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Environmental Governance in Latin America and the Caribbean:<br/>Developing Frameworks for Sustainable and Equitable Natural Resource Use

Final Report Summary - ENGOV (Environmental Governance in Latin America and the Caribbean:<br/>Developing Frameworks for Sustainable and Equitable Natural Resource Use)

Executive Summary:
Latin American and Caribbean countries have come to occupy a key position in present-day global environmental debates and policies, and the climate crisis has further stressed their international importance. Simultaneously, the region’s growing socio-environmental problems and conflicts have sparked profound region-wide debates on development models, human-nature relations and democratizing decision-making. ENGOV’s central objective was to understand how environmental governance is shaped in LAC. Its research focused on the obstacles and possibilities for sustainable production systems that can generate both economic development and a more equitable distribution of benefits in order to decrease poverty, exclusion, and environmental degradation in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). ENGOV had nine research themes: Historicising unequal resource distribution; Shifting elites and institutions in environmental governance; Strategic actors and responsible consumption in the mining sector; Building and exchanging knowledges on natural resources; Analysing poverty and sustainable development; Resource extraction conflicts compared; Local solutions towards environmental justice; Mitigation and adaptation to climate change; and Crossing boundaries in environmental governance.

ENGOV departed from the region’s experience with environmental governance, analysed recent initiatives, and explored options for institutional innovation and inclusive approaches towards natural resource use and management. The concept of environmental governance provides a comprehensive approach linking theory and practice. The research focused on formal and informal arrangements of natural resource use, and how they are perceived, contested and reshaped in the context of rapid social, political, economic and environmental changes at local, national, and global levels. The project used multi-disciplinary and multi-scalar methods, and compared contexts and outcomes in different LAC regions, while including stakeholders in various phases of knowledge production.

With a consortium of experienced researchers from ten Latin American and European universities, coordinated by CEDLA-UvA, ENGOV produced an impressive amount of case-studies and synthesizing analyses. Research results have been published in numerous scientific working papers, articles and books. The project’s central publication is Environmental Governance in Latin America, published as Open Access book in English (Palgrave, 2015); previous versions were published in Spanish and Portuguese (CLACSO, 2015). ENGOV results have also been widely disseminated among relevant user groups by means of public meetings, opinion articles, policy briefs virtual courses and newsletters. Other important dissemination activities are two new databases at the ENGOV website, and the special section on environmental governance in LAC in CLACSO’s virtual library reading room.
Project Context and Objectives:
ENGOV’s central objective was to understand how environmental governance is shaped in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and to develop new analytical frameworks for environmental governance in the region. The project focused on the region’s recent initiatives around environmental governance and explored options for institutional innovation and inclusive approaches It aimed to generate, integrate and disseminate new knowledge on environmental governance. Its research explored the interplay between different forms of politics and other social interactions – from everyday life practices to collective actions, and formal politics – at different scales. It included different stakeholders and ‘knowledges’ across different LAC regions and used multi-disciplinary approaches and multi-scale analyses .

In Latin American and Caribbean countries, environmental protection is clearly no longer seen as a luxury of the industrialised countries. Environmental governance has become part of everyday politics in LAC, and the notions of “environmental justice” and “environmentalism of the poor” have become increasingly accepted, socially and politically. This development is of global relevance. The region holds approximately one quarter of the remaining forest cover and half of the tropical rain forests in the world. It contains one quarter of the world’s arable land and one third of its surface water. In addition, LAC is an internationally important source of minerals as metals and oil. However, LAC countries have not been able to use and exploit these resources in a sustainable, productive and equitable way. Failure to protect vital resources and to develop ways for sustainable production aggravates historical injustices, social inequalities, economic inefficiencies and local ecological risks, which imply lost opportunities for the region’s much needed development and poverty reduction. Furthermore, improving environmental governance in LAC is essential for diminishing global ecological, social and economic risks that can have a strong impact on Europe too. Fortunately, Europe and LAC are increasingly cooperating in climate change policies (e.g. REDD).

Environmental governance in LAC has gone through major transformations in the last decades. From the mid-1980s onwards, several countries turned from centralised, state-based institutional arrangements, to self-governance approaches with an emphasis on privatisation and political decentralisation of natural resource management, with higher levels of civil society participation. More recently, political changes at different levels have strongly influenced environmental governance in the region. At the national level, over the past few years various post-neoliberal, often left-wing and explicitly nationalist political governments have been elected on the basis of an agenda that promises to change the market-based model, primarily by democratising state policies and intensifying the fight against poverty and social, political and cultural exclusion. In their discourse, these governments stress the need for (radical) reforms in order to solve social and economic problems in a sustainable way, based on partnerships among different actors (e.g. the state, private sector, civil society, researchers) and multi-directional goals (e.g. development, conservation, poverty reduction). In this context, ecological discourses, indigenous identities, and claims and mobilisations for historical and social justice have increasingly attracted national and regional attention. Meanwhile, at the global level, the long-term economic dependence of LAC has gradually been replaced by a more multi-polar market configuration, especially as emerging markets in the region have become more independent players. High commodity prices have generally improved the region’s terms of trade. Despite the fact that these new conditions seem to enable more sustainable and equitable approaches to natural resource use in LAC, the recent debates and proposed policy reforms continue to reflect clear tensions between the goals of economic development, social inclusion and ecosystem protection.

