The frontiers of the debate on Payments for Ecosystem Services. A proposal for innovative future research

Gert Van Hecken, Johan Bastiaensen and Catherine Windey
Discussion paper 2015.05

This paper offers a review and analysis of the key issues and different perspectives in the Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) debate. We discuss how the current debate has to a certain degree moved beyond ‘neoliberal’ vs. ‘non-neoliberal’ discussions, instead recognizing the variegated ways in which this policy tool plays out in the field. We argue, however, that despite this progress PES research remains weakly theorized in social and political terms, resulting in only superficial understanding of the role of culture, agency, social diversity and power relations in the shaping of PES institutions and their outcomes. Building on insights from other fields and disciplines in the social sciences –in particular critical institutionalism, social anthropology and political ecology-, we subject some of the common assumptions underlying mainstream and alternative conceptualizations of PES and identify the main issues that, we believe, deserve more attention in future research. More specifically, we explore three key challenges in current PES research related to the tendency (1) to assume that institutions can be designed in order to make them ‘fit’ specific human-nature problems; (2) to oversimplify culture and social diversity through the apolitical concept of ‘social capital’; and (3) to conceptualize human agency, collective action, and institutional change through either overly-rational or overly-structuralist models. We argue that an expanded actor-oriented, socially-informed and power-sensitive conceptualization of PES can help generate novel insights in the power geographies underlying institutional logics, and thus the complex ways in which PES policies are shaped and experienced in the field.
Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES), neoliberal conservation, power, critical institutionalism, institutional bricolage, agency, environmental governance

Making sense of territorial pathways to rural development: a proposal for a normative and analytical framework

J. Bastiaensen, P. Merlet, M. Craps, T. De Herdt, S. Flores, F. Huybrechs, S. Flores, G. Steel and G. Van Hecken
Discussion paper 2015.04 

It is impossible to look at something without conceptual lenses. This also holds true for the way in which one looks at rural development, in particular if one wants to reflect upon strategies to promote more beneficial alternative pathways. This paper therefore introduces a normative and an analytical framework for conceptualizing the development of rural territories. It was developed as a collective effort within the long-term institutional cooperation of the Institute of Development Policy and Management (IOB, University of Antwerp) and its Nicaraguan partner the Instituto Nitlapan-UCA (Universidad Centroamericana) as part of a VLIR-UOS sponsored project that aimed to support Nitlapan-UCA in its strategy to reposition itself as a university-based service delivery organization within broader rural territorial dynamics. The inspiration for the normative and analytical framework comes from a variety of theoretical sources. These are patched together in order to generate a conceptual lens that provides an actor-oriented, relational view on the criteria to judge development in rural territories which is subsequently connected to a more operational understanding of development as the dynamic emergent outcome of complex interactive processes between a multitude of actors in the institutional realms of ideas, rules and social networks.

Discourses, fragmentation and coalitions: the case of Herakles Farms' large-scale land deal in Cameroon

Teclaire Same Moukoudi and Sara Geenen
Discussion paper 2015.03

This paper contributes to the recent debate on ‘land grabbing’ by analysing the case of Sithe Global Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC), a subsidiary of Herakles Farms. The acquisition of over 73,086 hectares of land by this company has spurred the ‘land grabbing debate’ to the limelight in Cameroon, leading to a renegotiation of the initial agreement. The paper concentrates on the following questions: How did the different actors claim their rights to land in the case of the SGSOC - Herakles Farms land deal? What strategies and narratives did they use? And what were the outcomes of these competing claims over land rights? Based on an analysis of both primary and secondary data, the paper makes two main arguments: 1) different sub-groups that are opposing or supporting the large-scale land deal make use of particular (and sometimes similar) discourses; their narratives are manifestations of power relations and have real effects, leading to action and/or legitimation. But on the other hand they are also pretty mainstream in echoing prevailing development discourses; 2) agency in this struggle translates into fragmentation within and between groups as well as (un)likely old and new coalitions. 

La construction d'un socle de protection sociale au Burundi

Frédéric Ntimarubusa 
Discussion paper 2015.02

Since 2011, Burundi has been engaged in the process of building a social protection floor with the adoption of the National Social Protection Policy. This Policy will help to extend the coverage at the majority of Burundian population which is now excluded by the existing schemes. The task will not be easy as more than 60% of the Burundian population live below the poverty line.
But on our opinion, the government can achieve the extension of the coverage by adopting strong measures to reduce poverty, measures which are in The Strategic Document to Reduce Poverty 2012-2016 and the Vision 2025.The government will also have to take strong measures to combat social exclusion such as social pensions, family allowances and health care assistance to the needed.
The main challenge for the government will be to finance all these social programs. It is increasingly accepted that the sustainable financing of social programs requires domestic and external financing. Then, finding the necessary national fiscal space and identifying exit strategies from external financing remain paramount for the government.
Another challenge for the government will be the governance of that social protection floor. It is also accepted that efficient use of resources is crucial. The capacity to deliver social security benefits is increasingly viewed as being linked strongly to the capacity of management and the quality of administration. Meeting this obligation will help to raise contribution compliance and the public trust in social protection agencies.

Arusha at 15: reflections on power-sharing, peace and transition in Burundi

Stef Vandeginste
Discussion paper 2015.01

Fifteen years after the signature of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, this paper presents a state of the art of power-sharing in Burundi. Used both for the purpose of war termination and of constitutional transformation, power-sharing played a critical role in Burundi’s transition from conflict to peace. With the benefit of hindsight, this paper, first of all, sheds some light on how Burundi managed to overcome the adoption problem. Next, it looks into the – so far – sustainable respect for power-sharing, in particular in its ethnic dimension. At the same time, some more light is shed on the impact of recent developments, including the 2010 general elections, on the erosion of one of the pillars of power-sharing in Burundi. In order to understand its dynamics, power-sharing must be placed in the context of stubborn, context specific historical political and institutional features. This paper explains recent developments of power-sharing in Burundi against the background of a tradition of single party rule, state centralism, militarism and neo-patrimonialism.