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In case of questions, please contact the organizers at iasc-europe-2016@cde.unibe.ch or (in case of technical questions) the Executive Director of the IASC at iasc@iasc-commons.org


All abstracts belong to one of the following panels (for a more extensive description of each panel, click here):

A) Features and effects of global (e.g. European) investments on commons in the world


#01 - Food system impacts on commons from a North–South Perspective

#02 - Extractive and bio-political frontiers: (dense) tropical rain forests and the transformation of the commons

#03 - Undermining the commons: Transnational Corporations, mining and impact on commons governance

#04 - Energy and the commons

#05 - The climate change dilemma: Global and local scales in climate science

#06 - Transforming the commons: Business models of large-scale land Investments

#07 - Land Grabbing – a phenomenon in Europe?

#08 - The impacts of common enclosures on local power relations

#09 - Are Large Scale Land Acquisitions leading to „commons“ and “resilience-grabbing“? New perspectives on land and water governance

#10 - Large scale investments in land and Infrastructure in Africa, Asia and Latin America: what are the consequences for the commons - what is the maneuvering space for collective action?

#11 - European Zoological Gardens, Conservation discourse and the Commons in the South

#12 - African Farmer-led Irrigation: reframing agricultural investment


B)      Collective action, the commons, and sustainability: What is the role of bottom-up participatory resource governance (‘constitutionality’) in Switzerland and in other European political systems in common-resource governance

#13 - All commoners are equal? The impact of different distributions of power and social inequalities within common pool institutions on sustainability and resilience within the premodern era

#14 - Managing Commons: Premodern Perspecitves

#15 - Switzerland as a laboratory for governance innovations in the management of common pool resources – historical approaches)

#16 - Constitutionality and bottom-up institution building processes: lessons from Europe

#17 - Common pool resource institutions in the shadow of the State

#18 - Analysis of Collective action in Payment for Ecosystem Services Contexts

#19 -  Networking, Comparing, and Integrating Urban Commons Initiatives in Research and Action

#20 - Emergence of Smart cities – a confluence of common and private resources towards a new definition of urban commons

#21 - Urban commons in a ‚glocal’ world

#22 - Collective action regimes, co-management and the commons

#23 - Collective Action for the Survival of Forest Commons in Europe

#24 - The influence of European and international forest policies, investments and discourses on local contexts and the counter-responses

#25 - The spiritual dimensions of commons – missing link in scientific and policy debates?

#26 - Geographical Indications as a tool for providing public goods


C)   Prospects of the commons ‐ Responses to triple crisis (financial, environmental, and socio-economic)

#27 - Law, Commons and Sustainable Development Goals - Exploring Law’s Role in Promoting Sustainability of the Commons

#28 - Trade and Commons: an Ambivalent Relationship?

#29 - Environmental justice and the prospect of commons for sustainable development

#30 - Music and the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Debate

#31 - Commons, conservation, conflict and co-management in Europe

#32 - Blue Communities, a collective action for self-declared principles of resource governance – potentials and limitations

#33 - Coherence of international laws and trade treaties in respecting the rights to water and sanitation

#34 - Multinational Corporations and the commons: The Role of Criminal Law

#35 - "Local Knowledge" in Climate Politics: Negotiating Climate Responsibility

#36 - Dissolving the Commons: Pastoral land rights, state intervention and international actors in Central Eurasia

#37 - The Commons in (Post-) Conflict Zones

#38 - Digital commons in a ‚glocal’ world

#39 - Theoretical debates on Institutions for the management of the commons

#40 - The world of finance and the commons

#41 - Using evidence from the Land Matrix and other data repositories to investigate impacts of large-scale land investments on common pool resources


For a more extensive description of each panel, click here

Please contact us if you have questions: iasc-europe-2016@cde.unibe.ch


Panels A – Features and effects of global (e.g. European) investments on commons in the world

FOOD SYSTEMS: impact of food systems, small-scale irrigation


Title Food system impacts on commons from a North–South Perspective

Convenor Johanna Jacobi, Fabian Käser (Institute of Social Anthropology University of Bern CH), Stephan Rist (Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern CH)

The sustainability of food systems is an emerging field of research. Studies analyze how actors, institutions, knowledge, and power relations regulate access to natural resources and their use, as well as how natural resources are transformed into food flows, from input supply to production, consumption, and beyond. The outcomes of food systems are assessed against the five principles of food sustainability: food security, realization of the right to food, social-ecological resilience, avoidance of harmful environmental impacts, and reduction of poverty and inequality.