Social science research is indispensable in understanding the processes driving environmental governance in Latin America and in highlighting the contextual factors driving the different processes related to natural resource use and management. The analysis of history (WP2), political and social actors and institutions (WP3 and WP4), and knowledge bases (WP5) are essential in understanding historical legacies, institutional weaknesses, and opportunities and threats to democratic functioning in relation to environmental governance in LAC. Yet the goal of a sustainable and equitable use of natural resources depends not only on the social context but also on the ecological context - extremely diverse throughout the region - in which production systems operate. This project identified four main challenges for environmental governance which have been investigated in detail: 1) the paradox between increased production and poverty growth due to large scale production systems (WP6); 2) the incompatibility between extractive production systems and limits to overcome conflicts (WP7); 3) the opportunities of innovative local strategies for environmental justice (WP8);and 4) the ability to tackle global climate change issues as an opportunity for economic and social development (WP9).

ENGOV aimed to produce, exchange and spread necessary new scientific knowledge on natural resource use and environmental governance in contemporary LAC. The consortium aspired to transcend disciplinary, regional, political and ecological ‘borders’ and create ‘bridges’ and ‘crossovers’ that enable useful comparisons and the formulation of new ideas and approaches. This was done by bringing together a range of LAC and European centres, and a multi-disciplinary team of experts with proven expertise in the field of environmental governance. Innovative tools were used to communicate and disseminate the results across academics, practitioners, policy-makers, communities and other local, national and international stakeholders.
Project Results:
ENGOV’s consortium of researchers from ten European and Latin American universities produced a long list of new case-studies and synthesizing analyses. As the attached overview shows, many of these scientific results have already been published in around 100 scientific peer-reviewed articles, chapters and books, while more publications are currently prepared or under review. The project’s central publication is Environmental Governance in Latin America, published as Open Access book in English (Palgrave, 2015). It is the first large international publication on the topic and presents and connects the main results on all ENGOV’s research themes. Previous versions have been published as Open Access books in Spanish and Portuguese (CLACSO, 2015). Together, these three books will stimulate scholarly debates and encourage more academic work on environmental governance, both In LAC countries and elsewhere. Below ENGOV’s main results on each research theme are presented.

Historicising unequal resource distribution (WP2)

The research on this ENGOV theme dealt with a key question for the governance of natural resources. What have been the historical discourses, policies and practices that can explain environmental governance in LAC? This leads to a historicised analysis of present-day environmental governance: Do the ideological preferences of a government make a difference in the production of public policies that regulate the use of natural resources, and what are the historical limitations that they encounter? To answer this question the recent experience of the post neoliberal governments of Bolivia and Ecuador (since 2005 and 2007, respectively) are taken as point of departure.

Given the dual perspective on long term developments and conjunctural factors in this WP, a combination of methodological strategies was resorted to. The historical analysis of environmental governance was done on the basis archives and published sources explaining the historical development of environmental thinking in LAC. More specifically historical accounts on the roles that these Andean states took on the administration, use, and preservation of natural resources were investigated and analyzed. This led to an analysis of the more recent emerging formal institutions, and the changes in state agencies, on the basis of approximately 30 semi-structured interviews with government officials and leaders of civil society organizations in Ecuador. Special emphasis was given to mining conflicts in Ecuador, the TIPNIS (Territorio Indígena Parque Nacional Isiboro-Secure) conflict in Bolivia, and the Yasuní-ITT Initiative in Ecuador. In the latter case an ethnographic approach reinforced the analysis of the initiative from the inside. Finally, the existing literature on Bolivia’s disputes over natural gas rents, official statics on exports and hydrocarbons’ rents going to the fiscal budgets of the Bolivian and Ecuadorian governments were used to support a comparative analysis.

The research shows first of all that ideological preferences of a government do make a difference for environmental governance. It was found that the post neoliberal governments of Ecuador and Bolivia have enacted a broad range of public policies - from Constitutional reforms to the creation or total re-engineering of previously existing state agencies - that changed the governance of natural resources. Simultaneously, the emergent modes of environmental governance are highly influenced by long term trajectories of development (i.e. dependence on primary exports), and historically persistent views on the relations between state, society, and the natural environment. In addition, the exceptional gains coming from the price boom of the main commodities exported by Bolivia and Ecuador (i.e. hydrocarbons) played an important role.

The end result of these four sources of change – ideology, path dependence, deep seated beliefs, and the cycle of the international economy - has been a mode of environmental governance in which the Bolivian and Ecuadorian states have gained more control both over the transnational companies operating in their national territory, and over the organizations of civil society with interests on environmental issues.

These and other findings have been presented in various academic publications. Pablo Andrade edited the book La gobernanza ambiental en Ecuador (Quito: Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar – Corporación Editora Nacional, 2015, forthcoming). In addition, a thematic issue of the ENGOV Newsletter (November 2013) discussed the end of the Yasuní-ITT Initiative, and an ENGOV Policy Brief on oil rents and environmental management (‘Preparándonos para el futuro inmediato’) was prepared for Ecuadorian actors.

