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The Australian National University

Congratulations Dr Henri Sitorus

Henri Sitorus has been admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. The title of his thesis is 'NGOs, Social Capital and Environmental Citizenship: A Sociological Inquiry into Livelihoods and Resources Access in Coastal Sumatra'.

Henri's supervisory panel consisted of:

  • Associate Professor Helen James (Chair)
  • Professor Peter McDonald (Supervisor)
  • Associate Professor John McCarthy (Supervisor)
  • Professor Douglas Paton (Advisor)
  • Professor Chris Manning (Advisor)

Thesis abstract
Access to natural resources is the key for sustainable livelihoods, particularly for the poor. Access to and control over resources are heavily contested especially in coastal areas. Environmental degradation and continuing resources grabbing inevitable. Environmental citizenship is therefore pivotal in negotiating access to and control over resources management, especially when this function is still state-centred. This thesis argues that only when social capital is mobilized to become political capital can it play a substantive role in the field of resources access. The findings indicate that at the grassroots level, the role of social capital tends to be successful at the bonding level, but has only limited roles in linking to the policy process. High participation in local associations and common practices of reciprocity are not associated with participation in the village governance. The study indicates that there are three different patterns of environmental citizenship of NGOs in responding to poverty, resources rights and unsustainable livelihoods in coastal areas. The first, advocacy NGOs, exercise their citizenship through demanding space in the field of policymaking. These NGOs exercise their political capital and environmental citizenship to defend the agrarian rights of small farmers and artisanal fishermen. The second,  community development NGOs, who are educated middle-class civil society activists engage in communities by strengthening local associations, enhancing livelihood opportunities, but have limited roles in reclaiming and negotiating access to natural resources. The third group, membership based NGOs, which are grassroots based are actively engaged in reclaiming entitlements to coastal resources, such as mangroves and coastal land tenure. The key finding of the study is that political capital gained through mobilization of social capital, particularly linking social capital to achieve better representation and articulation of the interest of local communities in the struggle for resources rights. Collective actions to demand spaces in the policy process to reclaim resources becomes the pattern of environmental citizenship in Sumatera in the absence of decentralized environmental management. Absence of deliberative democracy and elite capture of village governance constrains the participation of ordinary citizens in village governance. Informality of local associations makes these associations not automatically count in the decision-making process. Absence of devolution of natural resources management in the fisheries and agrarian resources areas constrains control over resources by local communities. Strengthened political capital facilitates collective actions by both NGOs and local communities to defend livelihoods rights to natural resources. However, the political capital takes the forms of infra-politics, which is limited informal participation in the policy process in the form of pressure groups. Consolidation of political capital of civil society organization is therefore pivotal in the contestation of rights to resources.

Keywords: Social Capital, Political capital, empowerment, citizenship, coastal livelihoods.

 

Updated: 27 April 2015/ Responsible Officer:  Head, School of Demography / Page Contact:  Website Administrator