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NCCR North-South - Research Partnerships for Sustainable Development

Thank you for visiting the website of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) North-South. The NCCR North-South programme formally ended in June 2014.

Please note that the content of this website will no longer be updated.

Livelihoods & Territory


More and more of the fundamental assumptions on which both rural and urban livelihood strategies traditionally relied are being rendered obsolete by the effects of globalisation. How does the logic of survival influence and react to this continued transformation of social and spatial circumstances?

NCCR North-South research on the territorial aspects of livelihood issues is coordinated around two sub-themes:

Livelihoods and Habitat
The term “habitat” refers to the combination of tangible and intangible elements that go into making a given environment suitable for human beings to live there. This can include such factors as housing, sanitation, access to goods and services, infrastructures for communication and transport and others. NCCR North-South research focuses on the availability of livelihood opportunities as an element of habitats.

Within this context, habitats are analysed as physical environments that provide shelter and the other necessities - and amenities - of life. The extent to which a habitat can be considered successful depends on a number of variables such as the manner in which space is appropriated, planning and policy-making, mobility opportunities, availability of expertise, individual capabilities, access to real and financial assets. In what ways can such variables be influenced? And what are the values used in judging what makes a given habitat successful?

Habitat is thus related not only to material conditions, but also to cognitive processes. How do people perceive their own needs with respect to habitat and livelihoods? Answers to this question help to reveal the complex relationship between territorial opportunities, political decision-making and economic conditions.

Livelihoods and Borders
The process of globalisation is having far-reaching effects on the ways in which territorial space is divided. Existing boundaries are being shifted, suspended, removed or reinforced, while new boundaries based on market forces rather than political or geographical considerations are being created. These changes have profound social and existential consequences, both positive and negative, for those whose lives and livelihoods are affected by them. As new spaces are defined, existing social, cultural, economic and institutional structures become fragmented. These are increasingly being replaced by networks, both formal and informal, that make it possible to react more flexibly as new opportunities open and old ones disappear.

NCCR North-South research on this issue focuses on two key questions:

  • What are the socio-spatial effects of emerging bordered spaces?
  • How do livelihood strategies counteract new forms of fragmentation, segregation and social exclusion?



Research 2001-2009

Regional Focus

in the world:

The NCCR North-South is hosted by the University of Bern
and funded jointly by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation