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Governance and Inclusive Development

Governance of natural resources and wellbeing


The Natural Resources and Well-being Cluster, positioned in the Programme Group on Governance and Inclusive Development of the Amsterdam Institute of Social Science Research (AISSR), University of Amsterdam, is a small but dynamic cluster of researchers focusing on the intersection between environmental resource governance and socio-economic well-being.

It has nine staff members (Prof. Joyeeta Gupta, Prof. Maarten Bavinck, Prof. Margreet Zwarteveen, Prof. Rutgerd Boelens, Dr Mirjam Ros-Tonen, Dr Nicky Pouw, Dr. ir. Yves van Leynseele, Dr. Edith van Ewijk, Dr. ir. Arjen Zegwaard, Dr. Joeri Scholtens and Andres Verzijl) and more than thirty PhD scholars from all parts of the world (Brazil, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Burkina Faso, India, Indonesia, USA and Canada).


The Cluster dates back to efforts of Prof. Ton Dietz in the mid-1990s to establish an environmental stream within Human Geography. His inaugural address, titled ‘Entitlements to natural resources: contours of political environmental geography’, launched a research effort that rapidly branched into climate change, pastoralism, agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

The establishment of the inter-university Centre for Maritime Research (MARE), established in 2000, anchored and gave face to the Cluster’s coastal and marine work. Governance and well-being dimensions were added in the first decade of this century. The cluster also hosts the Centre for Sustainable Development Studies (CSDS) launched in 2015 at the UvA.

Research Goals

The Cluster has an interdisciplinary research agenda that builds on, and contributes to, the existing scholarship on natural resource governance and wellbeing.

The team focuses on the theoretical concepts of Inclusive, Adaptive and Interactive Multi-level (Glocal) Governance on the environment-development nexus. Sub-themes include legal pluralism, political ecology, landscape approaches and wellbeing economics. The issue areas of specific interest are fresh water, oceans, coasts and fisheries, agricultural land use, tropical forests, food value chains, knowledge co-creation in multi-stakeholder partnerships and climate change.

A key focus is on how different actors negotiate competing claims on land, water, fish, forest resources and pollution/emission rights, how they resolve them at multiple levels of governance, and how this impacts poor people’s wellbeing and empowerment.

Key Projects since 2013


Maarten Bavinck: Project leader REINCORPFISH project. Reincorporating the excluded: providing space for small-scale fishers in the sustainable development of fisheries of South Africa and Sri Lanka”. (REINCORPFISH), (W076830200, €1 million, plus €50,000 Cordaid supplement). 

Extension and Upscaling grant 2012-2016 on Wellbeing among small fisheries communities in the Palk Bay, India/Sri Lanka

The purpose of the wellbeing project is to develop a comparative understanding of the wellbeing of various fisher categories in the Palk Bay as affected by trawling. The method that we intend to use is a series of wellbeing studies in selected sites. The output we aim for is a consolidated report, a baseline on fisher wellbeing in the Palk Bay, a PhD and a number of Master fieldwork projects, by students from Amsterdam, Ruhuna and Jaffna. Nicky Pouw will act as supervisor and coordinator of the project.


Joyeeta Gupta: Lead author on International Cooperation: Agreements and Instruments, Working Group III, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Fifth Assessment,; Participation is partly financed by KNMI.
The sub-project focuses on assessing the international literature on climate change governance in order to draw policy implications.

The Transnationalization of China’s Oil Industry

Joyeeta Gupta: Principal author, Joint research project 2013-2017, KNAW (Royal Academy of Arts and Social Sciences, the Netherlands), CASS (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) and IIAS (International Institute for Asian Studies), 

The sub-project focuses on assessing the role of energy politics in China’s position on, and participation in, global climate change negotiations.

This project aims at a special issue on Global Water Governance to be published by Ecology and Society.

Indian-European Multi-Level Climate Governance Research Network (2012-2016)

Network project sponsored by the European Commission.

The Indian-European Multi-level Climate Governance Research Network (MCGRN) is a joint effort of leading Indian and European academic institutions in the research of climate policy. The partners include Environmental Policy Research Center, Freie Universität Berlin; Faculty of Policy and Planning, TERI University, New Delhi; Institute for Environmental Studies, VU University Amsterdam; Global Change Programme, Jadavpur University, Kolkata and Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Pondicherry University. The participation of Joyeeta Gupta occurs under a guest status at the VU. 

Ground Water Governance (2013-2016)

PhD project for Kirstin Conti, sponsored by UN IGRAC
This project is a PhD project on issues and challenges for ground water governance at  multiple levels of governance.

Local Knowledge in Forest Governance (2013-2017)

PhD Project for Dorcas Peggy Somuah, sponsored by NUFFIC

How can forest fringe communities in Ghana’s high forest zone be empowered through participatory spatial knowledge management and knowledge brokering in multilevel governance processes addressing forest conservation? The overall objective of this PhD study is to provide insight into and develop terms for community empowerment through participatory spatial knowledge management and knowledge brokering in Ghana’s high forest zone in a context of multilevel forest governance. The research adopts a multiple case study design in which two protected Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas (GSBAs) in Ghana’s high forest zone will be investigated.

NWO-WOTRO Food and Business Global Challenges Programme (2016-2020).

Maarten Bavinck is Scientific director of Fish For Food Security In City Regions Of India And Ghana: An Inter-Regional Innovation Project (Fish4food), (W 80.25.303, €760,000) – 2016-2020.

NWO-ICSSR (2016-2018)

Maarten Bavinck is PI of Principal investigator of project ‘Contesting the coastal commons: the changing socio-legal position of fishing populations in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, India’, (W07.04.030.247, NWO and ICSSR, €36,000). 2016-2018.