Changes in relative prices in the global North have affected the management of commons in the global South since colonial times. Today, agroindustrial food systems, often spanning two or more continents, link consumers in the global North with producers in the global South. These transcontinental systems have additional strong impacts on commons in the global South. Local commons are part of local food systems, which in turn are crucial for people living in the South. Case studies have shown that the penetration of transcontinental agroindustrial food systems into a local context lead to changes in relative prices that affect the management of common-pool resources. Such processes can be described as a new form of economic enclosure expressed in obliging people to resort to the use of local commons to cope with shortcomings of agroindustrial food systems for their livelihoods. Some studies have also revealed positive developments: In the Mount Kenya region, for example, agroindustrial horticultural companies facilitated the development of new forms of common resource management (e.g. water for irrigation) to prevent negative impacts of conflicts among local actors and between the companies and local actors for accessing commons in a transformed setting.

These cases indicate that food system impacts on local commons create a need—and sometimes opportunities—for renegotiating how these commons should be governed. To achieve food sustainability, renegotiations must involve local, state, private sector, and civil-society actors, including food producers, processing companies, retailers, and consumers.

For this panel we seek contributions that help to better understand the links between food systems, food sustainability, and common-pool resources. Examples may range widely and might focus on issues such as water governance in a setting where agroindustrial food production coexists with local or traditional forms of food production; air pollution rules regarding emissions from food production, processing, and transporting (e.g. in the context of carbon trade schemes); or the effects of food consumption patterns in the global North (e.g. meat, sugar, palm oil) on forest use in the global South. We welcome both conceptual and empirical contributions that link the commons to food systems and look at relations between the global North and South.

MINING & FOREST & ENERGY: tropical rain forests, transnational corporations


Title Extractive and bio-political frontiers: (dense) tropical rain forests and the transformation of the commons

Convenor Karin Marita Naase (University of Marburg, Germany), Nirvia Ravenna (Center for Amazonian Studies/ Núcleo de Altos Estudos Amazônicos (NAEA), Federal University of Pará (UFPA))

Over the last two decades, due to the encroachment of the agricultural and extractive frontiers, humanity has witnessed an increasing commodification of natural resources (land, forests, water, minerals) around the globe. The planet's last biosphere sanctuaries have become commodities, and currently, relatively remote local peoples are suffering from drastic alterations of their natural and socio-cultural habitats. This development is especially pertinent in the case of (dense) tropical rain forests, which are generally situated in distant regions peripheral to the economic and political centres of the respective nation states. At the same time, the state, in different national settings, has greatly extended its visibility, facilitating the transformation of territories and nature into commodities. This visibility is due to state regulatory mechanisms – i.e., regional development planning - which accompany the global run for resources and which affect marginal regions and territories. One important power instrument in this context are efforts to standardize property right regimes, which often put commons under pressure and threaten them to be ruled by (inter-) national land markets. On the other hand, the international community attempts to meet the global challenge of tropical forest conservation – as one of the policies to mitigate loss of biodiversity and climate change - with a range of programmes and measures that have been developed over time (conservation units like parks, certification schemes, payment for eco-system services, regulations and international conventions), but which yield intended and unintended consequences. At the local level (areas of tropical rain forest) these instruments generate consequences for regional and local property regimes – especially for the commons - through forest conservation modalities, development planning policies and massive extraction of resources. Additionally, to analyse resource extraction in tropical rain forests, one of the aims of our panel is to detect the consequences of (inter-)national protection regimes and to understand to which extend they protect or endanger the commons in forest areas. Our understanding is that the maintenance of commons enables local population to protect nature and enhances local people’s chances to survive socially, culturally, and economically. Therefore, we want to invite contributions which deal with the following questions: To what degree do common property regimes still exist in tropical rain forest territories? How they are institutionally sanctioned and protected? What is local peoples’ agency in this respect?  To what extent is the encroachment of the extractive frontier based on the transformation of property right regimes? What are the triggers, who are the actors and whose is the agency of this kind of development? What is the role of the nation-state in this context? To what extend do international environmental conservation schemes affect the commons and contribute to changes in property right regimes? Contributions based upon research in all regions of tropical rain forest (or other forest systems) are welcomed and we expect a fruitful discussion on differences and similarities in global perspective.