Shifting elites and institutions in environmental governance (WP3)

The research objectives were to identify the degree to which there has been a shift in the composition of political and/or economic elites in LAC, and to understand what impact that has on environmental governance. In addition, the research on this theme aimed at understanding: the attitudes of old and new political and economic elites towards environmental regulation and institutions; the implications of the interactions between economic and political elites at multiple levels; the extent to which extent “new elites” have created space for innovations in environmental policy and governance; and the limits that new and old economic and political elites pose on the implementation of environmental policies.

The project was designed as a comparative case study of productive sectors of high economic and/or political relevance in El Salvador, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala and Chile, and it also included three multi-country studies. The sectors included were agriculture, mining and forestry.

Next to various papers, the research results are presented in the book Environmental Politics in Latin America: Elite dynamics, the left tide and sustainable development, edited by Benedicte Bull and Mariel Aguilar-Støen (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge / Earthscan, 2015). In the fourteen chapters written by a wide range of ENGOV researchers, the book examines how the recent rise of progressive, left-leaning governments – often supported by groups struggling for environmental justice – has challenged the established elites and raised expectations about new regimes for natural resource management. The main research findings on this ENGOV theme, as presented in this book and additional publications, are the following:

- New political-economic elites have emerged due to shifts in the global political economy, political changes and technology shifts. There has been both conflict and accommodation between these and old political-economic elites. Although new elites have pursued a more equitative development model, they have failed to improve environmental governance. The lack of sustainability may jeopardize the gains in equal resource distribution in the long term.

- New governments in natural resource rich countries have more easily broken the dominance of old elites than in less resource-rich countries. Control over natural resources is an important factor in the competition between new and old elites. Therefore, we see a stronger tendency towards elite shift in natural resource rich countries, as new governments have been strengthened through access to natural resource dividends.

- New elites have failed to institutionalize environmental governance. The most worrisome finding is that environmental regulations of productive sectors of high importance, even when they exist, are weakly institutionalized. That means that they are often not followed up in a sufficiently rigorous way. The reasons are both lack of political will to give this priority over other highly prioritized issues, and a lack of ability to overcome long ingrained practices of corruption, clientelism and populism undermining institutionalization.

- In some countries new, technocratic environmental elites are emerging, but they are often under political pressure. New incipient groups of highly educated officials with a strong expertize on environmental issues are emerging. Some of these seek to cooperate and communicate with communities and social movements through, among other means, social media. Nevertheless, these groups are under strong pressure from economic and political elites, particularly in cases of high economic and/or political significance.

Two ENGOV Policy Briefs were published to disseminate some findings to wider audiences: while ‘New Elites but Old Practices: Environmental Governance under Latin Americas Left Tide’ presents the big picture, the other one focusses on the particular case of Ecuador and biotechnology (‘El reenfoque de la biotecnología en el Ecuador: influencia y visión de un nuevo grupo de poder’).

Strategic actors and responsible consumption in the mining sector (WP4)

The environmental impact of massive consumption of natural resources, especially of energy and water, is increasingly a reason for concern In Latin America. Water and energy are vital resources for human life and quality of life, and key issues for environmental governance and environmental justice. Climate change has further deepened the concerns over their massive consumption and its impact The current and future use of water and energy have become key issues for the political and environmental agenda of Latin American countries.

Mining is one of the economic activities that proportionately consume more energy and water, and thereby produces large environmental impacts. For this reason the research focus has been on the industrial consumption of water and energy in the South American mining sector. The analytical framework for this research theme considered a systemic perspective on the consumption of water and energy in mining, beyond an economic or technological vision.

What strategic actors think, say and do is crucial for environmental governance. In effect, their collective representations of environmental issues are fundamental to understand social and institutional practices towards sustainable consumption. For this study, we used a mixed methodology with discourse analysis of both institutional texts and individual expressions by key actors. In Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador, in total 65 strategic actors related to selected mining projects were interviewed. The interviewees consisted of influential leaders from business, government, politics, and environmental organizations.

The research shows that the institutional approaches on the industrial consumption of water and energy in the mining sector come mainly from corporations and international mining consulting and expert groups. In their texts, efficiency in water en energy consumption is clearly the central notion, which is constantly stressed. In addition, a transition to renewable energy sources has started to become mentioned as important.

The interviews show that overall a discursive consensus seems to exist among different mining-related strategic actors about the importance of living in balance with nature, facing climate change challenges, promoting sustainable development, and including the environment in corporate social responsibility. However a deeper analysis of the discourses shows significant differences, culminating into four discursive models:

1) The first discursive model stresses the need of minimizing consumption and developing a responsible mining, based on confidence in technological solutions to avoid negative environmental effects.
2) The second discursive model focusses on efficient consumption based on comprehensive management and state regulations to promote responsible consumption.
3) The third model proposes efficiency and transition to renewable energies within a framework of comprehensive policies and a political project for sustainable development with citizen participation.
4) The fourth discursive model rejects the current patterns of water and energy consumption of mining and advocates for constructing another type of ecological development, one that prioritizes the protection of water and energy as common goods.
Apart from contributions to academic books and journals, research results are presented in the book Agua, Energía y Minería ¿Desarrollo Sustentable? (Parker, Baigorrotegui & Estenssoro, 2015, forthcoming). Some key lessons and recommendations are expressed in an ENGOV Policy Brief (‘Los actores de la minería y el consumo sustentable de agua y energía: la necesidad de incrementar gobernanza ambiental’). Also the book Diálogos europeos latinoamericanos de ecología política (Estenssoro, 2014) offers important findings for our understanding of environmental governance.

