Democracy, development and the marine environment

Photo courtesy Blinking Idiot (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Democracy, development and the marine environment

Aksel Sundström with colleagues gets published in Ocean & Coastal Management.

The article "Democracy, development and the marine environment - A global time-series investigation" was publihed in the journal Ocean & Coastal Management vol.105.


Is democracy favorable or adverse for the management of marine resources? While some studies find democracy to increase the likelihood of achieving sustainable development, others propose that democracy rather has negative effects on the environment. This paper contributes explicitly to this debate, but also adds insights from research arguing that the effects of democracy are conditioned by surrounding institutions. 

Building on this literature, we argue that the way democracy works – whether it is an instrument for collective action beneficial to the environment or an instrument for patronage and clientelism – depends on levels of economic development. The overall objective of the article is to test this proposition empirically. 

Employing time-series cross-section analysis and using Marine Trophic Index as a proxy for the health of marine ecosystems, we investigate the impact of democracy on the marine environment in a global sample from 1972 to 2006. The analysis provides interesting insights regarding the conditional role of economic development. 

We report negative effects of democracy in low income settings, but find that this pattern is reversed when economic development has reached a certain threshold. Finally, we discuss how democracy affects the prospects for sustainable development and based on our conclusions offer suggestions for future research.

Find the article here...

Subscribe to our newsletter