How can we deal with environmental sustainability while achieving economic development?

Understanding and transforming drivers of land systems in a globalized world

Ground Floor A 022 September 7, 2017 11:00 to 12:30 - 14:00 to 15:30

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Peter Messerli1, Julie Zähringer1, Sithong Thongmanivong2, Bruno Ramamonjisoa3, Markus Giger1

1University of Bern, Switzerland; 2National University of Laos; 3Ecole Supérieure des Science Agronomiques (ESSA) Forêts, Antananarivo


Land systems – understood as coupled social-ecological systems – and their dynamics are decisive for sustainable development outcomes in terms of both the environment and human wellbeing. Such dynamics in one place increasingly depend on drivers that emerge from distant other places or from higher levels of spatial scale. Conversely, growing demands and a global revalorization of land – also represented by the Sustainable Development Goals – are leading to intensified competition over land in distant places. Flows of goods, capital, people, information and policies can lead to phenomena such as large-scale land acquisitions, green grabbing, displaced deforestation, or cascading land use, etc. Such distant interactions often lead to competing claims on land systems implying trade-offs, conflicts among actors, and negative sustainability outcomes in terms of the environment and human wellbeing. Yet, such distant interactions may also bear the potential for governance innovations, help to overcome political obstacles and provide scope for pathways towards more sustainable development.

Different research initiatives have emerged that try to conceptualize and understand these phenomena from a process-based perspective. They range from value chain approaches to social network analysis and from telecoupling to polycentric land governance approaches. The proposed session invites contributions that address these challenges from empirical as well as methodological and conceptual perspectives. We are particularly interested in exploring the potentials for governance innovations as well as transformation pathways toward more sustainable development.