Building and exchanging knowledges on natural resources (WP5)

With the objective to understand how different 'knowledges' on natural resources contribute to environmental governance, the evolution in the relations between development, environment and these knowledges in LAC countries were studied. The research focussed on traditional (indigenous and peasant) and scientific actors as knowledge holders. The process of building knowledge on nature is understood as embedded in the culture, values and institutions of these actors. The methodology involved a multidisciplinary approach applied on a selection of critical case studies following the chain of knowledge(s), complemented by a quantitative survey.

From an anthropological perspective on local knowledge, we analysed the evolution in the use of plants in farming practices, cooking, craft, diet, medicinal flora and traditional remedies in Mexico and Brazil. These studies showed that the indigenous and peasant techniques are usually well adapted to the local environment. Simultaneously, thanks to a long-term occupation of the territory, the techniques of local communities are constantly open to innovation, while local networks for allow the circulation of knowledge and of biological objects.

Agro-ecology was studied as a space of dialogue between scientific knowledge, peasants’ knowledge and political projects, through three case studies: the introduction of organic agriculture in Brazil; a Mexican participative agro-ecology project; and the preservation of agro-biodiversity in Mexico. These studies showed that the distinction between scientific and traditional knowledge may become blurred when knowledge(s) is included in decision-making on new norms and institutions.

Finally, we analysed the evolution of discourses since the 1970s about societal issues, opportunities and challenges that natural sciences have generated, focusing mainly on scientific communities. A bibliometric analysis of scientific research on governance and the environment compared data from the Web of Sciences database (Social Sciences Citation Index) and Latin American scientific databases (Redalyc). We observed interesting trends of the terminology related to environmental governance (environment, sustainable development, governance, indigenous knowledge, etc.). The notion of “Indigenous knowledge”, for instance, was launched around 1980 by engaged agronomists reassessing peasants’ know-how. In the 1990s, this notion acquired a more militant meaning that highlights the dependency and marginalization of indigenous populations. Currently, however, a real debate on the plurality of forms of knowledge seems to be only starting.

The research results were published in various academic journals and at the thematic blog ‘Bekonal hypotheses’. Furthermore a research database was created about Knowledge(s) and Nature in Latin America (in Mendeley, see ENGOV website). Dissemination activities included the thematic issue of the ENGOV Newsletter on Conflicts, Knowledge Dialogues and Environmental Governance (November 2014), and the ENGOV Policy Brief (‘Gobernanza ambiental y actores sociales: Hacia la articulación de saberes múltiples y diversos en la gobernanza ambiental’, with WP6).

Analysing poverty and sustainable development (WP6)

The objective of this research was to relate poverty and sustainable development to the study of environmental governance in LAC. It focused on the dominant tendency of searching for short-term economic gains while externalizing major natural and societal costs, which results in environmental and social degradation. Also social movements and state policies that promote a development that is in solidarity with nature and people were studied. Mechanisms were proposed for taken into account the value of nature in territorial environmental planning.

The study of poverty and sustainable development goes beyond socio-economic issues and ultimately aims to contribute to strengthening sustainable development and democratizing environmental governance. Key concepts include the "production of poverty", production and development, environmental accounting, rationality of different social actors in natural resource management, and quality of life. Based on an analysis of regional development and environmental policy trends, and several case-studies in Argentina, Uruguay and other countries, some important problems and opportunities have been identified:

- The current administrative structure of the state is highly marked by a sectorialist vision. While short-term economic production and efficiency dominate, the importance of quality of life of the population neglected. In general, there is little openness and planning for citizen participation and for articulation with science and technology.
- The demands of different social groups need to be understood as being connected to three broad sets of social rights: the Right to Livelihood, the Right to Protection, and Rights to Levels of Understanding and to Participation. Separate (local and global) struggles for each of these rights have in some cases contributed to obtaining partial victories. More important, however, when coming together into joint struggles, they contribute to the building of other types of development. Particularly interesting tendencies occur, for instance, when economic demands to improve wages and income come together with claims for justice with respect to the environment, gender, language or ethnicity.
- An integrative and sustainable management of nature leads to overcoming the apparent contradiction between “considering the environment” and “considering production”. Doing so implies that the environment is actively and integrally taken into account in management policies and processes, without loss of biodiversity. Simultaneously, it becomes clear that integrally considering production vastly increases the output, income, employment, tax base and public finances.
Next to several academic papers, the main results are published in the book Pobreza y desarrollo sustentable en la gobernanza ambiental en América Latina by Héctor Sejenovich et al. (CLACSO, 2015). Research findings were also presented in a wide range of scientific and policy-oriented meetings in Latin America, and in an ENGOV Policy Brief (‘Gobernanza ambiental y actores sociales: Hacia la articulación de saberes múltiples y diversos en la gobernanza ambiental’, with WP5).

