About the the research project – University of Copenhagen

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About the the research project

How to make decisions and manage resources under the stress under rapidly changing climate conditions expands challenges of governance and brings conflict management strategies into focus globally, nationally and locally.

In many countries governance structures are weak and in particular new democracies still struggle with the legacies of former less democratic, even corrupt or violent, practices. Often decentralization and increased citizen involvement in public policy and decision making is proposed as part of the democratization process. However, such changes in governance practices - stretching across from the national level, through community level to the individual - are very difficult to carry out in practice. They often collide with existing cultures and institutions as well as powerful interests, work against existing incentives' structures and deeply rooted norms and practices of individuals. Many African countries currently struggle with these challenges - at the edge of destabilization. Kenya is a good example of the current strives in Africa to overcome the challenge.

The fundamentals and details of such social change processes are far from well understood and there seem to be a huge gap between what we already know and what we do in practice. A project at UC digs into this problem field by studying how a paradigm-shift from command-and-control towards greater participation in forest management can provide basis for sustainable conflict resolution processes. The project focuses on the implementation of a new Forest Act in Kenya. Instances of conflicts in the wake of its implementation, together with the historical role of national leaders in sparking conflicts at the local level through land distribution politics favouring some tribes on behalf of others, show that State-led governance can be seen both as a part of the solution and as a part of the problem. This points to the need for recognition also of civil society based norms and conflict resolution mechanisms. The project is innovative in the sense that it seeks to extend the state-of-the-art by contributing to developing forms of inclusive governance that provide for such increased mutual recognition of State-led and civil society based governance and conflict resolution. Thus sustainability in terms of conflict resolution is understood as having focus on the outer sphere like process and result as well as the inner sphere like changes of attitudes in terms of understanding the overall interconnectedness and responsibility of all actors involved.

The overall goal of the project is to contribute towards stability and democratization at the national level in Kenya. This contribution will be based on an improved understanding of the drivers of conflict and the role of formal law in alleviating or reproducing conflict. The study contributes to this understanding through analysis on the impacts of the implementation of formal law on livelihoods and the role of livelihoods and identities in shaping conflict behaviour. The project is carried out in close collaboration with the Wangari Maathai Institute of Peace and Environmental Studies under the University of Nairobi. Prof. Wangari Maathai, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 and founded the NGO, Green Belt Movement, sadly passed away 25 September 2011. The project aims to synthesize the results of the research and provides outreach activities at national to community levels with an aim to deliver impact in practice.

Stabilizing Kenya by Solving Forest Related Conflicts

Kenya is riddled with conflicts and instability, as evident in the widespread violence after the national elections 2007. In search of stability and prosperity, the government of Kenya in 2005 enacted a new Forest Act aimed at improving natural resources management by decentralizing responsibilities and rights of forest management to civil society bodies, called Community Forestry Associations.

The STAKE project seeks to further our understanding of how to build inclusive governance that furthers stability and prosperity by investigating the drivers of forest related conflicts in the Mau Forest Complex, and the role of the Forest Act 2005 in changing patterns of conflict.

The STAKE project is a partnership between The Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, and the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Science (former Forest & Landscape (Life)) Denmark at the University of Copenhagen and financed by Danida, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark. Prof. Wangari Maathai, who sadly passed away 25 September 2011, was actively involved in designing the project and supposed to head the steering commitee.

The project also involves the Green Belt Movement (GBM) and Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI).

Contact about the PhD programme:

Up date

Unfortunately one PhD. Student on medical grounds sadly passed away in October 2014 after having finished his fieldwork, but before having finished the writing of his thesis. Danida has on this ground accepted an extension period until the end of 2016.

Two master students, respectively a lawyer and a sociologist, have been accepted as research assistants to finalize the deceased’s work. Thus, a synthesis of  all the findings during the project period will be drawn up within the remaining time of the project.