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Climate Change Mitigation Policies, Land Grabbing and Conflict

Start project:
  • 2014
  • Departement for International Development
  • Land Core Group

The research program 'Climate Change Mitigation Policies, Land Grabbing and Conflict in Fragile States: Understanding Intersections, Exploring Transformations in Myanmar and Cambodia' (MOSAIC) explores the interplay of climate change mitigation strategies, land grabbing and conflict or cooperation in Myanmar and Cambodia. Climate change mitigation strategies, while based on the idea of protecting the global commons, can cause local conflicts when they recast access to land and resources. Especia

Climate change mitigation strategies in fragile countries where large-scale land acquisitions (“"land grabs") is occurring will cause more vulnerability to increased conflict. Post-conflict states however have experience in managing such resource conflicts, and can therefore help inform how such conflicts could be prevented or transformed. The increased conflict arises due to two factors, the convergence of competing interests in the same resources, and the pre-existing structural and institutional dynamics of society. This causes that most fragile states experience that formal and informal institutions are absent to prevent and transform resource conflicts.

Myanmar and Cambodia exemplify these trends. In Myanmar, transnational land investment, brokered by the state and military forces, have increased significantly since recent political transition. As a result, tension ans conflict is increasing. In Cambodia, already over 2 million hectares are leased to investors for large-scale agro-industrial plantations. This happened over the last decade, through Economic Land Concessions. This excludes the almost 2 million hectares granted to mining companies for mineral exploration. At the same time, while land grabbing becomes increasingly common, government have started engaging in climate change mitigation initiatives. With flex crops on the rise in Myanmar and Cambodia, due to emerging demand of the market, these are often linked to land grabbing situations.

Climate change mitigation policies are linked to land grabbing in at least four ways: (i) large-scale land deals regularly involve biofuel feedstocks; (ii) climate change mitigation policies can result in "green grabbing", land grabbing for environmental ends, where local communities are dispossessed; (iii) prior experiences with land deals perceived as "grabs" may create suspicion that the projects will follow the same pattern, making it harder for them to proceed in locally beneficial ways; and (iv) climate change mitigation areas may be subject to overlapping claims, including large-scale land deals.

The above scenarios show the interplay of climate change mitigation strategies, land grabs and conflict, by envisioning landholdings where such intersections produce competing claims to the same land. So in every project of this research, the central question is: How do climate mitigation initiatives and land grabbing shape each other at a landscape level, spatially and institutionally, with what outcomes for conflict or cooperation within and between communities? And, how can such conflicts be prevented or transformed? This project thereby focuses not only on the environmental point of view, but acknowledges that the landscape is not the only relevant scale for intervention. National and international policy processes can also contribute to socially just and sustainable arrangements. This project seeks to build capacity and create action plans to help affected communities engage with governance and accountability mechanisms across these scales as relevant to each case. Through collaborative, case study action research, the project seeks to understand the interplay between climate change mitigation initiatives and land grabs from a landscape perspective - including spatial, social, ecological and institutional dimensions - and resulting trajectories of conflict and cooperation in two fragile states: Myanmar and Cambodia.

The project also seeks to influence these trajectories by helping to build capacity for development interventions that promote socially just and sustainable conflict management strategies in the case study areas and beyond. These interventions will emerge through the collaboration of grassroots social movements, NGO and academic partners. They will reflect local understandings of justice, and they are likely to include actions at multiple scales. Analyzing international governance instruments to identify leverage points for action will inform these conflict management efforts in the two selected countries.

Beyond the case study countries, the project seeks to contribute to theory about the more general conditions under which inclusive, landscape-level strategies for preventing or transforming resource conflicts can be achieved. Contributing to building an international knowledge network will be an important step toward this goal. The project will achieve this partly through annual knowledge sharing workshops involving partners with experience resolving disputes over resource control in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as by sponsoring and linking with emerging research in other countries and regions.

This project is implemented by a consortium of internationally-recognized actors: ICCO Cooperation; the Regional Centre for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD) of the University of Chiang Mai; the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of the Erasmus University; and, the Trans National Institute (TNI) working with national partners in Myanmar (Land Core Group- LCG and Paung Ku - PK); and, Cambodia (Equitable Cambodia - EC and Cambodia Peacebuilding Network - CPN).


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