Brokering Governance? A Political Ethnography of the UN Tenure Guidelines in Struggles for Access to Land, Fisheries and Forests in Nepal

  • Katie Whiddon

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis examines the brokerage of rights-based governance, and the role of intermediary organisations therein; a key yet neglected issue in the global food and agricultural governance literature. Governance brokerage encompasses overlapping forms of mediation: brokers translate rights and development projects, across a continuum of state-society and global-local relations. The thesis assesses how civil society actors employ the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (2012) in their struggles in Nepal. The context is Nepal's 2015 Constitution, and the newly enshrined rights to food and to food sovereignty.Through a multi-sited political ethnography, I interrogate how the Tenure Guidelines were introduced into Nepal, and I observe how these spaces of policy dialogue are adapted and operationalised by three organisations, affiliated to different transnational advocacy networks. I locate state and non-state actors' uneven mediation practices at the interstices of national efforts toward inclusive deliberative spaces. I assess the extent to which they employ the Tenure Guidelines to amend and draft laws with participation of affected peoples. I analyse how the focus on law reform and multi-stakeholderism condition this process of adaptation. Based on empirically grounded research, substantiated by historical and sociopolitical analysis, I show that governance brokers play critical functions in connecting grassroots struggles to decision-makers. Yet their role as well-placed connectors isreinforced by the project-based approach to governance, in an unstable grey area of statecivil society and global-local intermediation. Beyond policy dialogue, I conclude that to bring social forces together to use human rights-based instruments as a tool in grassroots struggles, deliberative spaces need to equally be created or adapted by local activist networks, closer to the conflicts themselves.
    Date of AwardMar 2023
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorJosh Brem-Wilson (Supervisor), Mark Tilzey (Supervisor), James Bennett (Supervisor) & Priscilla Claeys (Supervisor)

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