Water management


Argentina, Australia, and Brazil are all signatories to the Biodiversity Convention and associated agreements like the Nagoya Protocol. However, according to their 5th National Reports, unsatisfactory biodiversity and social trends continue despite laws and other actions to implement the Convention principles.

These countries continue to suffer biodiversity loss and rural and indigenous poverty, linked to increasingly contested natural resource use, despite many government and private initiatives. 

Rio +20 signalled that implementation, with the involvement of business and citizen organisations, must be the main focus. 

How can effective shared responsibility and implementation of Convention principles be achieved? This collaboration seeks innovative solutions to this fundamental governance problem.

We focus on:

  • water and land use change
  • extractive industries
  • resource competition and conflict (with associated issues of power)
  • north/south climate and environmental differences
  • trans-boundary governance
  • the interests of indigenous and underprivileged people. 

We consider the potential for incremental or radical innovations to solve chronic problems, including new government, business and civil society arrangements.

This is a multi-disciplinary investigation, leveraging research and collaborations with other Australian/South America investigations. We foster staff and student exchanges, joint conferences or workshops, and co-supervision of research students. 


The COALAR (Council on Australia Latin America Relations) supported an initiative between institutions in Australia, Argentina and Brazil, to identify and leverage areas of potential shared research and education interest, focused around water. This has evolved towards a broader consideration of rural natural resource governance and social justice issues.

The institutes include:

  • University of New England (UNE)(Australia)
  • Mackenzie Presbyterian University (Brazil)
  • Central University of Brazilia (UniCEUB)(Brazil)
  • National University of Quilmes (Argentina)
  • Federal University of Piaui (UFPI) (Brazil)
  • National University of the Litoral (Argentina).


Collaborators from the Federal Government of Brazil, UniCEUB, UFPI and UNE at the Green Agriculture Colloquium, Brazil Federal House of Deputies, Brasilia, March 14 2018.

Activities and outcomes


  • November 2018: Green Agriculture Conference in Piaui, Brazil
  • July 2018: Environmental Law Colloquium in Scotland
  • March 2018: Brazilian partners hosted Professor Martin of UNE to develop ‘Governance for Green Agriculture’ initiative
  • May 2018: Professor Martin visit to Argentina and Brazil
  • November 2017: Team from Australia and Brazil worked on Biodiversity Convention.

Governance for green agriculture initiative

During May 2018,  Professor Martin spent time with the Argentine partners in a meeting themed ‘Governance for green agriculture’. Discussions include a tripartite collaboration and a possible water/natural resources/agriculture colloquium.

The Green Agriculture initiative reflects that many significant biodiversity resources are found only in rural areas, that water is often the critical connection between issues, and the management of rural lands is pivotal to the survival of threatened species on the South American and Australian continents. It also reflects the reality that poverty is typically most pronounced in rural areas, among communities who depend directly on water and biodiversity, and that often poverty contributes to the worst harms to threatened habitats and species.

Australia, Brazil and Argentina, along with many other countries, have entered into international commitments to control both biodiversity loss and social disadvantage but objective evaluations suggest that more needs to be done to achieve sufficient success than has proven to be possible with current legal and other governance instruments.

The “Green Agriculture” theme reflects a shared intention of taking a triple-bottom-line approach to research and action on environmental protection in rural areas, where environmental harm is typically associated with poverty and governance failures. Attempting to address water or biodiversity protection without also addressing rural disadvantage is not likely to be successful, justifying an approach of tackling these chronic problems as interwoven and systemic.

During March the concept was refined in meetings and workshops. These included meetings with research teams at UniCEUB, Mackenzie, and the Federal Universities of Brazilia and Piaui, and with elected government deputies and relevant public agency representatives. As part of this effort, a workshop was conducted in the Brazilian House of Deputies on 14 March 2018.

Green Agriculture Conference: Piaui

We have engaged the Federal University of Piaui, Brazil, as a key collaborator in this initiative. Scholars from different disciplines in the COALAR partner universities and other universities will take part, and it is planned that this will result in partnered research and training projects. Collaborators from the National University of Quilmes (Argentina), and Universidad Nacional de Littoral (Argentina) are also engaging in this or parallel initiatives.

Researchers met in Piaui and agreed to hold a multidisciplinary “Green Agriculture” conference in November 2018. Piaui is one of the poorest states of Brazil, has significant water problems as well as a rich natural history, and is heavily dependent on agriculture.  The aim is to develop a collaborative research program focused on the particular needs of the state, as a case study of broader issues in South America.

Governance for megadiversity initiative

Between 8 and 13 November 2017, teams from universities in Australia and Brazil conducted an intensive workshop in Australia on ‘governing for megadiversity’. This looked at law and institutional issues that both countries have in common, and the different ways that their governments and industry organisations have responded.

From this, a report and a series of conference papers and publications have been agreed. It is intended to broaden the collaboration with Argentinian colleagues, dealing with issues common to the three countries, starting in 2018. This includes a number of collaborative papers to be presented at the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium in Scotland in July 2018.

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