Learning from ground-up transformations for sustainability through the conflict transformation and alternatives framework

sustainability through conflict transformationBackground: In the face of an increase of extractive activities and development projects across the globe and a state failure to address these pressures, an environmental justice movement has been expanding and diversifying over the last decade. Extractive activities cause serious tensions and social protests that are becoming ever more acute as mega-oil and mining projects move into new untouched areas known as “the commodity frontiers”. Conflicts are triggered through threats to traditional communities and lifestyles, infringements on indigenous territories and protected areas, displacements in rural and urban areas, and degradation in terrestrial and marine environments. Communities across the globe are mobilizing, questioning who has the right to decide how natural resources are used and whether any one notion and/or vision of development should be imposed on others.

These local defensive struggles are increasingly engaging with wider political, geographical, and historical contexts. Trans-national alliances are proliferating and leading to new definitions of well-being and citizenship, as well as to institutional innovations to govern climate change and multilateral trade to protect the global commons and for increased corporate accountability. These processes of resistance formation against “extractivism” play an important role shaping local and global transformations for sustainability and in dealing with the global environmental and social crisis from the ground up. Yet we still know very little about how these processes of conflict transformation and creation of development alternatives are carried out and what determines their success over time.  There is a pressing need to know more about “what needs to be transformed” for more sustainable futures from the perspective of resistance movements, “how can it be transformed” and “what truly transformative alternatives are”.

This T-Lab seeks to help address this gap through an examination and discussion of on-going conflicts and their transformation processes with the aid of an analytical and methodological tool developed with this precise aim: the Conflict Transformation and Alternatives Framework. Apart from assisting in the analysis of individual conflict transformation cases, this framework can help share knowledge between different initiatives, narratives and well-being alternatives emerging from ground movements that seek to bring about needed societal transformations for sustainability and learn from the impact there are having in practice. Thus, through this discussion, this T-Lab will be engaging with two particular themes of the Transformations Conference: a) Conditions and practices for transformation, and b) Creativity and innovation for enhancing thinking and practice of transformation.

The Conflict Transformation and Alternatives Framework has been designed as part one of the ISSC’s Transformation for Sustainability Networks:  the “Academic and Activists Co-production of knowledge for Environmental Justice” (ACKnow-EJ) Project, to learn from conflict transformation practices across the globe. It is being used to analyze transformative conflicts in the Global Atlas of Environmental Justice, where 1900 cases have already been collected (see https://ejatlas.org/), and in in-depth case studies from India, the Americas, Lebanon and Turkey. With a focus on power analysis (structural, networks and culture), conflict transformation strategies and their impacts, it can help identify concrete processes of transformations brought about by resistance movements. These changes are analyzed in relation to their impact in the following transformation pillars:  1) Ecological Integrity and Resilience, 2) Social Well-Being and Justice, 3) Direct and Delegated Democracy, 4) Economic Democracy and 5) Cultural Diversity and Knowledge Democracy.

Intended Audience: The audience for the T-Lab will be composed by a maximum of 30 participants.  We will bring together community participants and scholars from the ACKnowl-EJ  Project case study sites to share among themselves and with the wider audience their experiences using the framework.   Other conference delegates that do not form part of the ACKnowl_EJ project will be encouraged to attend. This includes activists, academics and policy makers alike.

Expected Outcomes of the T-Lab: We expect the T-Lab to be an excellent opportunity for networking and joint learning about conflict transformation processes from the ground up, both among ACKnowl_EJ members and with a wider audience of conference delegates.  The explanation of our conceptual and methodological tool will not only be an opportunity to disseminate our research tools and assist in a joint reflection processes, but will also open the opportunity for more people to  get involved in the ACKnowl_EJ project and for us to receive feedback from conference delegates to help us improve the tool. Participants will be invited to try out the framework after the conference, both by adding their own cases in the EJATLAS and in their own in-depth case studies.  This will help ensure contact and collaboration with those interested in engaging with the ACKnowl_EJ project post conference.   Participants will also be encouraged to document through photographs, video clips and oral testimonies their experience using the framework in order to contribute with a Global Dialogue on Development Alternatives.

Facilitators: Iokiñe Rodríguez (University of East Anglia, UK, email: iokirod@gmail.com) and Neema Pathak (Kalpavriksh, India, email: neema.pb@gmail.com)

Iokiñe Rodríguez is a Venezuelan sociologist, with a Ph.D. in Development Studies from the University of Sussex, England and a post-doctorate from the Centre of Social Studies of Science at the Venezuela Institute of Scientific Research (IVIC). Using participatory action-research, she has worked extensively in Venezuela, Guyana and Bolivia as part of interdisciplinary, multi-institutional and intercultural research teams studying environmental conflicts and helping to strengthen the capacity of indigenous people to enter into dialogue with other actors about environmental change and sustainable development in their territories.  She also works in close collaboration with Latin American Institutions seeking to develop a regional specific transformation approach to environmental conflicts, focusing on issues of power, environmental justice, equity and intercultural dialogue. Currently a Senior Research Fellow at the School of International Development, University of East Anglia (UEA), UK, where she works in various projects coordinating and directing research activities in different parts of Latin America.

Neema Pathak Broome, has studied environmental science and completed a post graduate diploma in wildlife management. She is a member of Kalpavriksh, coordinating the Conservation and Livelihoods programme and is part of the team monitoring implementation of conservation laws and policies in particular the Wildlife Protection Act and the Forest Rights Act in India. Her main area of interest is conservation governance, particularly Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Conserved Territories and Areas (ICCAs). She has been involved with documentation, research, analysis and advocacy related to inclusive conservation governance and ICCAs in India and South Asia.