Title Undermining the commons: Transnational Corporations, mining and impact on commons governance

Convenor Thomas Niederberger (University of Bern, Switzerland)

In the context of a “super-cycle” of high commodity prices over the last two decades, the fast expansion of extractive industries was accompanied by increasing social conflicts. Switzerland and European based Transnational Corporations and commodity traders play a crucial role in expanding the “frontier of extraction” especially in regions of the “Global South”, where the capital-intensive, large-scale mining industry often collides with local institutions of common-pool management – especially, regarding land, forest, and most of all, water. Mining crucially contributes to the transformation of commons to private and state property, because it gives priority to state-regulated, privatized access to underground mineral resources over the livelihood-base of local communities.

Mining corporations adopted a pioneering role in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). CSR proofs to be useful for immunizing corporations against critique (Kirsch 2014) and as a tool for corporate security (Welker 2014); it thereby supports the imposition of “developmentalist” value-systems, as defined by corporate actors, over the political and socio-cultural sphere through legitimizing discourses that create what miners call the “social license to operate” (Coumans 2011). As an “anti-politics machine” (Ferguson 2006), CSR-related consultation and compensation programs nurture expectations among local populations to participate in “development”, rather than to resist against negative socio-environmental impacts of mining. This exacerbates social divisions and results in complex resistance/negotiation-dynamics, with different sectors taking conflicting positions during a mine’s life-cycle. However, the turn to CSR has also improved the power leverage of local people under certain conditions. Through strategic coalition-building – especially if it is underlined by common values and conceptions of well-being and “the good life” ­– mining projects can be challenged. Conflicts at specific mines can thus become “hot-spots” for contestations, discourses and practices that relate to other places and local movements against large-scale industrial projects, in different stages of development (in the sense of a “politics of time and space”, Kirsch 2014). They may thus be “politics machines”, i.e., a breeding ground for the constitution of shared values that counter mainstream notions of “development”, which again may be the precondition for the bottom-up emergence of new institutions (in the sense of “constitutionality”, see Haller/Acciaioli/Rist 2015) – in this case, regarding the ownership, use and management of mineral resources, and the possibility to conceive mineral resources as “glocal commons”.

The panel calls for presentations that explore aspects of this thematic: from the analysis of local transformations that come with global trends in the mining and commodity trading sector, to the dynamics of local resistance/negotiation and their feedbacks on the global scale, to the potential of linking these scales, not only for more equitable and sustainable extraction, but also exploring linkages to the demand-side (i.e., consumption, recycling etc.).


Title Energy and the commons

Convenor free Panel



Title The climate change dilemma: Global and local scales in climate science

Convenor Matthias Heymann (Aarhus University Centre for Science Studies DK), Dania Achermann (Aarhus University Centre for Science Studies DK)

This panel suggests treating climate as a common and explores the scientific and ideological causes of a crucial dilemma behind the failure of climate politics: the emergence of a predominance of global perspectives, conceptions and knowledge of climate, in short the globalization of climate knowledge, which does not translate into local knowledge, experience and political action. On the one hand, twentieth century climate science improved an understanding of global climate change tremendously. On the other hand, it focused on reductionist quantification and modeling, and an emphasis on large spatial and temporal scales. The panel offers a contribution to a better understanding of how scientific, technological and political interests pushed a globalizing agenda in climate science and produced a conceptual and discursive detachment of climate knowledge from human scales.

