Green economy meets political economy: Lessons from the "Aceh Green" initiative, Indonesia

Luke Swainson, Sango Mahanty

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    In the search for effective approaches to sustainable development, a 'green economy' has been touted by key UN bodies and donors as a 'triple-win' solution. Through a political economy lens, this paper examines the prospects and barriers of this approach. The analysis focuses on the Aceh Green intervention in Indonesia, initiated in 2007. Aceh Green was one of the first attempts within Indonesia and globally to transform economic and environmental management systems in an integrated, cross-sectoral manner, as envisaged by green economy engineers. An analysis of the shortcomings of Aceh Green, which ultimately failed to survive a change of political leadership, provides new insights into the difficult realities of this approach and its underlying assumptions. Three main challenges are identified in this case 1) actors with vested economic and political interests held sway; 2) the intervention was unable to build coalitions for change needed to overcome these powerful actors; and consequently 3) the balance of risks versus rewards was not sufficient for 'green investors,' who then withdrew support. The dilemma of realising a green economy is exposed as an elemental struggle between actors over the management of and access to natural resources and the benefits derived from them, which ultimately undermines the viability of the approach.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)286-295pp
    JournalGlobal Environmental Change - Human and Policy Dimensions
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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