Governing Congo Basin forests in a changing climate: actors, discourses and institutions for adaptation and mitigation

O.A. Somorin

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Governing Congo Basin Forests in a Changing Climate: Actors, Discourses and Institutions for Adaptation and Mitigation

OA Somorin


The thesis deals with the central question of the governance processes of making tropical forests deliver climate change adaptation and mitigation outcomes of sustainable livelihoods, biodiversity conservation and enhanced carbon stocks. Using the case of the Congo Basin forests, it analyzes the nexus between forest and climate change, particularly on the governance processes of using the forests to respond to climate change. The thesis questions the dominant frames and discourses shaping the policymaking processes of adaptation and mitigation strategies in the Congo Basin. The research is informed by past (and still current) debates among different actors on the forms of institutional and policy frameworks required for policy making on adaptation and mitigation in the Congo, given the region’s context of weak human and governance capacities.

Drawing from the theoretical perspective of discursive institutionalism which takes into account the institutional context in which discourses emerge and the way in which they are institutionalized in social practices. Conceptually, the thesis employs the analytical elements of discursive institutionalism: discourses, actors and institutions in terms of their consequences for governance process analysis. The focus is to understand the types of actors involved along with their capacity and competence to contribute to the policy processes; the overarching global to local discourses on the issues; and the institutional structures considered relevant for adaptation and mitigation in the Congo Basin.

Despite the framing of adaptation as a priority for the Congo Basin region due to the high vulnerability (and low adaptive capacity) of the population to climate risks, the thesis finds more significant policy attention is rather given to mitigation. The dominance of the mitigation discourses is largely due to elements of financial resources, knowledge and influence employed by their actor coalitions to advance the policymaking process. While mitigation policy debates among state and non-state actors on institutional and governance frameworks exist at the national level, adaptation strategies including sustaining food security, income generation and livelihood diversification, are already in practice at the local levels. Ultimately, policy actors’ interest to match the multiple opportunities that mitigation offers with the priorities of adaptation underlines the deliberate actions towards fostering synergy. The thesis concludes that the future of the Congo Basin forests under a changing climate lies in how the actors are able to develop policy frameworks and governance arrangements to foster mitigative adaptation and adaptive mitigation.





Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Arts, Bas, Promotor
  • Visseren-Hamakers, Ingrid, Co-promotor
  • Sonwa, D.J., Co-promotor, External person
Award date1 Dec 2014
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789462571280
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • forests
  • climatic change
  • adaptation
  • mitigation
  • policy
  • forestry
  • forest policy
  • congo

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