Climatology as conceived in the 19th century by Alexander von Humboldt and others focused on detailed local information. The human dimension – the support of human affairs – was at the core of it. In this conception climate was, first, associated with a specific geographical location, second, directly linked to human experience, and third, a holistic concept that included the investigation of the mutual interaction of climate and humans on the local scale. This conception retained priority until the mid-20th century, while at the same time a fundamental transformation from geographical to physical understanding, from local concern to global science was underway since the late 19th century and became hegemonic in the postwar era. With this transformation climate knowledge became detached from humans, knowledge-making from meaning-making, and global fact from local value. Climate science represented a powerful global player with a significant impact on ideologies and perceptions, and the tendency to alienate global understanding from local practice.

It is the purpose of the panel to invite scholars in history, geography, anthropology and other fields to investigate the increasing loss of the human scale and its impact on scientific and social perceptions and action. Sets of leading questions are:

1 How and why did an increasing focus on large spatial and temporal scales in climate research in the 20th century emerge, whereas perspectives on smaller scales, notably on the human scale were increasingly marginalized?

2 Which scientific, political and cultural interests and contexts proved instrumental in the push to larger scales? How did broader phenomena of economic, political, technological and cultural globalization inform the push towards global scale knowledge?

3 How did scientists and other global and local actors perceive and negotiate scales of knowledge and the gains and losses of an increasing predominance of climate knowledge on large spatial and temporal scales?

Answers to these questions are important to facilitate effective interfaces between local processes and global understanding.

LAND GRABBING: Business models, land grabbing in Europe, power relations, resilience grabbing and water, infrastructure, green grabbing


Title Transforming the commons: Business models of large-scale land Investments

Convenor Ward Anseeuw (CIRAD Researcher Co-Director of GovInn - Center for the Study of Governance Innovation Post Graduate School of Agriculture and Rural Development University of Pretoria South Africa), Christoph Oberlack (University of Bern, Centre for Development and Environment), Perrine Burnod (CIRAD, French Research Institute for Agronomy and Development, France)

The ongoing global trend of large-scale land investments (LSLI) alters governance of the commons worldwide. Evidence is increasing that a considerable diversity of business models is used to implement LSLIs in diverse economic, socio-political and ecological contexts. Business models can be defined as the organizational set-up used by private or public actors to structure their investment and production activities and their integration into value chains. Different business models interact differently with established governance systems (e.g. land tenure regimes, customary and statutory political authority) in the target regions of LSLI. They yield varying impacts in terms of sustainability, as operationalized through food security, environmental justice, altered gender relations, ecological sustainability and other evaluative criteria.

Recent research has identified, classified and described a variety of business models in use for LSLIs. Examples include, but are not limited to, individual farms, contract farming, nucleus estate farms, cooperatives, asset management models, agribusiness estates, and others. Despite the existence of different business models and their evolution in the context of LSLIs, it remains challenging to understand what business models are suited in what socio-political, economic and ecological contexts to perform well for whom and for what specific evaluative criteria. Furthermore, the dynamic interaction of established governance systems at multiple levels with business model choice, evolution and impacts remains largely unclear and requires further research.

This panel aims to advance this debate by bringing together contributions which address one or more of the following themes and questions:

(1)   Characterizing business models: How do different business models organize production, investment, and value chain integration? What types of business models are observed in LSLIs in different countries? What are the best variables to characterize business models and to study the interface between these models and the commons?

(2)   Evolution of business models (robustness, change and failure): Why do some business models operate robustly over time while others fail? How do investors change business models over time? How do resistance and collective action at community-level in target regions affect the evolution of business models?

(3)   Impacts: What are the impacts of different LSLI business models for whom and in terms of what evaluative criteria (e.g. food security, environmental justice, gender, ecological sustainability and other criteria)? Who benefits, who loses and what are the key factors that explain the distribution of benefits? How do perceptions of benefits and disadvantages change over time? Are there specific features of business models that account for more sustainable forms of LSLIs?

(4)   Governance systems: How do different business models change governance systems in target regions of LSLIs? How are they changing the commons from a governance and rights perspective?


