The Nexus Network Resource Conflicts and Social Justice workshop, held at the Institute of Development Studies on 29 February 2016, provided the opportunity to tease out often implicit and unstated challenges that come with nexus frameworks and nexus thinking.
The aim of the workshop was to stimulate debate between diverse stakeholders on these contested issues and create the opportunity to tease out the academic, civil society activist, business and policy challenges as well as develop research agendas around the themes of the nexus, resource conflicts and social justice. Around 40 people from different research backgrounds, activists and NGOs took part in the one-day event.
The report of the workshop addresses issues around:
- What is the Nexus debate and what is missing the from the debate?
- What are the on-the-ground challenges of integration across diverse political and geographical scales?
- How nexus thinking is being picked up in bureaucracies, institutions and scientific bodies, especially in the global South where capacity to deal with data/ knowledge challenges can be limited.
- Can ‘nexus thinking’ be used to achieve social justice in resource management?
- How are competing trade-offs and their associated resource conflicts dealt with across local and national scales?
- What does it mean to securitize water, food, energy and the environment/ climate?
- Is this securitization enhancing local people’s wellbeing and rights or is it allowing new actors to increase the insecurities of poor and marginalised people?
Discussions at the workshop highlighted a number of aspects about nexus-thinking which we may usefully take into future debates:
What does ‘nexus’ mean to different people?
First and most clearly there are diverse framings of the nexus. Nexus means different things to different people and there is no homogeneity amongst actors in how they see the nexus. There is value in linking issues across different sectors and silos but we need to get beyond the notion that everything is connected. Nexus thinking is also important for elite and high end consumers to be aware of embodied land, water, labour in everything we consume.
Nexus as a buzzword
Second, nexus is of course a new buzzword and development discourse. And it’s important to unpack it as we have done in this workshop. Indeed, the workshop illustrated the value of reflexive social science approaches which aim to understand and keep open definitions, rather than closing them down. Furthermore, nexus thinking is about understanding risks but risks are also differently defined. Examples from southern Africa show that often companies offload risks to local and marginalised land and water users whilst reaping most of the rewards themselves.
Sustainable Development Goals
Finally, there is a need to also ensure that integrated thinking is pursued in the Sustainable Development Goals agenda. Nexus thinking could be valuable here not only as an instrumental framework with which to analyse interconnections between resources, but as a site at which to construct democratic encounters, and to hold powerful players to account. If this is to occur, nexus thinking then must become truly transdisciplinary, a process of equal exchange between disciplines, where scientists and citizens participate together in discussion and decision-making.
To read more about the discussions, please download the full report here NexusNetworkResourceConflictsworkshop29Feb16_reportb