Norm entrepreneurs sidestep REDD+ in pursuit of just and sustainable forest governance

Neil M. Dawson, Michael Mason, Janet A. Fisher, David Mujasi Mwayafu, Hari Dhungana, Heike Schroeder, Mark Zeitoun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper explores the dissonance between conceptions of justice among forest-adjacent communities and their representation in global forest policies, a persistent barrier to delivering just sustainability. We empirically track justice claims of rural villagers upwards through specific intermediaries or ‘justice brokers’: civil society, state, or private sector actors operating at local to international levels, who navigate different institutions to advance various social and ecological interests. We draw on interviews with 16 intermediaries in each of Nepal and Uganda and find that recognition of local values and practices such as customary tenure systems are key justice concerns of forest-adjacent communities in each country. However, intermediaries perceive a low likelihood of advancing those claims through national or international climate and forest policy debates, such as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), in large part because deliberations on justice are subordinated to concerns such as carbon accounting and arrangements for distributing monetary benefits. This suggests these policy processes must be modified to offer potential for transformational pathways. Intermediaries who pursued recognition justice issues developed innovative tactics in alternative forums. These ‘norm entrepreneurs’ adopted a suite of complementary strategies to attain influence, including: (1) formation of associations at the grassroots level; (2) media and advocacy campaigns through national coalitions to reach powerful international donors, and; (3) drawing on international support networks for advice, training and to influence national government. In both Uganda and Nepal these strategies were evidenced to enhance recognition for local values and practices.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1726
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2018


  • climate change
  • norm travel
  • power
  • environmental justice
  • participation
  • environmental policy
  • politics of scale
  • customary land tenure
  • indigenous peoples
  • cultural values

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