Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Resource Economics

Transformation of autocratic and socialist systems

During the last three decades, not only socialist countries with centrally planned economies, but also numerous autocratic regimes went through fundamental processes of institutional change. The question arises whether these transition processes are actually leading to sustainable systems, in particular as regards the use of natural resources and the protection of the natural environment. Environmental protection and resource governance in autocratic and socialist systems is often merely production-oriented and centrally organised. This has been considered the reason for unsustainable use of natural resources and their significant degradation. Accordingly, we often find we often water and air pollution by industry and agriculture, soil erosion and contamination, decrease of area under forest, in particular natural ones, in autocratic and socialist states. Similarly, nature conservation is also predominantly under central governance of in these countries.

The transition process which started at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s has changed political regimes and economic systems. This strongly influenced the system of environmental protection and natural resource management which was reorganised or even replaced by more polycentric structures. As research results on Central and Eastern European countries as well as post-Soviet European and Central Asian states indicate, institutional change in the field of the use and protection of natural resources often occurs with active participation of international organizations, such as the European Union and the World Bank, which in particular promote decentralized management.

This experience illustrates that the transition process is usually changes property rights on natural resources, above all land and water, with a strong preference for private property regimes. In contrast, institutional reforms for public goods or common pool resources which prevail in the area of environmental services and natural resources and often require common or public property regimes often received less attention. New bureaucracies, in particular at regional and local level, have been established, but also a revival of informal institutions, which have been lost in the centralized systems, took place. Moreover, transition countries increasingly foster international integration by joining international agreements for the protection of the natural environment and sustainable use of natural resources.

Institutional change in this field has proven not to be a straightforward process. It faces obstacles which arise at various administrative levels and have different reasons ranging from incompliance of policy target group and weak policy enforcement. As a result, revival of ecosystems and shift towards sustainable use of natural resources can often not keep pace with the speed of environmental degradation. Meeting the challenge of twofold transition, i.e. transforming a socialist and centrally planned system towards polycentric governance and a sustainable social-ecological system, is not equally successful in all transition countries.

This problem dimension has been addressed in the following research projects:

  • Asia-Link RECREATE Project
    Restructuring Higher Education in Resource and Environmental Economics in East-Asian Transition Economies
    Sustainable Agriculture in Central and Eastern Europe
    European Cooperation in the Field of Scientific and Technical Research
    Integrated Development of Agricultural and Rural Institutions in Central and Eastern European Countries
  • InDeCA
    Designing Social Institutions in Transition: Promotion of Institutional Development for Common Pool Resources Management in Central Asia

  • KATO
    Comparative Analysis of the Transition Process of the Agricultural Sector in Selected Central and Eastern European Countries
  • KSPW Regionale Strukturen im Wandel
    Third research and promotion period from the commission of research about the social and political changes in the new federal states of Germany
  • MACE
    Moderne Landwirtschaft in Mittel- und Osteuropa (Marie Curie)
    Sustainable Land Management and Adaptation Strategies to Climate Change for the Western Siberian Corn-belt

    Sustainable Use of Natural Resources in an Institutional Perspective
  • Special Chair 
    Special Chair in “Socio-Economic Aspects of Transformation Processes in Central and Eastern European Agriculture“ at Wageningen University, The Netherlands (1994-1999)
  • Support of Democracy in the Ukraine
    Topic: „Developing Multi-Level and Decentralized Implementation Capacity for Natural Resource Management and Environmental Policies: A contribution to polycentric governance in an emerging democracy“
    European Integration - A Trainee Programme for Administrators in Agriculture and the Food Industry The Quality of Food: From the Soil to the Consumer
    The Quality of Food: From the Soil to the Consumer


Beckmann, Volker Essays in Institutional Analysis. Application to Economic Transition, Technology Adoption and Environmental Governance in Agriculture

Buschmann, Anna

Institutional Analysis of Agricultural Land Reforms in Georgia

Crewett, Wibke

Local Self-governments, Accountability and the Provision of Public Agricultural Services in Rural Kyrgyzstan

Hamidov, Ahmad Community-based Agricultural Water Management: Institutions for Water Management and Conditions for Sustainability of Water Users Associations in Uzbekistan
Hanisch, Markus (2003)

Property Reform and Social Conflict. A multi-level analysis of the change of agricultural property rights in post-socialist Bulgaria. Institutional Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Vol. 15. Aachen: Shaker

Hurrelmann, Annette (2005)

Agricultural Land Markets: Organisation, institutions, costs and contracts in Poland. Institutional Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Vol. 24. Aachen: Shaker

Kasymov, Ulan Designing Institutions in a Post-socialist Transition Process: Local institutions regularizing access to and management of pasture resources at local level in Kyrgyzstan

Klages, Bernd (2000)

Die Privatisierung der ehemals volkseigenen landwirtschaftlichen Flächen in den neuen Bundesländern - Grundlagen, Rahmenbedingungen, Ausgestaltung und Wirkungen. Institutional Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Vol. 5. Aachen: Shaker

Lütteken, Antonia (2002)

Agrar-Umweltpolitik im Transformationsprozess - Das Beispiel Polen. Institutional Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Vol. 14. Aachen: Shaker

Rudolph, Markus (2002)

Agrarstrukturpolitik im vereinten Deutschland. Eine Analyse der Gemeinschaftsaufgabe “Verbesserung der Agrarstruktur und des Küstenschutzes” im Lichte der Neuen Politischen Ökonomie. Institutional Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Vol. 20. Aachen: Shaker

Schlüter, Achim (2001)

Institutioneller Wandel und Transformation. Restitution, Transformation und Privatisierung in der tschechischen Landwirtschaft. Institutional Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Vol. 3. Aachen: Shaker

Stupak, Nataliya

nstitutional Analysis of Black Earth Soils Degradation and Conservation in the Ukraine
Theesfeld, Insa (2004)

A Common-Pool Resource in Transition. Determinants of institutional change for Bulgaria’s post-socialist irrigation sector. Institutional Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Vol. 23. Aachen: Shaker

Vien, Ha Thuc (2007)

Land Reform and Rural Livelihoods: An examination from the uplands of Vietnam. Institutional Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Vol. 28. Aachen: Shaker