The ECI Ecosystem Governance Programme seeks to strengthen our understanding of how state and non-state institutions and actors shape decisions about the conservation and use of forests, and about the interface of forests with other land uses. This research encompasses a wide diversity of governance institutions and networks, from intergovernmental processes, to government agencies, to market-based sustainability certification, to locally based and indigenous resource management. A core aim of our research is to better understand how governance systems organize and distribute decision-making authority across conflicting interests, from the local to global scale, and the resulting impacts of such systems on forests and people.
Access Failure: Explaining Climate-Related Migration in the Sahel
11 March 2021
Speaker: Professor Jesse Ribot, School of International Service (SIS), American University. This talk examines ostensibly climate-related migration in the Sahel as a case of "access failure". It argues that a lens of access helps reveal the political-economic and institutional production of precarity that enables climate events to push people into crisis.
Resilience and access to sustainable growth in upland Nepal and Myanmar
Funding: Rockerfeller Foundation
2017 – 2019
ECI Lead: Dr Constance McDermott. PI, Prof. Tim Forsyth, Department of International Development, London School of Economics and Political Science
The project examines resilience to environmental change (including climate change) among poor and vulnerable rural populations in hill zones of Nepal and Myanmar. This includes a cross-national comparison of the relationships between resilience and transitions in livelihoods, trade, and land tenure. Resilience is examined not simply as a response to physical shocks such as flooding, but also as embedded in local innovations to sustain or improve livelihoods within the broader context of rural development. This analysis will provide lessons on how themes of inequality and transition can be used in national (and potentially international) environmental assessments of resilience in ways that enhance resilience among poor and vulnerable populations experiencing environmental and socio-economic changes after years of violent conflict.
How does forest certification contribute to biodiversity conservation and protection of community rights? Stakeholder negotiations, standards, auditing and consequences on-the-ground
Funding: FORMAS, Swedish Research Council for sustainable development
2018 – 2020
ECI Lead: Dr Constance McDermott. PI, Dr Marine Elkabidze, University of Uppsala
This project examines the political ecology of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and how this shapes FSC outcomes for biodiversity conservation and protection of local/indigenous community rights. The geographic focus is on Canada, Russia and Sweden, all countries with large areas of boreal forest, and which rank 1st, 2nd and 4th worldwide in terms of their total FSC certified forest area. The project will include a multi-scale examination of the FSC standards and processes as a system of networked governance, with attention to (1) negotiations among stakeholders for formulating global and national FSC standards, (2) the resulting standards, (3) audits of certified forest management, and (4) assessments of outcomes related to ecological and social sustainability.
Funding: Europe and Global Challenges initiative of Riksbankens Jubileumsfond; The Wellcome Trust; VolkswagenStiftung
207 – 2019
ECI Senior Scientific Advisor: Dr Constance McDermott. PI, Dr Rodd Myers, University of East Anglia
ProdJus examines two supranational governance arrangements for tropical forests aimed at transforming the wood products trade between Europe and other world regions: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT). It combines analyses of global production networks and justice politics in a transdisciplinary manner, building on an international partnership of leading researchers from Africa, Asia and Europe, and drawing on empirical fieldwork in Ghana, Indonesia, Vietnam and Europe. The project holds a particular interest in the differentiation of governance forms and outcomes between Europe and the South, among Southern countries and between the transnational, national and local levels. By looking at novel forms of forest governance, ProdJus will improve understanding of how collective action can address critical challenges in an increasingly globalised world, and what this means for the future of the European continent in the presence of a more general shift from state-centred territorial governance to flow-centred arrangements.
Funding: European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie program
ECI Lead: Dr Kaysara Khatun
LAMAR aims to explore the inter-relationships between conservation and agricultural practices in order to determine how sustainable land use practices can be created and strengthened over time. Research lines include assessing Ecosystem Services to humans, as well as factors that are causing ecosystem change, such as commercial agricultural production (e.g. the demand for cash crops such as soy and palm oil) which can affect the long-term resilience of such ecosystems. LAMAR will take into account the discourses, practices and social relationships around land use that are currently unfolding within the 'realpolitik' of a studied region. The findings are expected to be complementary to climate change mitigation efforts and feed into policy processes targeted at improving food security, conservation, and local livelihoods.
This research assesses the use of safeguards at international and national levels as strategies to ensure that biodiversity financing mechanisms (BFM), such as payments for ecosystem services (PES) and biodiversity offsets, support livelihoods. At the international level, the analysis focuses in particular on agreements on biodiversity (CBD), climate change (UNFCCC) and international human rights law. The national-level analysis contrasts the approaches of Sweden, Mexico and Ecuador.
Governing Natural Resources in a Global Era: Actors, Practices, and Outcomes
Funding: The Social Science and Humanities Research Council, Canada
2015 – 2018
ECI collaborator: Dr Constance McDermott
This research examines the governance of mining and forestry globally and through selected country and company comparative case studies.
ECI Lead: Professor Yadvinder Malhi | Co Lead: Dr Constance McDermott
ECOLIMITS is a consortium project looking at ecosystem services, degradation and links to poverty in the cocoa farm and forest landscape around Kakum National Park, Ghana, and the coffee growing landscape of south-western Ethiopia.
Funding: Global Innovations Initiate & Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
2014 – 2016
ECI Lead: Dr Constance McDermott
This project draws on evidence from the coffee and cattle sectors in Brazil to inform how certification and sustainability standards might contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from forest loss.
A Trustmark for the Sharing Economy UK (SEUK)
Funding: The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship.
Project advisor: Dr Constance McDermott
The UK’s sharing economy trade body, SEUK, is partnering with the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School to develop a ‘trustmark’ for the sharing economy. The aim of the trustmark is to establish responsible practices to guide both sharing economy businesses and consumers.
This project forms a part of the EU 7th Framework Programme project INTEGRAL: Future-oriented integrated management of European forest landscapes. The forest governance group’s role in this study is to review the current state of knowledge on the EU’s global footprint, assess EU policy responses, and consider how this knowledge might inform participatory processes addressing land use in the EU.
Certification, trust and the creative consumer
Funding: Skoll Centre Competitive Research Grant
ECI lead: Dr Constance McDermott; Collaborator: Caitlin Schindler
This project involves research and first-stage development of a mobile App to empower small and medium-sized wood producers to practice sustainable forestry and communicate their knowledge and practices across the supply chain. The app combines information and interactive learning on the forests of origin with storytelling, pictures and videos to recreate social and emotional connections between producers and purchasers.
Safeguarding local equity as the global value of ecosystem services rise
This project develops and applies a conceptual framework that analyses the links between ecosystem services and sustainable poverty reduction, examining in particular how benefits derived from ecosystem services are distributed among different stakeholders, the factors underlying these processes and their potential impacts. In particular, the framework aims to help decision-makers in REDD and PES programmes minimise negative impacts on equity and maximise positive impacts on poverty alleviation.
Qualifying carbon: building trust and credibility in REDD+ through reflexive, multi-level governance
This research assesses the multi-level governance of REDD+ safeguards. It is grounded in a case study of community implementation in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and looks upwards to Mexico’s many regional, national and international REDD+ activities and how they influence outcomes within this case study. Analysis includes a comprehensive institutional mapping of REDD+-related activities and associated safeguards and an assessment of how the dynamics of trust and power mediate inter-institutional relationships and the prescriptiveness or flexibility of REDD+ safeguards. The research from this project has been integrated into the above project on “Effective and equitable institutional arrangements for financing and safeguarding biodiversity".
The ECI is an interdisciplinary unit within Oxford University researching the many dimensions of global environmental change.
Part of the School of Geography and the Environment.