Our discussion and empirical work focuses on natural resource-based industries, which are central to the economic structure of most developing country economies, but which have long been associated with poor, unsustainable development prospects. We are interested in whether traditional natural resource-based industries can be transformed, and if so how, so that they deliver social, economic and environmental outcomes that better support development objectives. We define desirable outcomes as including greater social inclusion in decision-making processes and in benefit sharing, the stimulation of diversification and linkages between industrial sectors, and minimisation of serious environmental damage.

In this paper we draw on a transitions framework to analyse a selection of natural resource-based activities in Latin America that have developed alternative technological and/or organizational practices – relative to those that are well established in their sectors. We work with three settings for natural resource-based activities in the Latin American region: agriculture in Argentina, the exploitation of the Amazonian biodiversity in Brazil, and mining in Chile. We ask the following questions: a) In what respects, and in what dimensions, can our cases usefully be understood as ‘transformative alternatives’ for development? b) What are the principal factors that inhibit the further development and growth of those activities, and that are associated with the presence and activities of incumbent industries? and c) How have those ‘transformative alternatives’ sought to build networks of support, and to cope with or modify unfavourable selection pressures in order to develop and expand?

The study makes four types of contributions. First, we outline an argument as to why the question of ‘how to encourage transformations within industries as a means of promoting development’ is important and relevant for development economics; that is we provide a novel conceptualisation of the opportunities for productive and technological diversification, and we provide some preliminary insights as to how that question might be explored, based on new ideas from transition studies. Second, we outline how socio-technical transitions theory can usefully be adapted and applied within a development context and to address normative issues of development. Third, we make a methodological contribution towards the operationalization of the concept of niches in a development context. Finally, the paper raises both policy issues and potential areas of policy intervention (namely, diversification within natural resource industries and the purposeful support of niche activities) that have been so far almost entirely unexplored in developing country contexts.

Autores: Anabel Marin y Patrick van Zwanenberg


 

Cita: Marin, A. y Van Zwanenberg, P. (2015), Transitions, structural change and development: transforming natural resource-based industries in Latin America. Paper presentado en International Sustainability Conference 2015. Disponible en http://www.ist2015.org/files/file.php?name=marin-and-vanzwanenberg-l7.pdf&site=477

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