Resource extraction conflicts compared (WP7)

For this theme, the socio-metabolic trends of Latin American economies, particularly in the primary export sectors, and their connection with socio-environmental conflicts were studied. Social metabolism refers to the manner in which human societies organize their growing exchanges of energy and materials with the environment. The emergence of new global economic centres, in particular China, drives a major expansion in the global social metabolism and this is having a fundamental role in the transformation of the socio-metabolic profile of Latin America.

Material Flows Analyses (MFA) conducted on Latin American economies (by us and other authors) complement the system of national accounts with a compatible system of biophysical national accounts. MFA accounts for the amount of tonnes of each main type of material that is annually extracted, imported and exported in a country or region. Between 1970 and 2010, there has been a fourfold increase in material extraction in Latin America (for domestic consumption and exports).

ENGOV research showed that Latin American economies, and especially South American economies, have a persistent and increasing Physical Trade Deficit (i.e. the difference between the number of tonnes of materials that are imported and exported by an economy). We signal the paradox that the large physical exports of LA economies are unable or are scarcely able to finance the imports so that many countries are falling into commercial deficits in 2014-15. Which socio-environmental pressures are exerted by the expanding extraction of renewable and non-renewable materials? In order to answer this question several research activities were deployed:
- single and multiple case studies on extractive conflicts, conducting field work, in-depth interviews with key actors and reviewing primary and secondary sources;
- a region-wide study on the spread of community consultations against large scale metal mining (68 cases in five countries from 2002 to 2012), examining the emergence of this hybrid institution and discussing its implications for the governance of extractive industries;
- a Social Multicriteria Study of alternative scenarios in Intag, Ecuador, building and assessing with socio-economic, socio-cultural and environmental criteria – defined together with local inhabitants - the performance of extractive and non-extractive economic alternatives;
- a classification of extractive conflicts based on the commodity at stake. We distinguished between biomass (crops, plantations, fisheries) and minerals (metal ores, fossil fuels, industrial and construction materials) extraction conflicts, considering the particular features of these materials and the way these are extracted.
Taken together, these studies indicate that policies that are said to promote a transition away from extraction dependence via more extraction (by investing rents on social policies and new technologies) are likely to be both economically and environmentally unsustainable. The emergence of community consultations as a reaction from local communities against extractive activities raises concerns regarding the role of states promoting these activities. In this regard, we also noticed that there is an increasing criminalization of activists.

Research results are published in a range of academic journal articles and book chapters, a book on the case of Intag and social multicriteria studies, and a special issue of Ecología Política (2014, in collaboration with FP7 project EJOLT). At the ENGOV website, we created an Inventory of Databases on Socio-environmental Conflicts in Latin America and the Caribbean (in Spanish). ENGOV’s Policy Brief ‘Environmental governance of extractive activities in Latin America and the Caribbean: the need to include local communities’ presents the MFA methodology, Latin America socio-metabolic trends and the rise of community consultations, and recommends courses for action for various LAC and European actors.

Local solutions towards environmental justice (WP8)

The point of departure for this research is the conviction that many communities can offer better “local solutions to promote environmental justice” than the approaches proposed by national social and economic policy. This is especially true for indigenous and peasant communities in Latin America who are finding themselves progressively marginalized by national policies and forced to defend their territories. In large measure this is the result of the expansion of international enterprises systematically reshaping economic structures by investing in extractive industries (mining and forestry) that threaten their very existence and the health of their ecosystems.

Our methodology involved identifying various communities in different parts of Mexico committed to defending their ways of life and their environments by developing alternative strategies for assuring their well-being in communal organizations. By doing so, these communities are consolidating their capacities for local governance and building alliances with others. Generally they enjoy philosophical and cultural heritages that guide them to adopt decision-making processes based on different priorities than those dominant in the nation-states of which they are part. Our approach involved inviting communities that are strengthening their local institutions and defining mechanisms to defend their unique identities. Members of the research team have collaborated directly with these communities by offering support and complementary expertise to advance in these processes. The have also stimulated bottom-up local studies by so-called community researchers.

To advance, we created spaces for open discussions in which the communities could explain their processes for advancing in their projects and identify the obstacles to which we might contribute in overcoming. We encouraged encounters in which the project leaders facilitated exchanges among groups of communities to discuss their projects, exchange ideas and evaluate proposals; this process began within their own regions but then expanded to other regions.

On this theme, we produced a number of publications in Spanish and English refereed journals and books, presenting the new methodologies and experiences of collaborating with the communities. The Policy Brief on Ecotourism (Ecoturismo y patrimonio biocultural: ¿Mercancía o justicia ambiental?) critically examines the rise of this sector, offering recommendations on how to make ecotourism meet its objectives of social wellbeing with protecting ecosystems.

Mitigation and adaptation to climate change (WP9)

In Latin America, most emissions of greenhouse gases (67%) are related to land cover and land-use change (LCLUC). Some countries are already being pressed to reduce emissions, particularly those related to deforestation. In addition, several institutional innovations in "climate policies" have been designed, which can be grouped into three bundles: expansion of protected areas and enforcement of land use regulation; focus on renewable energy; and economic incentives for conservation.
For this important and complex contemporary theme, the overarching goal was to analyse how new discourses and practices of mitigation and adaptation influence new territorial configurations in rural areas in Latin America, and how these new territorialities reflect in the social reconfiguration of rural actors. More specifically, research objectives ranged from furthering knowledge on land use and agriculture in LAC countries, including knowledge on sustainable landscapes and on family farming and traditional communities; to studying mitigation and adaptation to climate change in the region, including a comparison between different biomes (the Amazon, the Cerrado savannah, and Mesoamerica); and analysing Brazil’s recent initiatives towards mitigation of carbon emissions.

