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5 December 2014

How to Ensure Sustainability in the “Frontier” Landscapes? SIANI Event at the Global Landscapes Forum COP20

SIANI and EcoAdapt hosted a multi-stakeholder discussion event at the Global Landscapes Forum in Lima. “Moving targets: challenges and opportunities for sustainability in “frontier” landscapes” debate focused on relative success stories of the landscape approach to governance, complemented by the views from mid- and high-level decision makers and the “hidden” panel of experts.

Emerging economies are racing towards development. Looking ten years back, it is hard to recognize the landscapes of Nairobi, San-Paulo, Bangalore or La Paz.  Fueled by natural resources for food, fiber, construction materials, energy and other needs, these “frontier landscapes” are drastically changing their surroundings and places where they source their resources from. Deforestation in the Amazon, shift in river flows, traces of mining or waste reservoirs are some of the examples.

In the context of uncertain land tenure and a weak government presence, differences in the make-up of actors and the way in which they interact and compete for land and available resources can have profound consequences for the development trajectory and environmental stewardship of frontier regions, increasing the risk of resource depletion and land degradation.

It is, therefore, quite apparent that one of the major challenges for the “frontier landscapes” is to find a balance between environmental concerns and socio-economic development. And this task, requiring multilevel, collaborative, integrated and socially just governance, might be quite a puzzle for decision and policy makers.

Firstly, it is crucial to specially recognize agricultural-forest frontiers – fairly remote forest areas with high deforestation pace and socio-economic fluidity. Such areas tend to have very diverse sets of actors, ranging from large-scale commercial operators to low-income smallholder farmers or indigenous peoples, who are quite often excluded from the decision-making. Thus, policies and incentives need to ensure social justice and address sustainability concerns, basing on the special features and actors of one or another frontier landscape.

Secondly, very diverse sets of actors mean very diverse sets of interests. Finding compromise between the actors would require innovative approaches to governance directed at the search of common ground and acceptance of different opinions. This might be challenging for many developing states, where sector-based approach is a more common practice and policy making is a “black box”.

Thirdly, successful multi-actor governance needs to take an integrated view on the landscape, foster partnership and trust between the actors, and provide effective leadership and transparent communication.

What are the conditions that foster durable collaboration among diverse actors? Are the success cases context-specific or can the same strategy be transferred to another setting? What mechanisms are most effective in balancing sustainability problems with multiple interests of diverse actors? These are some of the questions that will be discussed during the Discussion Forum organized by SIANI and EcoAdapt.

“I hope that this event will stimulate thinking as to how an increased understanding of actor diversity and interdependencies between them can be leveraged to support transitions towards more sustainable and just landscapes”, says Toby Gardner, SEI’s Research Fellow and one of the event organizers.

Download key messages summary in English and in Spanish.

Event page at the GLF’s website

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Forests, water and sustainable growth of cities
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Stockholm City Conference Centre