Titel Land Grabbing – a phenomenon in Europe?

Convenor Insa Theesfeld (Department of Agricultural-, Food- and Environmental Policy Institute of Agricultural and Nutritional Sciences Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg), Ramona Bunkus (Department of Agricultural-, Food- and Environmental Policy Institute of Agricultural and Nutritional Sciences Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

This panel deals with European investments in land in Europe. Compared to typical agricultural land transactions of a decade ago, such investments now are larger in scale and quite capital intensive. The trend shows that more non-agricultural investors appear and the number of foreign investors increases. Yet, “foreign” means, here, mainly other European nationalities. This development has attracted attention due to recent increases in agricultural land prices and widespread publicity on the complaints of local farmers. Changes in tenure governance and its socio-ecological outcomes are in the focus of this panel.

Large-scale land acquisitions increasingly take place not only in developing countries of the Global South, but also amidst European States. In contrast to investments in arable land in the Global South, investments in land in Europe are undertaken as an investment in already existing profitable farms. Sometimes, this happens not even by actually buying the land but by buying equity shares in agricultural companies. The Common European Agricultural Policy has partly promoted this trend by subsidizing the sector by area payments. However, land in Europe is not only a commodity traded on a market but fulfills many other nexus functions such as biodiversity host, leachate purifier, and recreation space. Furthermore, ownership of land has a strong emotional aspect and often a cultural meaning beyond the economic return on investment.

The individual presentations in this panel deal with large-scale land acquisitions in industrialized European countries. Europe means the whole continent, not only the EU member states. In contrast to the use of the more neutral term “large-scale land acquisition”, we would like to explore, whether we face similar negative externalities as in the Global South (ignoring the interest of smallholder farmers and rural population) with the investments in Europe. These should be rather framed under a notion with a clearly negative connotation “land grabbing”. Yet, studies on large-scale land acquisitions in Europe have yet to emerge and research is needed on whether there are similar negative externalities possible in countries with a generally functioning legal system, formal land rights guaranteed by the state and no dependence on the access to agricultural land for the livelihood of a large share of the population.

As important as large-scale acquisition of land is the issue of the ongoing trend of land ownership concentration in Europe. How the interaction of both processes works has rarely been studied. We would like to explore in particular the social implications of concentration in land ownership within Europe, including the impact on community engagement as a form of social commons. Another important feature we hope to examine is the environmental impacts due to the standardization necessary for agricultural production on large tracts of land, such as monoculture and nitrate pollution due to intensification.

With the individual contributions in this organized panel we plan to approach the following questions:

Christoph Oberlack (Centre for Development and Environment, University Bern, Switzerland) contributes to this panel by exploring the topic "Adopting the land grab frame in Europe: Pattern and Criteria". In this contribution patterns emerging from meta-analysis on land concentration processes in middle and low-income countries are transferred to the situation in Europe.

We further explore the need for a refined concept of land grabbing in the European context? What are suitable social, cultural, ecological and economic criteria, that needs to be developed and likewise operationalized to apply the concept. The contribution by Ramona Bunkus and Insa Theesefeld (Martin Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg, Germany) on “Socio-cultural externalities of European large-scale land deals and concentration processes” will present besides the concept, first results of an empirical study in East-Germany about the role and extent of such various impacts and the perception on those by the rural population.

Natalia Mamonova (Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands) compares current local responses ranging from support to resistance of rural population towards large scale land acquisitions in her paper on "The post-soviet agrarian capitalism ‘from above’ and ‘from below’: agrarian transformation, land grabbing and rural resistance in Russia and Ukraine".

Further open questions to be addressed by other contributors in this panel could be:

Where do these large-scale land deals in Europe currently take place? Is this a phenomenon limited to the Eastern Member States, or can it be found in the meantime in Western Europe, too? Do we see a particular role of non-agricultural investors, or particular purposes?

Which impact do these investments have on the dynamics of commons management of natural resources, such as community pastures or community forests?

Does the appearance of new actors in local arenas hamper local self-governance or are there potentials for leadership capacities that will even enhance bottom-up participatory governance self-organization?


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