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Our researchers investigate the various ways social sciences, and the interdisciplinary work, contribute to a sustainable world. Read more about the aims, teams and outcomes of our research projects.
Our projects
  • Water justice and Beyond
    • June 2022 – June 2024

    This research project is linked to the work of the Global Commission on the Economics of Water  (GCEW) and is aiming to redefine the way we value and govern water for the common good. The commission has and will present evidence and pathways for changes in policy, business approaches and global collaboration to support climate and water justice, sustainability, and food-energy-water security.

    Completing the sustainability trilogy that began with the Stern Review on the economics of climate change and the Dasgupta Review on the economics of biodiversity, the Review by the Global Commission will provide a fundamental reassessment of the way we manage and value water, and its intrinsic role in addressing climate change and other global challenges.

    The Commission’s first reports were published at the UN’s 2023 Water Conference and will inform the launch of a “Water Action Agenda”. The project will provide several deliverables such as: an action agenda to spur change globally, among governments, local authorities, industry, finance, multilateral institutions, and non-state actors and supporting documents.

    Led by prof. dr. Joyeeta Gupta, who is commissioner at the GCEW, the project will particularly contribute to the work on water justice. Looking at the core elements of water justice from local to global level, and how do these elements link, compare, and contrast with each other.

    Project team

    • Prof. dr. J. (Joyeeta) Gupta – project lead (
    • H.J. (Hilmer) Bosch – postdoctoral researcher (
    • L.W. (Luc) van Vliet – junior researcher (


    • Netherlands Enterprise Agency (Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland (RVO))


  • Water Allocation, Rights and Institution Study
    • September 2022 – September 2024

    A key challenge in water resources management is the distribution of water among its manifold users. Addressing all the different needs complicates defining an optimal or effective water allocation arrangement. Not only biophysical factors need to be considered (such as quantity) but also socio-economic, political and cultural factors.

    Therefore, ways of allocating water vary between countries, scales and levels, resource type (e.g., surface or ground water), and uses, to name a few. Accordingly, there is no single best way to allocate water and countries have developed their own formal (documented in laws) or informal ways of allocation – some countries do not yet possess a formalized and transparent allocation system. However, optimal allocation continues to be a challenge. It includes but is not limited to defining an understanding on how water should be governed, establishing new and considering existing property rights, de facto or quasi property rights (trough contracts and permits), considering local believes on water resources and their value, and addressing the governance capacity and infrastructural facilities.

    These considerations should be reflected in the water allocation system in way that point towards effective, efficient, equitable and legitimate allocation.

    This project aims to (a) provide a taxonomy of water rights, (b) study water allocation systems, (c) work with 4 or 5 selected case studies to analyse practices, and (d) document good practices and propose the outline of systems that can be applicable.

    Project team

    University of Amsterdam

    • Prof. dr. J. (Joyeeta) Gupta – project lead (
    • Dr. A.B. (Andrea) Müller – postdoctoral researcher (
    • A.K.K. (Aljoscha) Karg – student assistant

    IHE-Delft Institute for Water Education

    • Prof. dr. G. (Guy) Alaerts – project lead
    • Dr. L. (Leon) Hermans – project lead
    • Dr. N. (Nora) Van Cauwenbergh – project lead
    • Dr. J. (Jonatan) Godinez Madrigal – postdoctoral researcher

    Wageningen University and Research

    • Prof. P. (Petra) Hellegers – water resources management expert


    • Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Waterstaat (IenW))

    Related Publications

    • Stewart-Koster, B., Bunn, S.E., Green, P., Ndehedehe, C., Andersen, L. S., Armstrong McKay, D.I., … Zimm, C. (2024). Living within the safe and just Earth system boundaries for blue water. Nature Sustainability 7, 53–63. doi: 
    • Gupta, J. (2023). Water Justice is essential for life within the planetary boundaries in viewpoints by Michalak, A.M., J. Xia, D. Brdjanovic, A-N. Mbiyozo, D. Sedlak, T. Pradeep, U. Lall, N. Rao & J. (2023). The frontiers of water and sanitation, Nature Water, doi:
    • Grafton, Q., Biswas, A.K., Bosch, H.J., Fanaian, S., Gupta, J., Revi, A., … Tortajada, C. (2023). Goals, progress and priorities from Mar del Plata in 1977 to New York in 2023, Nature Water,
    • Grafton, Q., Gupta, J., Revi, A., Bosch, H., Fanaian, S., Krishnaswamy, J., ... & Wankhade, K. (2023). The Bengaluru Report: The Economics of the Water Crisis and Beyond. doi: 
    • The Global Commission on the Economics of Water. (2023). Turning the Tide A Call to Collective Action.
    • Gupta, J., Liverman, D., Prodani, K., Aldunce, P., Bai, X., Broadgate, W., ... & Verburg, P. H. (2023). Earth system justice needed to identify and live within Earth system boundaries. Nature Sustainability, 1-9. doi: 
    • Bosch H.J. & Gupta J. (2022). The tension between state ownership and private quasi-property rights in water. WIREs Water, 10(1), e1621. doi:
    • Bosch H.J. & Gupta J. (2022). Water property rights in investor-state contracts on extractive activities, affects water governance: An empirical assessment of 80 contracts in Africa and Asia. RECIEL, 1‐22. doi:  
    • Bosch, H.J., Gupta, J, & Verrest,. (2021). A water property right inventory of 60 countries. RECIEL, 30(2), 263-274. doi:
  • CLIFF | Climate change, financial coherence and leaving fossil fuels underground in the changing north-south context

    To combat global warming, we have to stop using fossil fuels. This will have a major impact on both investors in related industries who will have to write off trillions of dollars and developing countries that had hoped to use the fossil fuel industry to drive economic growth. This project looks into the roles of the various different stakeholders and develops tools to help them all move towards climate-resilient change and inclusive development.

