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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.

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Contextuality of Development Interventions


Development Disparities and Natural Resources in Trans-contextual settings


    Development and transition countries are facing important problems of non-sustainable development, caused by globalisation, global disparities and processes of global change. Despite the policy of sustainable development adopted at the UN summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 these problems have accelerated tremendously in the last 2 decades. Increasing socio-economic, political, and environmental disparities are reshaping many of the regions, where the NCCR North-South is active. To counteract resulting problems, the international community has set the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000. However, they do not explicitly address the issue of potentially conflicting objectives, such as poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. As the issue remains unresolved, the discourse on the relationship between socio-economic development and environment has regained importance within development policy but also within the research community. Albeit this discourse has for a long time been dominated by stylised views of 'vicious circles', many research fields have depicted more differentiated pictures. However, current approaches find difficulty in presenting generalised and policy-relevant insights.


    This project aims at understanding spatial patterns of the poverty-environment nexus by studying the impact of development interventions and underlying decision-making processes at a meso-scale. The general appraoch (cf. figure below) comprises three important elements. First, it will try to determine spatial patterns (mosaics) of the poverty-environment nexus, using high-resolution land-cover and socio-economic data. Second, a spatially explicit analysis of development interventions and underlying decision-making processes by stakeholders shall allow to describe so-called ‘governance landscapes’ Third, the different configurations of the poverty-environment nexus shall be related to ‘governance landscapes’ in order to explain specific poverty-environment configurations. Ultimately, we aim at establishing a typology of spatial contexts, which are homogenous in terms of constraints and opportunities for future development pathways. We are convinced that such ‘context-knowledge’ will allow conceiving more realistic, more efficient, and above all spatially differentiated policies targeting pro-poor and environmentally sustainable development.


    This project will theoretically focus on decision-making based on actor- and actor-network theories. Yet, we will seek innovation by explicitly linking decision-making to socio-economic development and natural resources through spatial disaggregation. The chosen approach is based on North-South research partnerships and will compare three regions worldwide: The Lower Mekong Basin in Southeast Asia, North West Frontier Pakistan and the Pangani basin in Tanzania. The approach will initially consist of inductive and empiric research that will yield data for deductive and theory-guided research. A switch from meso-level analysis to validation through selected case studies and thematic collaborations with other research units will then allow to turn to transdisciplinary approaches including policy dialogue and knowledge production through concrete project implementation. >> Explore the study sites on Google Maps


    The outputs will on the one hand respond to concrete needs of policy-makers in the concerned regions (databases and maps, policy recommendations, etc.). On the other hand, we expect to produce scientific insights on the gap between ideographical and generalised knowledge on development issues. We thereby approach the dialogue between the syndrome mitigation approach of the NCCR North-South and the concept of sustainable development. Firstly, following the conceptual reflections during the first phase, we emphasize the integration of the normative dimension and societal processes into the syndrome mitigation approach thereby contributing to the further conceptual development of the syndrome mitigation approach. Secondly, by providing an approach that systematically links the normative dimension with socio-economic and environmental processes, we hope to contribute to a better operationalisation of the sustainable development concept. Such conceptual steps are needed to take the debate on development policies beyond the mere setting of MDGs back to sustainable development.


Research 2001-2009

Study Areas

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