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Forest citizenship for disaster resilience: learning from COVID-19


"Citizenship from below" a process through which marginalized peoples self-organize to create citizenship through claiming recognition and rights, is crucial to disaster recovery, resilience, and societal renewal. Reportedly, practices, networks, and institutions first emerging through citizenship from below are being drawn upon in response to COVID-19. The 'Brazilian Amazon provides an arena in which to examine how marginalized people who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 are drawing on citizenship practices both to mitigate the negative societal effects of the pandemic as well as to support recovery and renewal from this disaster, or a 'bounce forward' (rather than back) that will bring about greater resilience in the post-pandemic world. Citizenship from below with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic is most viscerally seen in forested regions of the Amazon. There, people engage in 'forest citizenship', which we define as i) struggles for recognition from different institutions, which enables the ii) claiming of rights from those institutions. Forest citizenship has been instrumental in forest conservation (e.g. through sustainable use reserves) in recent decades. We see COVID as a "rupture" that forest citizenship can respond positively to; can be "bounced forward from" in societal renewal driven by improved democratic governance and political participation. This project brings together a multi-disciplinary team to understand ways in which forest citizenship in Amazonia and elsewhere can increase disaster resilience. Our focus is understanding and enhancing forest peoples' capacity for collective action and transformational change. The project will advance both empirical and theoretical understanding of forest citizenship - placing approaches to fostering citizenship and resilience from Brazil, the US, and UK into dialogue - through a transatlantic research network that will support on-the-ground improvements in disaster resilience. Our objectives are to: (1) quantify the linkages between forest citizenship and COVID-19 resilience; (2) understand practices of forest citizenship in relation to COVID-19 experiences, (3) draw on forest citizenship practices that can be adapted and applied elsewhere to enhance the disaster resilience of forest communities. These objectives are addressed through three interlinked work packages (WPs), specifically: quantitative analysis of secondary health, governance and environmental data (entire Brazilian Amazon) (WP1), qualitative fieldwork in selected municipalities in Amazonas and Acre State (WP2), and interventions/action-research (WP3). Our research is based in an interdisciplinary and non-hierarchical 'team science,' which includes diverse voices, kinds of knowledge and value systems (including those of forest peoples), leading to better outcomes. Our ambition is for the project's legacy to be a Brazilian Amazonia that has "bounced forward" to a renewed society which is more equal, inclusive and just. (AU)

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