    We argue that to halt climate change, the 2015 Paris Agreement implicitly requires leaving fossil fuels (FF) underground (LFFU) and coherent financial flows. This implies stranding huge amounts of FF resources and assets (worth $16-300 trillion), affecting big investors: FF firms, shareholders (pension funds/philanthropies), debt financers (aid agencies/development banks) and governments. Research is scarce on big investors, the implications for developing countries with FF resources, and how LFFU can be equitably mobilized.

    CLIFF combines institutional analysis and a theory of change for inclusive development (ICID) using a transdisciplinary, comparative case study approach. CLIFF will prepare an Interactive Atlas, and a Stranded Asset Index, co-create equitable policy instruments and assess strategies of agents of change to make such climate policy instruments politically feasible and effective. Rather than ‘Building Back Better’ from the COVID-19 pandemic, CLIFF strives for Catalysing Climate-resilient Change.

    Case studies

    CLIFF is using a transdisciplinary, comparative case study approach and has identified nine countries/regions within which these financial actors operate. From the industrialized world, CLIFF will examine the EU, UK, US and Canada; from the G77 & China: Brazil, South Africa, India and China; the BASIC countries; and possibly Saudi Arabia. These countries are selected since they are dominant players in financial flows and investments in FF, and have a strong potential blocking or promoting role in LFFU. In addition, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique will be studied as LMICs that are developing themselves as FF producers.

    CLIFF is funded by the European Research Council and runs for a period of five years (Nov 2021- Nov 2026).

    Know the project team

    Principal investigator

    Joyeeta Gupta


    Global Inventory of FF and Financial Flows
    (to be appointed)


    • Augusto Heras | Focuses on Low- & Middle-Income Countries
    • Frank de Morrée | His work relates to Philanthropic Foundations
    • (Ja)Nina Herzog-Hawelka | Her research deals with Fossil Fuel Firms
    • Moataz Yakan Talaat | His work relates to Debt Financiers
    • Clara McDonnell | Her research focuses on Pension Funds

    Master Students

    Together they work as a team on comparative and integrative research to ensure that the sum of all projects is significantly more than the sum of the individual work of each researcher.

    • Inès Boivin, Claire Boogard, Thomas Cordes, Giuliana Gentile, Lynn Haasloop-Werner, Robin Hids, Juliette Linn, Marc Olsen, Vivien Schüßler, Gabriela Zuntová, Quynh Anh Chu, Glenn Dijks, Ben Kapadia, Blanca Reemst, Marika Schmitz, Ellen Snaathorst, Phani Varnava, Elise Granlie, Ingrid Ronglan, Janne Piper.
  • COLANDS | Collaborating on the Operationalization of Landscape Approaches or Nature, Development and Sustainability

    This project comprises 4 PhD trajectories that form part of the broader IKI-funded COLANDS project led by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Bogor, Indonesia. The COLANDS project as a whole aims to address persistent gaps between strong scientific theory and weak implementation by operationalizing an integrated landscape approach in Ghana, Indonesia and Zambia.

    Through the application of the ten landscape approach principles, the project will facilitate multi-stakeholder dialogue to benefit actors across multiple sectors and decision-making scales, while simultaneously raising awareness of the value of biological diversity in complex multi-functional landscapes to inform national sector policies related to biodiversity and climate change. The project will enhance the capacity of stakeholders engaged in the target landscapes to better identify trade-offs and synergies amongst competing objectives, including food security. In doing so, the project will contribute to existing knowledge on landscape approach effectiveness, improve capacity for implementation, enhance landscape sustainability, empower marginalized groups to more effectively participate in decision-making dialogues, and through the Global Landscape Forum (GLF) feed into global landscape discourses.


    PhD candidates

    • C.A.M. (Augusta) Anandi | Augusta Anandi focuses on customary governance arrangements as entry points for the implementation of landscape approaches.
    • E.R.C. (Eric) Bayala | Eric Bayala works on the potential role of Community Resource Management Areas (CREMAs) in Ghana in integrated landscape governance
    • F.S. (Freddie) Siangulube | Freddie Siangulube focuses on multi-stakeholder platforms in Zambia
    • M.P. (Malaika) Yanou | Malaika Yanou on the role of indigenous and traditional knowledge in knowledge co-production for integrated landscape governance in Zambia

BRIDGES Sustainability

Research Priority Area

Research priority areas (RPA's) bring together researchers on specific research fields transcending disciplinary boundaries. At BRIDGES, Our goal is to enable epistemological, theoretical, and methodological innovations and integrations regarding sustainability research through interdisciplinary projects.

Transformative change is needed

With growing environmental emergencies such as climate change and loss of biodiversity, transformative change is needed to prevent ballooning social and ecological costs. While technological and policy solutions are largely known, implementation is slow largely due to socio-behavioural and governance factors. The drivers and barriers to social and behavioural change on sustainability differ between actors (individual, social, organizational, institutional), scope (e.g., energy, resources, food) and scale (local to global). Tackling sustainability challenges thus requires a multi-scalar and multi-dimensional perspective. This is why BRIDGES aims to unite and advance social and behavioural perspectives spanning from individual to institutional and local to global.

More about obtaining a grant at CSDS

We welcome grant applications for the RPA on Sustainability (BRIDGES) within Faculty for Behavioral and Social Sciences (FMG). Proposals should be explicitly linked to the RPA goals of facilitating sustainability research across FMG departments.