SDC-22806 Natural Resource Governance in a Complex World


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Independent study0
Course coordinator(s)dr. D Roth
Lecturer(s)dr. D Roth
dr. ML Schneider
Examiner(s)dr. D Roth

Language of instruction:



Development initiatives (policies, programmes, projects) and other interventions that aim to change society depend implicitly or explicitly on normative framings of problems, and on legal and institutional instruments to solve them. The use, management and governance of natural resources like land and water are often based on sets of principles, norms and rules that derive from a variety of legal and political forces between the local and the global. Resource management and governance strategies entail the introduction of new uses and valuations of resources, new technologies and forms of knowledge and expertise, and new principles, rules and laws to regulate these uses. The positive effects of instruments of control and regulation tend to be uncritically assumed rather than subjected to critical analysis. Often, however, natural resource policies and interventions get stuck between the ambitions of design and control on the one hand, and the 'real-life' perceptions, norms, choices, power relations, and practices of resource users on the other.
This course introduces a socio-legal perspective on natural resources management and governance in a legally complex world. Linking legal-anthropological approaches to law and property rights to a selection of important social-scientific perspectives, concepts and theories, the course increases the capacity of students to critically reflect on the socio-legal and socio-cultural aspects of policies, interventions and design approaches in natural resource management. It teaches students to put into perspective normative and instrumental approaches by relating them to the socially, legally and otherwise complex settings of intervention where they take place. It sensitizes students to important values that may inform resource use, management and governance practices: from efficiency, productivity and control to legitimacy, equity, social and legal security, justice, and autonomy. Finally, it teaches students what kind of questions to ask in research or intervention or design processes.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- retrieve important social-scientific and socio-legal concepts and theoretical orientations to natural resources management and governance, law, and property rights;
- explain, interpret and compare these concepts and theories, and apply these skills to scientific and policy-related texts;
- analyse scientific or policy texts and case studies from a socio-legal perspective, with a focus on law and property, processes of legitimation, power, authority and conflict in relation to development interventions, reforms, or other processes of transformation;
- critically appraise and assess policies, interventions and practices of managing and governing resources from a socio-legal perspective;
- design basic research questions on the socio-legal aspects of (interventions in) natural resources management and governance.


This course combines introductory lectures with various individual and group assignments, and presentations in the sub-groups. The lectures focus on the main themes and concepts pertaining to social-scientific approaches to law, resource rights, management and governance. The sub-groups provide a space for presentations, questions, explanation and discussion.


- written (closed book) exam with open questions (70%);
- various individual and group assignments (30%).
Each of both components require a minimum of 5.50 to pass, and sufficient participation in group work is mandatory.



Compulsory for: BILInternational Land and Water ManagementBSc5AF