Societal relevance


The research area Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies is strongly related to changes on the ground, including biofuel production, land grabbing, neoliberal conservation policies, and the global developments around the food-feed-fuel complex.

Many studies involve cooperation with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs), such as peasant organizations, and have a substantial societal im­pact. This was also clearly illustrated at the large 2006 Land Conference, which not only had a large number of academic participants, but also over 100 representatives of CSOs from the Global South.

AFES staff also work with important international UN agencies. For example, Jun Borras was appointed member of the 5-person team headed by Camilla Toulmin that wrote the 2011 high profile report on global land grabbing for the UN High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) on Food Security and Nutrition.


Studies on population and poverty, which are also part of research on Critical Research in Social Policy, have been widely referred to in the academic world, e.g. by the Development Studies Association, but are also of great significance for international actors in the development arena, such as UNICEF, UNFPA and UNDP.

Max Spoor was lead author of the Regional Human Development Report “Beyond Transition: Towards Inclusive Societies” (UNDP, 2011), which included the study of social exclusion in 29 transition economies, with household surveys in 6 countries.

A considerable number of ISS staff members have been working actively with these international actors on joint research, or have fed research results into activities of NGOs or international public actors. To address an often  neglected area of research in the broader knowledge de­velopment field, the ISS MA major on Children and Youth Studies is making an important contribution to a more  young people-focused generation-sensitive approach to development.

Participatory poverty resaerch, Tibet

Furthermore, several staff members have been involved in advisory or supervisory functions in important CSOs/NGOs, at domestic and international levels. Examples include, at the domestic level,

  • CARE and Cordaid (Spoor)
  • ICCO (Borras)
  • RutgersWPF and StopAidsNow (Keysers)

and, internationally,

  • WIDE (Harcourt, Keysers)
  • the Society for International Development (Harcourt)
  • La Via Campesina (Borras)