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Global narratives of sustainable waste governance in Managua, Nicaragua

Conference paper
Authors María José Zapata Campos
Patrik Zapata
Published in Globalization and Development: Rethinking Interventions and Governance
Publication year 2011
Published at School of Public Administration
Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI)
Language en
Keywords Waste management, narratives, Managua
Subject categories Sociology, Public Administration Studies, Media and Communications


Waste is one of the glocal meta-problems and as such an issue for both global and local governance. While waste is a global fluid, with the risks and profitability associated to its movement, it is also an extremely localized phenomenon (Honor Fagan, 2003). The notion of waste is a construct. Its meaning varies between places and societies at different times (MacKillop, 2009); as does the way societies engage with their waste and deal with it. In the last decades waste governance has being constructed as a sustainability problem for both the global North and the global South. A significant number of international multi-lateral organisations are concerned with the issue of sustainable waste governance, bringing global ideas from the North to the South. Most international and national development aid organisations (e.g. UNEP, UN-Habitat, UE …) carry out development projects, programs and experiences of transference of knowledge and best practices regarding a sustainable waste governance. These discourses of what sustainable waste governance is generated by global organisations shape the local practices for the organizing of waste. The definition, problematisation, policies, plans, technologies and management models used for the governing of waste locally is affected considerably by the discourses within and amongst these global organisations, as are the practices of sustainability they propose and promote. However, the global discourse of a sustainable waste management is neither unique nor uniform. The multiplicity of global actors hence leads to a multiplicity of narratives and discourses on sustainable waste governance. In this paper we aim at exploring some of the many global narratives of waste governance in order to unfold how these views pervade local waste governance and policies. In order to do that the paper focus on the case study of Managua, in Nicaragua, and the six development projects funded by different international aid development organisations (Spanish and Italian Aid Agencies, UN-Habitat, US-AID, European Union URBAL, PNUD) related to the city waste governance. Our data consist of policy documents from these organisations supported by personal interviews with key actors related to these projects and non-participant observations over a multitude of meetings and events. After presenting the different global narratives of waste governance in the findings section, we discuss in the conclusions how predominant global waste narratives have stabilized in the discourse of an urban sustainable development in Managua. We end the paper by contextualizing the conclusions with the concepts, assumptions and practices that give shape to the policies and practices connected to ‘sustainable development’

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