The conference will bring together experiences and lessons from around the world to reflect on the multiple ways in which different actors have sought to maintain and defend the commons, as well as the challenges and opportunities faced by the commons in the 21st century.

We aim to provide scholars, practitioners, and policymakers with a forum to debate the contemporary role of the commons in a globalized world. Common property is a critical factor in order to address pressing challenges such as climate change, sustainability in light of growing inequality, gender imbalances and impending scarcity.

Held in South America, a region characterized by its high biodiversity (in the Andes, the Amazon, and the Coastal/Oceans areas), highly diverse and stratified populations (in ethnic, cultural, racial, and class terms), and a marked tendency for ‘extractive’ development logics coexisting with multiple forms of indigenous and afro-descendant governance of their territories, the conference will pay attention to the role of collective action in shaping how the commons are created, maintained, and recovered.

This is an especially timely exploration in light of the different economic, environmental, political, and social agendas intersecting the commons, providing social movements with both challenges and opportunities for action. The conference will offer an opportunity to share lessons from Latin America’s commons and compare global experiences to identify paths forward in urban, rural and virtual spaces for mutual learning.

Conference tracks

1. Institutions and actions for the protection of the commons in the 21st century

This track will examine the conditions that enable and challenge collective action supportive of the commons in different contexts. Proposals could explore the following issues:

  • The nature of distinct discourses, agendas, and experiences that enable a (re)focusing of society and economy towards greater sustainability and equity.
  • The role of non-state actors in supporting the commons and the use of global initiatives to increase their resilience.
  • The role of ethnic community proposals for socio-environmental justice in catalyzing regional and global movements.
  • The influence of social movements in driving institutional change in defense of the commons, particularly in relation to legal and policy reforms affecting land tenure rights, shared knowledge, territorial titling, and self-determination.
2. Multilevel and polycentric governance

This track will focus on the relation between people, commons resources, the state, markets, and the role of sub-national governments. We invite proposals engaging with issues related to the interplay between: polycentric governance, the governance of global resources, the interplay of climate change and conservation policies, and the impact of interactions between local change and the future of global resources. We also welcome proposals on new economic strategies such as REDD and PES (payments for environmental services) as mechanisms to promote conservation and how these interact with the commons and community governance.

3. Challenging privatization: old and new urban commons

Conditions brought about by massive migration to cities generate new challenges for the studying of the commons, including urban agriculture, parks conservation, and the adequate provision of water and open spaces for recreation.  In addition, proposals under this track may explore the commons in relation to the following topics: energy flows and materials in urban ecosystems, water and urban waste management, public spaces, gentrification, "environmental racism", environmental justice, popular epidemiology, green belts, and urban zoning.

4. Extractive industries and the commons on land and sea

This track deals with the growing material and economic flows of the world economy, the continuous expansion of the agro-industrial and extractive frontiers, and the challenges these pose for local commons (e.g. ecological distribution conflicts). Proposals under this sub-theme will explore the dynamics of exclusion, control, defense, and governance of commons in the context of the rollback of rights in favor of extractive investment. Proposals will also engage with issues of power to explore issues such as:

  • The relationship between uses of a commons resource and its boundaries
  • Boundary setting in relation to commons (who is involved in the nature of their roles)
  • Opportunities and threats for commons created as a result of expansion of extractive industries
  • Current trends in the management of coastal resources, their benefits, and their challenges
  • The nature of coastal commons, and comparison with other forms of commons
  • Opportunities and challenges for the defense of the commons using hybrid state-market-communal arrangements (e.g. TURFs, management zones, fishing coops)

The panels under this track will explore the different kinds of conflicts and open violence that take place over the commons.  Engagement is likely to include papers on inequality and conflict over commons, the role of civil conflicts and illegal economies, the impact on gender relationships, and the fragile position of environmental activists who are often threatened while defending natural resources.

5. Knowledge as commons and information technologies

This track explores the challenges and benefits of information technology in the defense and management of the commons, inviting discussions of whether technology empowers local communities or makes them more vulnerable to external control. Presentations will examine topics such as: the use of technology (e.g. social networks, drones, citizens’ science, handheld technologies) for participatory monitoring; land demarcation; and, reporting on invasions and deforestation.  Issues of interest under this track include the following:

  • Utilization of social network platforms such as Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram and others in relation to the commons, and explorations of the issues, limitations and roles of social media tools
  • Technology as a ‘game-changer’ for ecosystem restoration
  • The potential utilization of artificial intelligence in relation to commons management and governance
6. Alternatives to mainstream models of development: BuenVivir, Ecofeminism and Degrowth

This track will enable conference participants to examine alternative proposals to mainstream development practices and discourses. Panels will examine South American experiences and strategies for better livelihoods in relation to alternatives to development arising in other regions, such as de-growth and ecofeminism.  Papers and presentations that explore and/or critique the future of the commons under alternative models are also welcomed.

7. Methods, disciplines, and models for studying the commons

This track will enable conference delegates to examine past and current methodological approaches applied to understanding the commons and assess their usefulness in today’s world. Papers will analyze the role of economics as a key driver for political action in the commons, including exploration of different approaches such as experimental, ecological and resource economics, and political ecology. How economic approaches contrast with other complex-system, multi-level, transdisciplinary approaches will also be examined, in support of the effort to use the best available knowledge on the socio-ecological dynamics that govern commons resources.