In order to analyse the politics of protected areas and land use regulation, we carried out fieldwork in the Brazilian Central Savannahs (Cerrado). To map out the spatial expansion of protected areas as well as deforestation and soybean production, we overlapped different public databases and processed them with GIS software. To assess how institutional changes unravel at the local level, fieldwork was conducted in and around three Protected Areas, interviewing family farmers and large-scale soybean producers. The study shows that a tight enforcement of anti-fire regulations puts a disproportionate strain on smallholders and traditional populations. Although these groups are not responsible for most of the deforestation and the associated loss of biodiversity in the Cerrado, they have been penalized for their traditional use of fire. As a result, these 'politics of selection' undermine participative management of protected areas, while legitimizing the expansion of soybean agriculture around them.

Research on the impacts of public policies promoting palm oil production as important biofuel involved fieldwork in the Brazilian Amazon, in the state of Pará, with interviews with a wide range of actors: grassroots organizations, oil production companies, farmers, banks, community residents, cooperatives, and governmental agencies. While the expansion of palm oil aims increasing both the supply of biofuels and the income for family farmers, in practice contract farming with small-scale farmers has been limited, and oil companies move in the direction of a land-renting model. As a result, large-scale farmers have become the main beneficiaries of the policy.

Research on climate change politics involved documentary research and interviews with key-informants in Brazil, Guatemala, Colombia, and Costa Rica. Altogether, the set of climate policies analysed here pose a challenge to rural populations by creating further constraints for them to use their natural resources. Biofuels, protected areas and land-use regulation create or fail to solve problems related to income generation for small farmers. While REDD could mitigate some of those shortcomings, the debates have been too technical, restricted to a select group that controls the flow of information. Vulnerable rural populations are not fully engaged in REDD discussions, and some of them oppose any attempt to create market mechanisms to curb deforestation.

These research results are published in academic journals and books (in English, Portuguese and Spanish). Some key findings have also been disseminated through the ENGOV Policy Briefs ‘Steps toward a more equitable and effective implementation of REDD in Latin America’, and ‘Fire in the tropical savannahs of Latin America: Between criminalization and management’.

Potential Impact:
Environmental governance is of relevance to a wide range of stakeholders: policy makers, (local) authorities, rural and urban populations, consumers, producers and governmental and non-governmental organisations. The project has achieved its goal to produce scientific knowledge that various stakeholders in Latin America, Europe and elsewhere need in order to evaluate current policies and practices of natural resource use and to implement alternative strategies. The ENGOV project has succeeded in its aim to overcome several limitations in the research efforts regarding natural resource use in LAC, and to produce, exchange and spread much needed new scientific knowledge on natural resource use and environmental governance in LAC. As aspired, the consortium transcended disciplinary, regional, political and ecological ‘borders’ and created ‘bridges’ and ‘crossovers’ that enable useful comparisons and the formulation of new strategies.

The scientific results were presented and discussed in academic publications, meetings and courses, and also made available through the ENGOV Working Paper Series and the Virtual Library. Moreover, lessons and recommendations following from the research were widely shared with various ‘audiences’ in LAC, European and other countries as well as international settings. In order to reach a broader audience and especially potential ‘agents of change’ in social movements, policy arenas and younger generations in LAC, Europe and beyond, ENGOV used an interactive information and communication strategy that consisted of various activities: stakeholder engagement; training of young scholars and policy-makers; dialogue with local and national policy-makers; dialogue with European policy-makers and stakeholders; and informing and sensitizing the general public. For these purposes, many of ENGOV’s research results were ‘translated’ and transmitted through policy briefs, opinion articles, public presentations, media interviews, virtual courses, videos, newsletters, blogs, e-mail announcements, etcetera. The attached document shows the list of the wide variety of dissemination activities performed by the ENGOV consortium.

The ENGOV website was and remains an another important platform for presenting all these project results. It has become a central point of entry for anyone wanting to know more about environmental governance in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is important since there is great need for such information and knowledge as a result of the increasing social and political urgency of socio-environmental challenges in LAC. The project website ( will remain active in the years to come.

Overall lessons and recommendations (WP10)

Generally speaking, ENGOV studies point at progress as well as important problems in contemporary environmental governance in Latin America and the Caribbean. On the one hand, ENGOV research identified a series of valuable initiatives and changes in the region, including new social discourses on nature-society relations, local community actions inspiring bottom-up processes elsewhere, new policies for environmental protection and compensation, and new political elites making redistributive reforms based on natural endowments. On the other hand, some important coinciding concerns came out of different thematic research activities in several LAC countries:

- the continuing tendency to hardly prioritize environmental problems and related social demands and development problems, despite their growing magnitude;
- the lack of awareness of the different views, knowledges, capacities and needs with respect to natural resources among other stakeholders (partly at other scales);
- the ongoing weakness of environmental institutions, despite some important political and elite shifts;
- the tendency to insufficiently include local community groups in decision-making on large-scale projects, and to criminalize activism for socio-environmental justice.

