The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.
The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.

Rethinking Environment and Development in an Era of Global Norms: An Exploration of Forests and Water in Nepal, Sudan and Uganda

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Principal Investigator: Thomas Sikor. Lead Organisation: University of East Anglia

Co-investigators: Janet Fisher; Mark Zeitoun; Asim Ibrahim El Moghraby; Hari Prasad Dhungana

The research responds to the emergence of global norms intended to reconcile natural resource management with poverty alleviation. The norms possess the potential to transform development practice, so long as they effectively support poor people’s rights to natural resources and sustainable livelihoods. This research examines the effects of global norms on poverty alleviation through explorations of forests and water.

The research focuses on the cross-scale relationships between local environmental struggles, higher-level mobilizations for environmental justice and global norms through the lens of environmental justice. Struggles over justice are an integral element of environmental politics across scales, connecting local struggles to mobilisations at (inter)national levels as well as the conceptions informing global norms - and causing frictions between them.


The research proceeds by way of four comparative case studies from Nepal, Sudan and Uganda. In Nepal, it analyses indigenous people’s successful mobilisation and resistance to hydropower projects as well as their participation in a Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation plus (REDD+) pilot project. In Sudan, the Merowe hydro-electric dam exemplifies a case where local people have been dispossessed from land despite support from exiled community members and international activists. In Uganda, an afforestation project has not led to any significant mobilisation despite the presence of significant injustices.

The proposed research serves the overarching goal of promoting poverty alleviation in the Global South by way of effective and equitable application of global environmental norms. It will generate new understanding of local environmental struggles, their uptake in higher-level mobilisations and the effects of global environmental norms on poverty alleviation, specifically in relation to forests and water. This is of relevance to hundreds of millions worldwide who are particularly susceptible to environmental injustice because of natural resource-dependent livelihoods, poverty and social marginalisation. The research team will use multiple channels to maximize research impact under two specific objectives. (1) Equip partner organizations and activists in Nepal, Uganda and Sudan with coproduced knowledge and the strategic support they need for pro-poor environmental mobilisations at national and transnational levels. (2) Raise the profile of environmental justice amongst agencies and policy-makers working within the environment/development spheres, as a lens with which to assess environmental policy and enter into dialogue with activists. To aid project impact in Nepal, Sudan and Uganda, the researchers will conduct the following activities: 1.1 Engage with named environmental justice activists (as 'impact advisors') in the three countries throughout research process. 1.2 Organize three in-country symposia to disseminate research findings. 1.3 Produce 'testimonies of justice' with villagers and activists for dissemination in Nepal, and more broadly for international audiences. For the international audience, the researchers will undertake the following: 2.1 Hold symposium for policy agents working in the international sphere at UEA campus in London. 2.2 Write impact brief on global norms of environmental justice and poverty alleviation for internet dissemination. 2.3 Disseminate the 'testimonies of justice' from Nepal with appropriate documentation internationally. The central pillar of our public impact is deep engagement with environmental justice activists from Nepal, Sudan and Uganda whom we have identified within our expanded networks. These are colleagues with whom we already collaborate, maximizing the potential for knowledge co-production and impact. The activists represent organisations with a more fundamentally grassroots approach to environmental justice, complementing our academic approach (see Pathways to Impact for details). Consistent engagement with these activists at all stages in the research will secure the co-production of knowledge useful to activists, academics and other interested parties. Through these partnerships we will organize national-level symposia to engage wider communities of practice within Uganda, Sudan and Nepal. This facilitates knowledge-exchange and will consolidate existing advocacy communities. The 'testimonies of justice' will experiment a new, radical way of giving voice to marginalized people by featuring local people's and activists' environmental justice claims in Nepal. They build on the PI's previous video productions, including a video funded by NERC/ESRC/DFID ( Co-I Fisher will be responsible for impact monitoring, harnessing the commitment of the rest of the team. We will monitor impact throughout and beyond the lifetime of the project. For instance, monitoring of downloads of the policy brief from host institution's websites will give an indication of its reach, while tracking references beyond the lifetime of the project will indicate uptake into global and national policy documents. We will also actively consult those with whom we engage in the project, for instance, at the public symposium. Impact monitoring will be undertaken in a timely manner to inform our Stage 2 research proposal. The project design dedicates 7% of the requested budget to outreach activities, not including the researchers' time.

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Grant Category: 
Research Grant
Lead Organisation Department: 
International Development
Fund Start Date: 
October 1st, 2013
Fund End Date: 
March 31st, 2015
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