Tropical deforestation: EU entrusts Vienna experts with the analysis

Press Release ( - VIENNA, Austria - May 03, 2016 - While granting indigenous peoples land tenure rights may incur positive effects on the survival of tropical forests, the governance structures underlying the different configurations of such rights are not yet fully understood. The European Research Council has now awarded the MODUL University Vienna a Consolidator Grant of EUR 2 million in order to look into these issues in a five year project. The bestowing of this prestigious grant is a significant contribution to the further consolidation of the recognized scientific expertise of the Department of Public Governance and Sustainable Development.

Tropical deforestation contributes massively to climate change and is caused mainly by the expansion of agricultural areas. Granting indigenous peoples rights to land and territory has been shown to reduce deforestation. However, there is little understanding of which configuration of the governance structures involved best serves the concrete implementation of such rights. A research project at the MODUL University Vienna, Austria, will now investigate exactly these issues. The project has been awarded a prestigious European Research Council Consolidator Grant. With a success rate of 15 percent in this round, this is one of the nine grants awarded in Austria this year – and the only one in the field of social sciences.

Self-determination against deforestation

“Worldwide, some 513 million hectares of forest belong to or are de facto managed by indigenous peoples. Granting them and the local communities more rights to land and territory has the potential to reduce deforestation”, as Project Manager Dr. M. Graziano Ceddia of the Department of Public Governance and Sustainable Development explains, “but we still have virtually no understanding as to which governance configurations are more likely to lead to the empowerment of indigenous peoples by allowing them to successfully control their land.” Within the context of this ERC funded project, the team will investigate what a successful governance configuration looks like.

Dr. Ceddia’s team is especially interested in the governance actors that influence the communal use of agricultural land by indigenous peoples groups. Questions to be clarified here relate to the interaction of these players with regional and national decision makers, as well as the willingness to reform governance structures in the interest of reducing deforestation.

Beans instead of trees

Together with colleagues from the University of Reading, Great Britain, the team is concentrating on the Chaco region in the Northwest of Argentina. Deforestation is advancing there at one of the highest rates in the world. This is caused by the introduction of soya bean cultivation in the 1990s, a wave of land privatization, as well as the expansion of livestock farming. The displacement of indigenous peoples and local communities directly follows from these developments – although Argentinian law actually recognizes the historical claim of ownership of indigenous peoples. “In reality, the enforcement of such rights varies a great deal, since there are many different governance structures that behave differently”, explains Dr. Ceddia.

The project will be carried out in two larger subdivisions: In the first part, the development of land use cover change in the province of Salta in the Chaco region will be studied, alongside the evolution of the institutional context, at a medium resolution level. The second part of the project will then analyze the local communities. Here, the main actors involved in the governance structure associated to particular land tenure regimes will be identified and their relationships will be investigated. The team will carry out the fieldwork in four local communities representing different degrees of deforestation and recognition of indigenous peoples land rights.

The five year study will deliver numerous results that will contribute to understand which governance structure, underlying particular land tenure regimes, are more likely to reduce tropical deforestation. With this prestigious project, the MODUL University Vienna has once more succeeded in consolidating its international position for scientific analyses in the area of sustainability and public governance.

About MODUL University Vienna (status: May 2016)

MODUL University Vienna is an international private university in Austria and is owned by the Vienna Chamber of Commerce. It offers study programs (BBA, BSc, MSc, MBA and PhD programs) in the areas of international business and management, new media technology, public governance & administration and sustainable development, as well as tourism and hospitality management. The study programs meet strict accreditation guidelines and, due to their international focus, are conducted in English. The university campus is located at Kahlenberg, in Vienna’s 19th district. The research program at the Institute for Public Governance and Sustainable Development focuses on issues that deal with the main political challenges of the 21st century, such as the development and role of university institutions, changes in democratic processes and the sustainable use of resources.

Scientific Contact:

Dr. M. Graziano Ceddia

MODUL University Vienna

Department of Public Governance and Sustainable Development

Am Kahlenberg 1

1190 Vienna, Austria

T +43 / 1/ 320 3555 602



Copy Editing & Distribution:

PR&D – Public Relations for Research & Education

Mariannengasse 8

1090 Vienna, Austria

T +43 / 1 / 505 70 44



Source : MODUL University Vienna

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