ENGOV’s collection of studies show that in order to tackle the current and emerging socio-environmental problems in Latin America, three main challenges must be urgently addressed: first, the political challenge of promoting democracy and citizenship in a public space that is safeguarded for effective participation in the agenda-setting and negotiation of conflicting interests; second, the social challenge of ensuring the improvement of well-being through food and land security, social reproduction and self-determination of marginalized groups; and third, the environmental challenge of protecting ecological integrity, carbon emission mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

Apart from providing knowledge, ENGOV’s foreground contributes to debates on how to improve environmental governance and how to solve societal problems around the use of natural resources. ENGOV findings have been shared with a wide range of stakeholders, policy-makers and other groups (in public presentations, policy briefs, opinion articles, newsletters and videos). This has been most strongly the case in the countries of the Latin American project participants: Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil and Mexico, while the European project partners organized events in Spain, France, Norway and The Netherlands. Furthermore, through participation and presentations in a wide range of international meetings, ENGOV researchers have been able to widely disseminate project results, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and North America.

Historicising unequal resource distribution (WP2)

From an academic viewpoint, the analysis of the effects of four sources of change – ideology, path dependence, deep seated beliefs, and the cycle of the international economy – and their interplay on the mode of environmental governance in Bolivia and Ecuador make an important contribution to contemporary studies of socio-political shifts in these countries. Furthermore, it is worthwhile to extend this analysis to environmental governance in other countries and compare the outcome since some Latin American countries seem to have gone to similar processes of change, while others have not. Also the increased state control over transnational companies and over civil society organizations has been noted in other parts of the region.

Through the publication of a book , the distribution of a working paper, Policy Brief, and a thematic ENGOV Newsletter, and the organization of a public roundtable and workshop we reached more than 1,000 actors involved in the politics of natural resource governance (including top and middle levels officials, leaders and activists of environmental NGOs, and officials of international development agencies).

Shifting elites and institutions in environmental governance (WP3)

The research on this theme has been highly novel in the sense that it has opened a new field of research on elites and environmental governance. There is significant research on the important role played by a diversity of social movements in environmental struggles. There is also a well of documentation on the impact of the actions of local and multinational business elites on resource depletion and contamination. However, there has been very little research on elites and elite-dynamics in terms of the relation between different new and old, political, economic, and technocratic elites and the impact on environmental governance. As a result of ENGOV’s efforts there has first, been established a theoretical platform for understanding such dynamics, that can be used in further research. Moreover, important empirical data from a variety of cases and sectors have been gathered and analysed. Thus, the impact of the research is both to have generated knowledge of the role of elites in environmental governance in Latin America during a given period and to lay the foundations for a new field of research that can be furthered developed conceptually and theoretically and applied to new settings and time periods by other researchers.

The period under which this has happened has been a quite particular moment for Latin America due to simultaneous economic and political shifts. By external observers – including governments, companies and NGOs – the changes have often been interpreted through political and ideological lenses as a change to the left. However, by studying the complex relations between new groups in government and old elites, as well as the multiple elites based on control of different resources, a more comprehensive view of the ongoing changes and the conditions for environmental governance of important economic sectors have emerged. This is vital knowledge for companies that aim to invest, but in a manner that strengthen sustainable development, as well as for governments and NGOs that support actors and processes leading towards sustainable development.

It is recommended that external companies and governments place strong emphasis on how their engagement in productive processes impact on the institutionalization of environmental regulation. They should also focus on how they affect the flow of information and contributions to a public debate that can lay the ground for a national consensus that in the long run may be embedded institutions charged with the monitoring and follow up of environmental regulation.

Strategic actors and responsible consumption in the mining sector (WP4)

The research findings and publications deepen our understanding of the social and environmental dimensions of industrial consumption of energy and water in the mining sector in South America – a topic of regional and global importance. The study of discourses on water and energy consumption of South American strategic actors demonstrates the recent increase of environmental consciousness. Nevertheless, the analysis confirms that most of the strategic actors who defend the expanded reproduction of the water-energy-mining complex as the basis of the socio-economic development of the region do not take responsibility for the long-term and global implications of current local environmental behaviour.

This study demonstrates that there is a struggle for legitimacy going on between conflicting discourses on the water-energy-mining complex. It is important to note that the first and second discourse models express a confidence in technological innovation. The third and fourth model, on the other hand, introduce a more political and ecological logic in their vision of resource consumption in mining. The contradictory positions are opposite poles in a space of dialogue that should be promoted by a public policy that seeks environmental sustainability and resource governance.

Building and exchanging knowledges on natural resources (WP5)

While new understanding of various knowledges and knowledge holders with regard to natural resource use in Latin America has been gained through this research, the debate on the plurality of forms of knowledge seems to be only starting. This conclusion was highlighted by the brief ethnography of the Mexican ministerial project for the conservation of maize ‘Proyecto Global de los Maíces nativos’ (PGMN, 2006-2010). We found that the knowledge produced has been formatted by the categorization and segmentation of political ideas concerning maize, and by the merely utilitarian functions of conservation and of improvement of maize varieties. The absence of a real dialogue between “traditional” and “scientific” knowledge of a crucial resource partly results from political constructs. One important lesson is that in order to build up sustainable development policies all social actors that interact with nature needs to be identified and included. In practice, building up environmental governance means integration, accommodation and hybridization of traditional native knowledge.

