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Special Collection

Special Issue on Mega-Projects, Contentious Action, and Policy Change in Latin America

Collection launched: 18 Dec 2018
Social resistance against mega-development projects has become a well-established feature of Latin American politics. Yet, we know little about the impact of social resistance on national policies and institutions governing existing regimes of extractive development. In this special issue, the authors analyse the policy consequences of opposition to mega-development projects such as mines, hydroelectric dams, oil extraction sites, and the accompanying expansion of infrastructure across Central and South America. Contributors show how activists have taken advantage of political, economic, and ideational shifts in national political settlements to increase protections for communities affected by extractive development, introduce new priorities and narratives onto political agendas, advocate for policies that regulate industry, and even reorient policies away from extractive development altogether, as in the case of the ban on metal mining in El Salvador. Yet they also show that lasting policy change is difficult to achieve. Powerful coalitions backing mega-development projects tend to view social and environmental safeguards as obstacles to investment. Policy and institutional changes favoring opposition movements are often subject to reversals. Moreover, entrenched strategies of economic development reliant on large-scale investments in the extraction of natural resources lead some communities to work within extractivist logics, choosing pragmatic coping strategies or mobilizing around the redistribution of rents from mega-development projects, as opposed to challenging their socioenvironmental impacts. The special issue offers insights into these varied forms and consequences of social resistance in the region.