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Collective Action and the Fate of the Commons in Latin America (Call for Papers)

Dr. Juan Camilo Cardenas (Universidad de los Andes, Colombia) is a friend of mine and fellow IASC member, and a specialist in experimental commons research. He asked me to circulate this call for papers.

Collective Action and the Fate of the Commons in Latin America


Special Issue in Ecological Economics (in honor of Elinor Ostrom)
Invited editors: Juan Camilo Cardenas and Roldan Muradian

Current trends in economic development in most Latin American countries encompass both significant opportunities and threats. The high rates of economic growth that have characterized the last decade have been driven by high prices of natural resources and a commodity boom. The rise of income has offered more opportunities of investment in social and environmental protection. However, a path of economic development that relies heavily on the primary sector also amplifies the pressures on natural ecosystems, especially through an ever expansion of the agricultural, infrastructure and mining frontiers. This entails threats to the integrity of ecosystems, but also to the populations that inhabit them. An important fraction of the region’s poorest depend highly on the extraction of resources for their subsistence and the support of their cultural and economic systems of life. In addition, in Latin America, a considerable part of valuable natural resources are under communal property regimes, require collective action for their management or are embedded in nested (polycentric) governance arrangements. Due to the trends described above, such socio-ecological systems are exposed to increasing external and internal pressures. The way collective governance arrangements respond to such pressures will determine the fate of the commons in the region. This is therefore a vital issue for the future of biodiversity and ecosystem services, not only in Latin America but also in the world as a whole, since the region holds a remarkable share of the global environmental commons.

Ecological Economics (the journal of the International Society for Ecological Economics) has expressed interest in increasing the incidence of studies from Latin America in the journal, since authors from the region have been historically underrepresented. Its editor has asked J.C. Cardenas and R. Muradian to prepare a special issue composed by authors from Latin America or working in the region on a subject of overarching interest. The invited editors have chosen to focus the special issue on the challenges of managing the environmental commons in Latin America. This special issue will be composed by 6-9 articles. Contributions are expected from different disciplines and methodological approaches, and dealing with forests, marine ecosystems, páramos, irrigation schemes or other socio-ecological systems whose management involve collective action in the region. The following are some of the overarching questions to be addressed by this special issue:

• How are common-pool resource management systems dealing with new internal and external threats derived from the current patterns of economic development?
• What is the role of collective action institutions in emerging conflicts over natural resources?
• What can experimental methods and behavioral approaches reveal about the management of the commons in real life situations?
• How are emerging polycentric governance regimes for the management of the global commons (biodiversity; climate change) affecting local collective action regimes?
• Are new economic incentives for the conservation of ecosystems (such as payments for ecosystem services) reinforcing or undermining the institutions for the management of common pool resources?

An e-mail of intent should be sent to Juan Camilo Cardenas ( and Roldan Muradian ( by August 15th, 2013. We expect to receive drafts of the completed papers by September 30th, 2013. Submitted papers will be sent to reviewers.

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