Future academic work needs to look into the relations between social actors and science, technology, culture and representative institutions. This analysis should be diachronic and structural. Future academic studies should pay attention to traditional knowledge as daily and evolving social practices. Bringing together social studies of science and post-colonial studies on Latin America will allow to understand how social practices are identified and characterised by science – often excluding or re-appropriating key elements – and how actors relate with nature, considering nature not only as bundle of resources but also as a basis and source of culture and different sorts of knowledge. Interesting topics in this regard are knowledges in political and social responses to climate change, or the use of medicinal plants in public health services, and.

Analysing poverty and sustainable development (WP6)

The research approach and findings on this theme are of direct relevance for policy-making in LAC countries, and lead to important recommendations:

- In the face of the wide-spread social marginalization in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the dimensions of employment and income as well as access to or ownership of natural resources, methods need to be developed that favour integral forms of increased production and job creation.
- In order to change productive strategies, techniques of integrated resource management are crucial. Also new planning processes are needed to incorporate the population from the start and to use interdisciplinary analyses to inform decision-making processes.
- The institutions of the state and their operation should be reoriented in order to enable the principles of sustainable development to be met. Such a restructuring needs to be aimed at achieving an integral, comprehensive vision towards development at the short, middle and long term. Other key issues include research and action across all scales (local-regional-national), and high levels of social movement participation.

Resource extraction conflicts compared (WP7)

Several of this theme’s research outputs become very relevant now that the terms of trade are moving (again) against primary exporters. This trend should also inform the discussion on the links between socio-metabolic flows and environmental conflicts: not only environmentally but also economically, the extractivist policies common to neo-liberal and neo-populist LAC governments become less attractive.

From a scientific point of view, these ENGOV studies expand the research on environmental justice, offering new theoretical insights regarding the role of scales. Another valuable contribution flows from the first systematization of community consultations on large-scale mining conflicts throughout Latin America (moving beyond the usual national focus). Among the results of this study is the role played by criminalization of activists in the emergence and spread of this community strategy of participation.

For civil society groups and policy-makers, especially the book on Intag is useful. It develops an innovative methodology that combines scenario techniques and social multicriteria methods to structure debates on mining conflicts and local development alternatives. The book provides key insights for the ongoing debates in LAC countries on extractive projects. In this respect also the inventory of databases on socio-environmental justice conflicts in the region is a valuable tool for different stakeholders.

Local solutions towards environmental justice (WP8)

An important feature of the research activities has been the “appropriation” of the notion of ‘community researchers’ by a number of communities beyond those directly associated with our working group. The figure has become an important facet of community ‘empowerment’ for local institution building and the emergence of governance processes involving community members as local (and historical/traditional) knowledge experts or repositories (i.e. wise people, elders) with communitarian or consensual democracy mechanisms.

A valuable dynamic involved the participation of community spokespeople in two international academic meetings to promote indigenous rights and projects for social and political consolidation. In total about a dozen participants coordinated their contributions, thereby reinforcing their self-esteem and commitments to advance with their respective community projects. These events also allowed to present information about ENGOV in activist circles involved in defending indigenous territories under siege from advancing projects of mining, wind-power, hydro-electricity and forestry developments in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America.

The communities we worked with are still advancing their projects that include, among others, a new elementary school curriculum, two ecotourism proposals, a local cultural heritage museum, several water management and conservation initiatives, a management plan for agave conservation and mescal production, and various agricultural projects. The participating groups continue their contacts with the researchers with commitments to continue the collaborative efforts. Simultaneously, recent contacts of ENGOV researchers with teams of FP7 projects such as COMBIOSERVE and COBRA will also be further developed.

Mitigation and adaptation to climate change (WP9)

As indicated, many climate policies in Latin America pose a challenge to rural populations as they tend to create further constraints for these groups to use natural resources. With the continuously growing importance of climate change and the global and national climate policies, this finding requires much more scientific attention. Extensive and coordinated research efforts and funding are needed to expand the scope of study to other places, ecosystems, production systems, and socio-environmental and political dynamics in the region and beyond.

Similarly, much more attention is needed from policy-makers, especially governments and NGOs, both from LAC countries and from the rest of the world:

- Governments need to recognize and protect all forms of land tenure, so that benefits from REDD, incentives for biofuels or any other kind reach the due owners of land and carbon rights;
- Governments and NGOs should support indigenous and forest peoples’ organizations to participate in debates around REDD, land-use restrictions and natural resource management in general, so that they themselves can represent their interests;
- Governments and NGOs need to provide access to information translated into common language to vulnerable groups, so that they engage in less asymmetrical negotiations;
- Governments need to simplify bureaucratic processes to facilitate access to environmental licenses and certifications, as well as credit, subsidies, and PES.

List of Websites:
ENGOV website:

Contact details of coordinating institution:
Centre for Latin American Research and Documentation (CEDLA), University of Amsterdam (UvA)
Address: Roetersstraat 33, 1018 WB Amsterdam, The Netherlands