Southeast Asia

New railway line linking China to Vientiane, Laos
Belt and Road Initiative: New railway line linking China to Vientiane, Laos. Photo: Albrecht Ehrensperger

Southeast Asia is one of the most dynamic regions in the world. It has experienced decades of strong economic development, averaging GDP growth of around 5 per cent over the years. However, its rapid economic advancement has also caused drastic, large-scale harms to the environment. Further, the region’s development has been very uneven, engendering new social inequalities and undermining sociopolitical stability.

Southeast Asia is also a site of intense geopolitical positioning – shifting between cooperation and tension – among regional and world powers, especially China and the US. At the same time, it has experienced a great deal of domestic political change in individual countries.

Research focuses

Our studies and regional initiatives have one common goal: supporting development pathways that are socially and environmentally just. We conduct research on Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia, seeking to provide robust evidence and channel it into public debates on land and natural resource governance. This includes a key emphasis on co-creation and analysis of geospatial data together with our local partners. Our research includes:

  • Assessments of landscape (agro)biodiversity and multifunctionality
  • Analysis of the type and quality of natural resource use and international land investments
  • Co-creation of landscape-related sustainable investment solutions
  • Assessment of inequality vis-à-vis land tenure and employment
  • Policy studies of land governance and spatial assessments of land tenure regimes
  • Spatial assessments of initiatives for agroecological transitions and assessments of climate risk and the resilience of family farmers
  • Analysis of the socio-economic effects of mega-infrastructure projects


New project: Sustainable land management and investments for climate-resilient livelihoods (SLMIC)

Sustainable land management, Laos

Building on the Lao DECIDE Info and K4D projects, the present project aims to improve the sustainability of land management and governance in Laos by means of enhanced knowledge, capacities, and processes in both government and the private sector that promote quality investments and climate-resilient practices.

On the way towards more sustainable land-based investments in Laos

In 2022, the government of Laos halted 170 land concessions that did not fulfill its minimum requirements. A unique course of action – not just in Laos. How did it come about that this Southeast Asian country reassessed its land concessions with a view to sustainable development, in hopes of improving economic growth and the quality of life of its population?

New project: Climate-resilient integrated farming systems in Cambodia and Laos

Southeast Asia's agricultural systems need to become more climate resilient. Integrated farming systems show promise, combining multiple crops and multiple enterprises on a single farm. This project aims to improve the development of small-scale farming in Laos and Cambodia through novel approaches in three areas: farming systems, scaling up pathways beyond the farm level, and education and capacity building.

Film: Jhum – Naga Shifting Cultivation

The film by Resource Rights for the Indigenous People (RRtIP) and CDE highlights the importance of customary systems of Indigenous peoples and the contribution these systems have to food security and livelihood protection of remote Indigenous peoples.