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Tribute to Elinor Ostrom

ILC notes with sadness and respect the passing of Elinor Ostrom on 12 June. No single person has made such an enormous contribution to global recognition of the importance of the Commons. Securing the tenure rights of users of the commons is a priority for many ILC members. This is so because commons-users are often those whose livelihoods are most precarious, and for whom the commons provide a vital safety net from absolute poverty. 

One of the greatest challenges to such efforts are policy environments that are hostile to common tenure regimes. If common-pool resources are inevitably under-productive degraded, and subject to over-exploitation, the logical solution is to encourage their  individualisation and fragmentation.

Her scholarship instead pointed to the variety, strengths and value of tenure and management systems in the commons. Boosted by her winning the Nobel Prize for economics in 2009 – the only woman ever to have done so – her legacy has raised the profile of the commons in how we understand the future of humanity and our planet.  The challenges ahead remain immense, but the life and work of Elinor Ostrom have eased the path being taken by many, including ILC members.

For a reflection by ILC Council member Ruth Meinzen-Dick, see