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Nature knows no political borders

Ecosystems cannot be split up only because they cross state borders. Neither can the governance of nature. What does this mean for state sovereignty?
Foto: Therese Leine/NUPI

This is what a new NUPI led project will investigate.

While our political world is crisply divided into sovereign states, natural ecosystems functions and process do not take state borders or political differences into consideration. Pieces of nature located in one state cannot be detached from their linkages with bigger planetary ecosystems. The very same nature that has a local importance for a state or a population, can have a global importance to the Earth’s ecosystem. 

That’s why environmental governance can become both local and global. What does this mean for state sovereignty?

Global Governance vs. State sovereignty

This is what NUPI Senior Research Fellow Lucas de Oliveira Paes will investigate closer. Earlier this year he was granted funding from the Norwegian Research Council to start up the project RESOLVING.

– ­We already know a lot about the challenges a national fragmentation means for effective governance of the Earth’s ecosystems. However, we know little about if and how the efforts made for a governance of borderless ecosystems may be transforming state sovereignty itself, explains Paes.

RESOLVING will try to understand these dynamics by investigating the network of actors that are exercising governance of nature in parallel to, on behalf of, or together with, states.

– Governing local nature with global relevance often involve large numbers of actors beyond the states with sovereignty over it. International organizations, global and local NGOs, private companies, indigenous groups, all may be part of arrangements defining rules of use and management of such nature. It’s a rather empirical question the extent to which and how these actors will relate to state actors. Hence, it’s important look closer at these interactions and how they shape governing practices, says Paes.

Power and powerlessness in The Amazon and The Gulf of Guinea

 The project will look closer at the governance of two areas with huge impact on our planet: The Amazon Rainforest and The Gulf of Guinea.

 – These regions have attracted multiple international and domestic environmental governance efforts. We want to investigate comparatively how these efforts are working together in each region. Which power structures are reproduced or challenged? Who is included in these processes and who is left out? asks Paes. 

RESOLVING will start up in September 2024 and consists of a project group with partners from the United Kingdom and Brazil.


  • Diplomacy
  • Climate