Sub-theme 10. Local institution building and radical futures for the commons
Local institutions for global commons: redefining governance through conflict
Because of their multifunctionality, certain natural resources and the ecosystems services they provide are particularly susceptible to different claims advanced by several cross-scale stakeholders (Adger, Brown and Tompkins, 2005; Berkes, 2002; Geores, 2003). When heterogeneity of knowledges, information, perceptions and resulting management practices is coupled with partial rivalry (Frischmann, 2012), the potential for conflict accrues. As a result, certain stakeholders manage to affirm their interests over others, thereby excluding the latter from accessing the resource and the decision- or policy-making processes around it. Thus, the resource and the functions it performs become privatized, rather than being managed as a common.
Usually, power dynamics make this occur at the disadvantage of local communities. Still, there are instances in which they are able to self-organize from the bottom and use the conflict to change their opponents’ status quo utility and re-shuffle power imbalances. Therefore, they can set the stage for more participatory processes whereby property institutions for the commons are re-defined on new values.
For this panel, we invite contributions exploring the factors affecting local actors’ capability to self-organize and re-shuffle power imbalances, the strategies they use and the outcome they possibly achieve. We also welcome studies addressing the issue of how stakeholders with different power and economic endowments and diverging perceptions and priorities over the same resource can develop an incentive to sit around the same table and engage in a discussion to re-define governance institutions. Studies that focus on conflict escalation as a strategy in itself are strongly encouraged.
1. Forests as collective goods: from conflict to polycentricity
University of Milan, Italy
Forests are multifunctional resources that provide a wide range of goods and services; thus, they are particularly susceptible to several claims advanced by multiple cross-scale stakeholders (Adger, Brown and Tompkins, 2005; Berkes, 2002; Geores, 2003). When heterogeneity of claims is coupled with partial rivalry (Frischmann, 2012), the potential for conflict accrues.
Starting from a conceptualization of forests as collective goods (Olson, 1965), we refer to four exemplary cases from the “forest-conflicts hotspots” (Mola-Yudelgo and Gritten, 2010), specifically from Brazil, Finland, Indonesia and Canada. Then, through a standard comparative approach, we identify key mechanisms of conflicts origins and transformation. Our study finds that while polycentricity has made important advancements in recognizing value heterogeneity that can concur in management priorities (Aligica and Tarko, 2013; Ostrom, 1997), this literature is only partially able to explain specific conflict dynamics and their role in letting polycentricity to emerge. It might therefore benefit from incorporating insights from other literatures, such as social movements, deliberative democracy and bargaining theories. The paper is an attempt to (i) recast the way we look at forests governance-related problems and (ii) kick off suggestions on how to improve the polycentricity understanding by integrating it with insights from other theories.
2. The Uses and Disuses of Public Spaces in the City of Teixeira de Freitas: From Divergent Priorities, to Power Imbalances, Who Owns the Public Squares?
Federal University of Sul da Bahia, Brazil
Urban public spaces are resources shared by populations that suffer from the same problems of rivalry mentioned in Garrett Hardin’s “tragedy of the commons”, and discussed by Elinor Ostrom in Governing the Commons. We question how this “tragedy” unfolds in public squares, where the State, in these places, at least legally and bureaucratically, would be the “solution”. This work argues that the tragedy of urban commons is amplified by the inefficiency of the State, which fails to control public spaces, since in the city of Teixeira de Freitas-Brazil, especially in the urban periphery, it is common for them to be decadent, and abandoned by most citizens. users. This work discusses alternatives that ignite collective governance, and ways that empower the social body to appropriate its space. We start from the assumption that we cannot simply ignore collective action in the urban context, even in places where it seems not to exist, and social disorder seems to dominate. This article empirically studies how common urban resources are being managed. For this, it compares 3 well-managed public squares, with another 3 that seem abandoned. In the two large groups, we reflect on how relations between the State and the community occur, and how collective governance is welcomed or expelled by power relations. The results show that the path to collaborative governance must pass through participative citizens. To manage collective resources, the State must encourage local actors to overcome their social problems. In the end, under any divergence, we must converge to the belief of collective governance as an insurmountable social law.
3. Global China and the ‘commons’: rosewood governance in rural Ghana
1IRD – SENS, University of Montpellier Paul-Valery 3, France, 2Doctoral school ABIES – AgroParisTech, France, 3University of Energy and Natural Resources, Sunyani-Ghana, 4Institute of Geography and Sustainability, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, 5Group of Forest and Nature Conservation Policy, University of Göttingen, Germany
The rise of Global China, or the rapid expansion of Chinese influence abroad, has had a commensurate impact on transnational trade and related commercial pressure in the governance of natural resources in Africa. Rosewood with its direct link with China’s cultural renaissance has had a boost in extractivism in tropical regions. Taking inspiration from the common property theory and based on empirical research conducted in Ghana in 2022, we analyze the effect of the Ghana-China rosewood trade on the governance of rosewood as a ‘common-pool’ resource in rural Ghana. Our research broadly responds to the question of how the Ghana-China rosewood trade changes formal and informal governance arrangements in rural Ghana. In a constructive light, the study demonstrates how one community created rules to access rosewood on community lands. The results also show how more challenging tendencies such as land boundary disputes resulting from violent protests of existing rules and norms, including customary rights, contestation of rural authorities, rural leadership manoeuvrings, and corruption are increasingly prevalent since the boom in the rosewood trade at the local level. This study contributes to the debate on common-pool resources, demonstrating that with the right information and communication network, rural people can self-govern common-pool resources to their advantage despite the alarming influences that external factors pose. From a China-Africa relations perspective, this work contributes to the politics of natural resources in the context of the increasing global influence of China in Africa.
Keywords: Rosewood, Politics, Forest Governance, China-Africa, Common-pool resources
4. From legal recognition to multifunctionality: fire as a lever for change in Galician communal lands
Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Since the first half of the nineteenth century, with the rise of the liberal state, until the 1970s, after the Francoist dictatorship, the communal property in Spain disappeared legally. But specifically in some regions, local communities continued managing a significant part of these common lands through a long history of resistance, until they were able to legally recover collective ownership and use from the 1970s onwards. It is the case of Galicia (NW Spain), where 22% of the territory is currently recognised as communal and managed by around 3000 commoners’ organisations.
The fact is that the recovered communal lands were not the same multifunctional spaces that had been the support and driving force of agrarian systems for centuries, providing the inhabitants with a multitude of products, from fertiliser or pasture to firewood or water. They inherited the dynamics of intensive forestry exploitation established in the context of the dictatorship through policies of forced afforestation. The unequal power relations between communities and large companies —as in the case of the pulp and paper industry— made it difficult to implement new management models over the last decades.
However, the serious fires resulting from this pine and eucalyptus monoculture forestry are working as a lever for change towards a redefinition of multifunctionality and local governance. In our paper we will present the historical background and analyse the difficulties and potentialities of this new process through two case studies developed in the framework of the Laboratorio Ecosocial do Barbanza (barbanzaecosocial.org), a research-action project we are involved in since 2020.
5. Decolonizing Conflict Resolution Practices for Expansion of local-to-global Commons
1International Peace Research Association, USA, 2African Peace Research and Education Association, Kenya, 3Spirit of Mandela Coalitio, USA
From a multidisciplinary peace studies perspective, we find the need for increased decolonizing methodology in all of our academic and research-based policy-making work. When building for better local to global increase of what is understood as the commons, these methodological perspectives have borne fruit in our practical work in Africa, the Americas and elsewhere. With specific examples from Kenya and East Africa, the US Southwest, and internationally, this paper/presentation addresses concrete policy implications for a radical expansion of the commons.