental and gender-specific outcomes of these social mitigation approaches and the ways in which they are (re)shaping public perception and experiences of the ongoing acquisitions and commodification of land.
5. Pastoralism, commons and the SDGs in Kenya : a Maasai perspective
IMPACT and Pastoralists Alliance for Resilience and Adaptation in Northern Kenya Rangelands (PARAN)
Pastoralists such the Maasai have defined traditional institutions that help them shape governance and interact with common or collective resources. The Fragmentation of the commons, as have been experienced in southern Kenya, has ended up weakening or undermining how the community self-organize and build their collective power and action. The collective resources have social and cultural asset that are necessary for the survival or resilience of indigenous communities. The drought are severe because the commons have been undermined by modern policies or laws and the product of these processes are weak communities that cannot respond to risks hazardsthe presentation explores how implementation of several SDGs in Kenya have neglected the commons perspectives of pastoralists while identifying ways in which national development agendas can be transformed to better taken into account pastoralist perspectives and rights.
Panel 1.1. B
1. The Drama of the Grabbed Commons in Tana River Delta, Kenya under Pretex of Achieving the SDGs
University of Nairobi, Kenya
Majority of the rural population in Kenya depend on small scale farming and livestock keeping among other alternative land use activities. For many years’ land use was communally owned and was under traditional system of governance which ensured communal access to agricultural/pasture land, water, wild honey, firewood among other biodiversity benefits. The system also ensured environmental conservation and ecosystem stability. However, in recent years the commons have been a preferential target of these land acquisitions in pretext of mega project under FDI to address policies on SDG no. 2(zero hunger). large scale land acquisitions have been witnessed in the commons being driven by globalization and commercialization of global markets. This paper addresses the issue of Large scale land acquisitions under the disguise of Foreign Direct Investment(FDI) by Kenyan and foreign multinational companies in Tana River Delta aimed at policies on producing biofuel (to achieve SDG no 7) and increase food production/export crops to address SDG no.2 on zero hunger at the expense of the communities’ traditional access to pasture and water. The local communities have publicly denounced these moves as land grabbing and subsequently engaged in public protests against these projects. Moreover, the reduction of available resources and the fear of forced displacements has fuelled the existing land use conflicts between the Delta’s different communities. Campaigns and legal actions by local communities and NGOs have brought international attention to the issues the impact of this fragile ecosystem. This paper will address the nexus between large scale land grabbing in the disguise of commercial enterprises to achieve SDG no 2 and the loss of traditional common land use system which is likely to reduce changes of achieving SDG no 10(reduced inequality), the politics of land acquisition versus public interest in land use management
Key word: SDGS, land grabbing, the commons, traditional system, globalization
2. Care Economy and Agrarian Communities in Kenya: Exploring the 5Rs and their correlation to SDGs
University of Bern, Switzerland
There is an incipient sense that a transformation in Africa’s care systems is needed as part of a broader reorientation of social, economic and political affairs to foster recovery of mismanagement of the commons such as Mau forest, in Rift Valley. The 5Rs will be explored; Recognize, Reduce, and Redistribute unpaid care work, and Reward and Represent paid care work by promoting decent work for care workers and guaranteeing their representation, social dialogue with regards to natural resource management in Rift Valley. Pronounced inadequacies in unpaid care provision, heightened among poor families, have negative impacts on the well-being and longer-term prospects of both caregivers and recipients who play the double role of managing the agrarian communities (Clark et al. 2018; Epping-Jordan and Aboderin, 2017). Despite indications of clear need and demand for organized care provision or support among such agrarian populations, their access to such services remains severely constrained. Acknowledging the role of unequal unpaid care burdens in perpetuating gender and social inequities, African States have embraced global accords – captured in SDG 5, target 5.4 and the WHO global strategy on ageing and health – to advance public services or social protection to reduce, or policy to redistribute these burdens (UN, 2015; WHO, 2016). Similarly, African countries have committed, respectively, to SDG 4 (UN, 2015), which enshrines universal access to ECC; and to the WHO global strategy on ageing and health (2016) (WHO, 2016), which embeds the rights of older adults to due long-term care.
3. The logic of the commons, the logic of the SDGs and the reality of power. Evidence from South Africa and India
Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Germany
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at its heart is the most ambitious and holistic blueprint for human wellbeing ever formulated by the UN. The logic of the SDGs is to find answers to the most pressing planetary questions by using “high-quality, timely and inclusive data” (UN 2022, p. 4). The study of the commons critically looks at the use and overuse of common pool resources and at alternative development pathways in polycentric commons systems to understand sustainable management of resources. Commons research and SDGs are very different, but share normative ideas about sustainable stewardship of the environment. In a recent publication we have argued that the logic of power is often understudied looking at the earth system (Dobner & Finkeldey 2022). Against this background, we suspect that both the SDG process and the global commons might actually play a lesser part in large-scale resource projects than would be desirable. Moreover, since the SDGs do not recognize common property rights at all, the implementation of the SDGs can have adverse effects on the commons. Using examples from mining and water projects in South Africa and India we seek to understand and evaluate in how far the logics of the SDGs and the commons on the one hand are both undermined and dominated by the logic of power and how the SDGs further weaken the commons on the other hand. We do this by building on a neo-Gramscian perspective that looks at concrete political alignments on the ground.
Keywords: SDG process, commons, political power, South Africa, India
4. Commons and Community: An exploration of Sustainable Development Agenda implications among Monpas of Arunachal Pradesh
Graduate Institute Geneva, Switzerland
How do the commons and the community interact? How is the government’s agenda for sustainable development reflected in interactions between people and common resources? What are the influence of transformations (militarization and infrastructure development) on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) programs, and what are the potentials of the commons in mediating SDGs on the ground or vice versa SDGs ensuring sustainable commons management?
Focusing on Tawang and West Kameng districts of Arunachal Pradesh, India where Monpa people constitute of 80% of the population, this presentation will examine the aforementioned questions. It is found that livestock is the primary livelihood source out of which 62% of their livelihood requirements are met by yak (Maiti et. al, 2014). The pastorals within Monpa tribe are Brokap (tenant herdsmen). They inhabit these highlands of Arunachal. The dependency of Monpas on commons is changing drastically, with influence of state (military, forest department) and non-state actors (World Wildlife Foundation, Wildlife Institute of India) the conventional dynamics of commons and community is getting disturbed. With heavy militarization and modernization, the state is directly participating in the everyday life of the people. This is gradually modifying land-use patterns, influencing perception, and directing the Monpas’ livelihood patterns. The governmental apparatus is depleting common resources and limiting its access to Monpas. Thus, it is bringing a gradual transformation in the human-commons interface which is putting endangered species at risk of local extinction and providing Monpas with a multiple employment opportunities. In return, this process is weakening the traditional livelihood systems, so it will be interesting to understand these changes before this change become the reality of everyday.
According to the government of India’s report on sustainable development goals (Chatterjee, 2021), Arunachal Pradesh’s SDG goals such as no poverty, gender equality, industry innovation and infrastructure, sustainable cities, and climate action are not being met. Arunachal Pradesh is likewise classified as a ‘lagging’ in terms of achieving sustainable development goals. Yet, how do SDG goals and implementation nationally and at the State level enable or reinforce commons management and community resilience whether through reinforced institutions or alternatives such as tourism? The presentation also addresses the intersection between sustainable development agenda and wider infrastructure pressures on the commons of the Monpas.