Combatting Periphery Traps in Marginalised Mountainous Regions


Juha Hiedanpää, Natural Resources Institute Finland (LUKE)

Europe’s mountainous areas cover almost 40% of the continent and are home to 17% of its human population. Mountainous livelihoods are largely based on productive and culturally distinct practices such as natural resource extraction, agroforestry, nature-based tourism, and small-scale agriculture. However, mountainous areas are also characterised by disparity, poorer territorial cohesion, unbalanced protection and use of ecosystem services, exploited natural resources, and marginalisation.

What are periphery traps and how do they impact vulnerable people?

MARGISTAR considers that European mountainous areas often face periphery traps, or problematic conditions that reinforce existing negative development pathways. Examples of periphery traps are the effects of unfair environmental policies in combination with stagnating employability, or land abandonment combined with existing outmigration flows.

In light of these periphery traps, MARGISTAR’s aims are similar to those of the Just Transition Fund and the European Green Deal: protecting the regions, sectors, and people most vulnerable in the face of climate change from additional stressors and negative developments.

How does bad resilience make bad situations worse?

Some mountainous regions, actors, and sectors are already being left behind by economic, political, technological, and social change. Consequently, governmental policymakers must seek to break from these marginalising pathways by providing circumstantial subsidies and advice to advance incremental systemic change. Strategic social, institutional, and territorial innovations must be used to meet social needs, build new partnerships and collaborations, and advance economic development, such as through Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

To address the marginalisation process, MARGISTAR provides more radical revisions of these strategic approaches behind current stagnant political and economic trajectories. This is enabled by placing a focus on resilience.

Resilience is a primary objective for developmental activities in European rural areas. It is described as one of the key objectives in the European Rural Vision. But how is resilience defined under periphery trap conditions? Is resilience always a desirable objective of policymaking? To answer these questions, MARGISTAR differentiates between good resilience and bad resilience.

Bad resilience maintains periphery traps. To understand its nature, MARGISTAR asks what purposes and whose interests are served by the current problematic status quo. For example, the global political economy is rather resistant to well-reasoned biodiversity and climate initiatives. Global, national, or regional strategic power and actionable motivations to challenge problematic structures in production, consumption, and distribution are currently lacking. As such, existing periphery traps remain.

Good resilience indicates that the system in question shows adaptability and decision-making power in facing changing external circumstances. The power behind good resilience is also established in understanding causes that keep problematic trajectories in place and acting on these observations. Good resilience is associated with strategic will power, and the capacity and capability to fight for a shared purpose, attainable objectives, and the collaborative implementation of justice.

How does MARGISTAR seek to combat periphery traps?

MARGISTAR seeks to break periphery traps by establishing agency amongst the actors involved in mountainous areas and increasing good resilience by inviting policymakers to take bottom-up remedies to periphery traps seriously. This takes form in what the COST Action defines as “transformation pathways” that in ideal cases result in post-marginalised mountainous areas.

The MARGISTAR COST Action incorporates 27 countries and more than 100 researchers throughout Europe. It is a co-creative society-science-policy forum that synthesises scientific knowledge surrounding development constraints in mountainous areas. This process not only furthers knowledge sharing between academics, but invites inhabitants, civil society associations, entrepreneurs, administrators, and policymakers to collaboratively facilitate transformative change towards post-marginalised mountainous communities.

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About MARGISTAR & How To Join

The MARGISTAR forum reflects collaboratively on natural, environmental, social, and economic inter-relationships and interactions in mountainous areas, and identifies a range of environmental, social, economic, and political challenges. It enables innovation by co-designing pathways for the transformation of marginalised mountainous areas towards their green, digital and healthy futures.

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