Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

“Think globally, act locally” is a common phrase in sustainable development discourse. But it underlies a critical call on the need to take local action to meet global needs. The other side of the coin is the need to translate global agenda into local action. This remains a common challenge in developing countries like Kenya.

Landmark global events, like the Rio 20 Conference, play a significant role in setting forth new development paradigms. The Stockholm Conference of 1972 helped galvanize the world’s attention towards environmental protection. The Rio earth Summit of 1992 gave the world concept of sustainable development.

Twenty years on, the global community is poised to meet in Rio under the aegis of the UN General Assembly to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Rio Earth summit. Dubbed Rio 20, the event has two of its key agenda items as “Green Economy in the context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication” and “International Framework for Sustainable Development.” Up until now, however, there is little consensus on what these two critical agenda items mean for sustainable development at the national level in Kenya.

Green economy and REDD are fast emerging as potent forces of change in community land use systems, especially in rangelands, in Kenya. This is happening at a time when the country is undergoing major land and environment policy reforms brought about by the promulgation a new Constitution in 2010. The initiative aims to facilitate ILEG’s learning and documentation of best practices for purposes of project development on the implications of the drastic land use changes taking place in the context of climate change adaptation and mitigation options in Kenya.

The need to understand and adapt local resource governance systems (including customary property rights) underlies the evolving concepts and mechanisms for climate change mitigation and adaptation such as REDD and green economy. Kenyan rangelands are especially important in this regard; they are vast, have unique climate response characteristics, and are attracting considerable attention in recent development discourse. But the same rangeland natural resources form the basic livelihood assets for many poor and vulnerable communities. These communities have complex system of customary norms and institutions which do not easily lend themselves to western-based models of the idea of property and contracting known to the formal arrangements in emerging climate change adaptation and mitigation mechanisms.

With this backdrop, we can see the significance of rangelands for both the global system and the socio-economic policy development options for developing countries with large rangelands like Kenya – where they have experienced some of the most drastic and contentious tenure and resource governance transformations over the years. It would be useful and timely to research on how the changing landscape of resource governance in Kenya’s drylands sits with the emerging concepts and mechanisms in the context of the sustainable development debate revolving around Rio 20 agenda.

Ongoing Work include:

  1. A documentation of best practices contained in a conceptual framework paper on the meaning, scope and implications of green economy for the security of land and natural resource rights of local communities.
  2. A proposal on safeguards for implementing green economy among local communities in the land and natural resources management sector in Kenya.