I’m at the International Association for the Study of the Commons conference in Hyderabad, and it’s an eye-opener. Our commons of England and Wales, 600,000 hectares of land with huge public interest, on which commoners have legal rights in common with the owner, appear to be unique. But there are commons all over the globe, places with community rights, whether forest or water, and in many countries the people still depend on the commons for survival – just as we did at the time of the inclosure movement.
The question is whether rights enshrined in law will help people to fight for their commons. I shall be debating this in a policy forum on Friday as I believe they do. I hope there will be a good debate.
But commons are a much wider concept than land – for instance there are digital commons (stifling of internet traffic being a parallel to the inclosure movement) and global commons (carbon in the air and in the soil). There is much scope for conflict.
In Nepal, the local commons are in conflict with the global commons. Forty per cent of Nepal is forest, and the government wants the forests to be geared totally to capturing carbon, at the expense of communities who use the forests for a variety of functions – just one of many examples I’ve been hearing about.
The IASC has an important role in campaigning for our commons. Susan Buck has just taken over as president – good luck to her.