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Strengthening voice of social actors in eco-governance: A journey towards sustainability

Authors: Toiaba Binta Taher*, University of New South Wales, Alec Thornton, School of Science, The University of New South Wales, Australia, Paul Tranter, School of Science, The University of New South Wales, Australia
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Economic Geography, Development
Keywords: Sustainable governanace, Neoliberal economy, Participatory approach, Shared resources, Social institutions
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Governance is a sum of processes that deals with continuing interaction between formal and informal institutions for making collective decisions, planning and actions to administer public affairs and resolve conflicting interest as a guiding authority. Governance has spread its wings from the socio-economic arena towards environmental issues, after the Stockholm Conference in 1972. However, almost half a century later we are still struggling to unlock the mystery of sustainable governance that offers equity and resilience. In the discourses of sustainable governance, a bigger dilemma is how to define human-nature relationship. We conducted a case study of marginal communities in a peripheral village of the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans of Bangladesh, to identify discourses in current cash-based governance. We identified four major discourses that block goals of sustainability: (i) considering dynamic ecosystems as linear and static systems, (ii) controlling natural variables to ensure steady outflow of economic resources, (iii) top-down governance of shared resources, and (iv) lack of local ownership in management. This research found that locals’ inability to negotiate with social elites and governance inclination towards profit maximization by ignoring social institutions was leading to poor management of shared resources and social inequity. The research suggested that rebuilding ownership and strengthening social institutions through participatory governance will reconnect society with nature, and hence develop a more resilient governance of shared resources.

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