The Political Ecology of Infrastructure Investment in Eastern Indonesia

Rebecca Riggs, Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia, Tanah Air Beta; James Langston, Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia; Tanah Air Beta


Challenges of Long-Term Conservation Initiatives in Productive Forest Landscape in Indonesia


Major investments in roads, ports, estate crops, and other extractive industries are driving change in eastern Indonesia. We report on our observations of the broad-based sustainability impacts of these investments in North Sulawesi. In Indonesia, infrastructure has been correlated with improved scores on the Sustainable Development Goals. Our observations raise questions about governance challenges facing local communities as they navigate the opportunities and threats brought by infrastructure investments. Local governance that historically managed development and conservation according to the parameters set locally are now in flux as landscapes change. In North Sulawesi, local governance regimes either contest or cooperate with external governing actors, which include both the government and market players arriving with investment programs. Power differentials raise concerns of inclusion, and therefore the suitability of investments for sustainability and accumulation of local benefits. We reflect on the challenges posed by externally driven investment and the complexity of managing conservation and development trade-offs at the landscape scale. We explore how local actors might play a stronger/more strategic role in governing infrastructure development to capture benefits and mitigate risks for current and future aspirations. We seek to integrate lessons learned from Sulawesi into future research agendas, contributing to innovative models of governance for sustainable and inclusive development.

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CCSEAS Conference 2021 |