BCC.20.002 – Resources and supply chains. Sustainability and resilience from the Northern Amazon to the Netherlands

Route: Between conflict and cooperation

Cluster question: 050 What is the secret of a resilient society?

The Northern Amazon (Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela) provides many raw materials that are important for Dutch industry and consumers, such as soya, wood and gold. The local economies in the region run on the exploitation of these resources, but the local populations only partially benefit from this natural abundance. Access to and distribution of natural resources is often accompanied by conflict and appropriation by a few groups such as economic elites, corrupt politicians and armed groups. The dependence of the Amazonian economies on the export of raw materials also makes them vulnerable to price fluctuations on the world market. For example, the current high price of gold contributes to increased gold mining and local income, but also to increasing deforestation, pollution and social inequality.

Resilience contributes to the continued functioning of these societies despite inequality and conflict. Residents develop makeshift forms of production, trade and governance to make a living. For instance, they use cross-border strategies and cooperation with armed actors to deal with scarcity. How do these improvised schemes affect the supply chains of raw materials that reach as far as the Netherlands? And what are the consequences for the sustainability of production and for our use of these raw materials from the Northern Amazon?

This initiative represents the empirical and multidisciplinary study of improvised forms of production, trade and governance, that infiltrate international networks and (digital) trade routes to Europe. Its objective is scrutinizing how social resilience works in practice. Anthropologists, criminologists and economists work together with government agencies, the business community and civil society actors in the Netherlands and the countries in the Amazon region. Knowledge of resilience in practice will contribute to fair and more sustainable trade and consumption in the Netherlands in the context of the pursuit of sustainable and inclusive global development.


Amazon, Brazil, Colombia, corruption, ecology, economy, elite, environment, global development, gold, Governance, guyana, livelihoods, natural resources, Netherlands, policy, pollution, raw materials, resilience, soy, suriname, sustainability, venezuela, wood


Organisation Vrije Universiteit (VU)
Name Prof. dr. M. (Marjo) de Theije
E-mail m.de.theije@vu.nl
Website https://research.vu.nl/en/persons/marjo-de-theije