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The overall goal of this five-year programme of multidisciplinary research is to further our understanding of key issues in the sustainable development of the ecological commons in Southeast Asia from a transboundary governance perspective. Specifically, members of the research team are concerned with the regional governance of two types of common pool resources: air and freshwater. 


Such collective resources defy territorial enclosure within individual countries, flowing as they do across administrative borders for use by diverse collectives of users. The open access nature of the transboundary commons renders air and water resources vulnerable to unrestrained exploitation in the absence of enforceable international legal instruments.


The collaborators aim to identify, across a range of spatial scales, the drivers and impacts of governing the atmospheric and freshwater commons that are producing cascading transboundary environmental disruptions and major challenges for sustainable development. Building on previous multidisciplinary environmental research at ARI, the grant brings new attention to environmental problems that cannot be neatly contained within nation-states such as the impacts of climatic instability, seasonal atmospheric pollution (regionally known as ‘haze’), biomass fires, droughts, crossborder floods, and the depletion or destruction of riparian ecosystems. Reconceptualising these challenges through the lens of the ecological commons will help to identify relevant examples of best practice in governing shared resources within and beyond the context of ASEAN and Southeast Asia.


The policy orientation of the grant is geared towards providing a firm foundation for decision-making about issues in transboundary environmental governance at the national and regional levels. In linking knowledge to action in this way, the programme is concerned with studying connections between the trends of resource interdependencies, economic integration, urbanisation, population growth, climate change, globalisation, and growing levels of consumption in the region. These trends are bringing the development interests of ASEAN countries and their transnational partners into growing tension with conservation agendas. At the same time, the socioecological impacts of these interconnected processes highlight both the shortcomings of existing transboundary environmental governance regimes and the need to forge more comprehensive and inclusive pathways to planning, managing and implementing policies for sustainable development within and beyond the Southeast Asian region. 

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