The project focuses on key issues in forestry, plantations, fisheries and coastal aquaculture in mainland Southeast Asia. Researchers will investigate key controversies and questions that are being provoked by the way that environmental governance is being transformed by the involvement of private actors such as corporations and conservation groups, as well as market and buyer-driven sustainability schemes such as sustainability certification and Payments for Ecosystem Services. Southeast Asia is an important source of both forestry and fisheries products for local and global markets. However, the rapid expansion of industrial plantations such as palm oil and rubber, of industrial aquaculture including shrimp farming, and industrialization of fishing, has often led to the marginalization or displacement of resident farmers and small scale fishers. These activities are also associated with controversial labour practices such as the widely publicized ‘slave labour’ in Thai fisheries, and precarious migrant labour in processing factories. The research project will thus examine emerging forms of private governance and how these interact with state regulation and the actions of resident peoples or rural communities. The project will also trace the ways that branded corporate buyers in Canada and elsewhere are becoming involved with their suppliers in Southeast Asia, as these buyers are pressured to ensure that the products they buy are produced in a sustainable and socially-just manner.

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This research project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.