In developing countries experiencing high levels of poverty and inequality, getting the balance right between economic development and protection of the natural environment can be a major challenge for policymakers. This is particularly the case when powerful people are able to manipulate the physical environment in which the poor live, to their advantage - a form of intervention known as 'environmental violence'. To date, most research addressing these types of conflict and conflict resolution has applied universalised principles, such as justice and fairness. However, this approach can overlook what is significant to ordinary people as they attempt to go about their day-to-day lives. This project will address this research gap using an innovative approach known as 'everyday studies': a way of investigating the routine and seemingly mundane. The specific objectives are to:
- Undertake an analysis of the processes of environmental violence and the ways in which these types of conflict are challenged, resolved and/or endured through people's day-to-day actions and practices.
- Develop novel research methods to capture the everyday and enable members of island communities to represent themselves to wider audiences.
- Advance the policies of NGOs, governments and international agencies to implement locally meaningful and sustainable strategies to reduce environmental conflicts.
- Strengthen the capacity of early-career researchers to undertake research and policy engagement on environmental conflict, sustainable livelihoods and the everyday.
Field research will draw on the Maldives, a country representative of the economic and environmental challenges facing small island developing states. Research insights will contribute to ongoing conflict resolution and poverty reduction efforts in the Maldives and beyond by emphasising the importance of engaging with people's everyday perceptions and experiences of environmental violence in developing country contexts.
Maldivian citizens, government-based policymakers, representatives of advocacy, NGO and business groups, and advisors in international development agencies will all benefit from this project. By helping to resolve ongoing problems of environmental violence, citizens will gain from more meaningful progress towards sustainable development and poverty reduction goals. Government, NGOs and international agencies will benefit through greater ability to advance policies that reduce conflicts and improve local livelihoods. Maldivian business groups will gain from improved understandings of the challenges in balancing economic and environmental priorities and awareness of the benefits of local job creation and economic inclusion.
The project will employ several strategies from the outset to ensure that all stakeholders have the greatest opportunity possible to benefit from the research. During the inception and dissemination phases, stakeholder workshops will be held in the national capital, Malé, and on the two case study islands. They will be genuinely interactive, inviting participants to help shape key aspects of the proposed investigations and impact strategy, and discuss findings. Targeted policy briefs will be developed summarising research findings and a seminar will be delivered at one of the government ministries. We will publicise the research directly to the general public, principally through the Maldivian media and a photographic exhibition. To ensure lasting impact, we will maintain relationships with stakeholders in the Maldives via the in-country researchers and the project website, and track take-up of our findings through the newly-developed UoM 'PURE' research management tool. Lasting impact will be further supported via the photographic exhibition which will be displayed at international conferences in which we participate. We will also provide research summaries for other relevant websites (e.g. Small Island Developing States; UNDP).