6th July, 14:00 - 16:00 BST - Oxford Martin School Lecture Theatre
Environmental Change Institute Land-Use Group, University of Oxford

Session summary

Session 5B, Governing NbS: Fostering inclusive and restorative land use governance, brought to the forefront the concept of equity, and that equity needs to be considered at all stages of NbS design, implementation, and monitoring & evaluation.

Constance McDermott opened by highlighting the proliferation of high-level pledges and global targets and asked us to think about who or what do they make visible or obscure, and what the implications are for procedural equity (e.g. participation in decision-making), recognitional equity (e.g. recognizing diverse knowledge systems), and distributional equity (e.g. distribution of benefits and costs between actors in a system). External agenda-setting can reinforce inequality and power dynamics through the need for simplification and standardisation, as well as MRV through ‘the tyranny of numbers’, which can exclude those unable to conform and place burdens on IPLCs.

“We need to urgently stop offloading the costs and burdens of sustainable initiatives onto those not at the table”. – Constance McDermott

Rachael Garrett elaborated on the question of what we really mean by equity, the different values placed on land by different groups, and presented case studies of governance failures. In one case, supply chain policies aimed at reducing deforestation ended up pushing out smallholders from the supply chain, as they were not able to verify and prove that their product was deforestation-free, even when it was.

Chairil Abdini described the case of palm oil in Indonesia and spoke about the problems with land tenure conflict between villagers and large plantation owners, and the weak bargaining power of smallholders. Finally, Eric Kumeh Mensah told us that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to governance and that we need to think about who is leading and deciding about these approaches. Importantly, designing an equitable decision-making process itself needs to be a participatory process.

During the discussion speakers considered where to enact governance interventions to enable transformative change, where it was noted that supply chain governance needs to also reach small actors outside the supply chain to be successful. Speakers debated the role of using technology for global monitoring, versus placing bigger trust in IPLCs to continue doing what works best in their local context, noting that a focus on quantitative targets can mean that unless one can prove that their livelihood contributes to global challenges, then they are invisible. Moreover, mechanisms for knowledge exchange need to be improved upon, as there is often no procedure for information to go back up the chain from local people to funders.

Key take-homes

  • Global targets for biodiversity need to account for equity otherwise they will not succeed  – setting targets through more inclusive participation is key
  • How are we defining equity? Recognitional, distributional, and procedural equity need to be included.
  • Distributional equity requires recognizing the presence of multiple values that underpin stakeholder trade-offs.
  • Designing an equitable decision-making process itself needs to be a participatory process.
  • Equity needs to be considered at all stages of NbS design, implementation, and monitoring & evaluation.


  • Mark Hirons 's photo

    Mark Hirons

    Research Fellow at the Oxford Environmental Change Institute

    Mark is Departmental Lecturer and a member of the Land Use and Sustainability Governance group at the Environmental Change Institute. Mark is interested in addressing inter-linked social and environmental challenges through interdisciplinary research. He is broadly engaged with research that investigates issues of well-being, inequality and justice with respect to climate change and natural resource governance. He is interested how different values and knowledges interact with institutional and cultural contexts in driving the governance decisions which underpin environmental and social change across a range of scales.

  • Mari Mulyani 's photo
    Online chair

    Mari Mulyani

    Teaching Associate at Oxford’s School of Geography and the Environment

    Mari Mulyani has 15 years research experience in environmental governance, including climate change policies and Indonesia’s forest institutions; local vulnerability and resilience to environmental change; local knowledge and adaptation strategies; community-based forest management; and the political economy of oil palm. Mari’s DPhil thesis from Oxford University was on REDD+ institutions in Indonesia. At Oxford, Mari runs a module on ASEAN Environments and teaches Philosophy of Science and Environmental Governance. She also lectures at the University of Indonesia on Environmental Scientific Writing and Publishing.

  • Constance McDermott's photo

    Constance McDermott

    Associate Professor at the Oxford Environmental Change Institute

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    Transforming land use governance: Global targets without equity miss the mark

    Constance L. McDermott is an Associate Professor and Jackson Senior Research Fellow, and Leader of the Land Use Governance and Sustainability Programme, at the Environmental Change Institute and Oriel College, Oxford University. She has over 30 years experience conducting research and applied work on state, civil society and market-based approaches to governing forests, land use and related supply chains. Her work includes a strong focus on the equity of international conservation initiatives.

  • Rachel Garrett's photo

    Rachel Garrett

    Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy at ETH Zurich

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    Can inclusivity improve the effectiveness of tropical conservation efforts?

    Rachael Garrett is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy at ETH Zurich. Her research examines the drivers and impacts of land change, primarily in forest landscapes, and the effectiveness and equity of forest conservation policies and practices. Dr. Garrett works closely with national agriculture and forestry agencies in the regions where she works, including ongoing partnerships with Embrapa in Brazil. She also works closely with companies to advise them on their supply chain policies.

  • Chairil Abdini 's photo

    Chairil Abdini

    Secretary General of Indonesian Academy of Sciences

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    Indirect Land Use Change (iLUC) as Sustainability Criterion for Biofuels

    Chairil Abdini has 21 years research experience in public policy and decision analysis in various policy areas such as lowland, swampland, and peatland development study, including science, technology and innovation (STI) policy, higher education, economic productivity, income and regional inequality, as well as sustainable development policy. Chairil’s DPhil thesis from University of Pittsburgh was on application of entropy concept in water resources modelling. He works for several government institutions and currently he is special adviser of Minister of Development Planning. He is also Secretary General of Indonesian Academy of Science. In addition, he lectures at School of Environmental Science University of Indonesia on public policy and decision analysis.

  • Eric Kumeh Mensah's photo

    Eric Kumeh Mensah

    Research Scientist at Natural Resources Institute Finland

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    Promising inclusion, delivering marginalisation? A reflection on the policy and practice of the Hotspot Intervention Area governance mechanism in Ghana

    Eric is a postdoctoral researcher with the Natural Resources Institute Finland. Working at the intersection of critical agrarian studies and political economy, Eric focuses on land as a source of, and a basis for addressing inequality in rural Africa. Eric uses mainly qualitative approaches to understand social and environmental policy processes and their delivery to identify how affect different stakeholders and options that lead to more equitable outcomes.

  • Jasper Montana 's photo

    Jasper Montana

    Research Fellow in Human Geography from the University of Oxford

    Jasper Montana is a Departmental Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Oxford, and a member of the Land Use and Sustainability Governance group. Jasper is an environmental social scientist, whose research examines the frameworks of governance established to protect biodiversity and enhance human relations with nature. Jasper is particularly interested in the interface between science and policy, and enhancing the uptake and application of social science research in decision making from local to global scales.