Examining knowledge and epistemic justice in the design of nature-based solutions for water management

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Johan Arango-Quiroga , Alaina Kinol, Laura Kuhl


Over the last decade, Nature-based Solutions (NbS) for water management have gained traction as triple-win options for climate action due to their ability to address social, economic, and environmental challenges. Recent developments in the literature of NbS have resulted in a body of work addressing questions about knowledge and justice. In line with these developments, this paper proposes the Knowledge and Epistemic Injustice for NbS for Water Framework (KEIN Framework) to identify the production of epistemic injustices in the design of NbS for water management. The KEIN framework draws on questions about knowledge and power raised by Avelino (2021) and five mechanisms that lead to epistemic injustice based on the work by Fricker (2007) and Byskov (2021). We apply the framework to examine a proposal presented to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) that included NbS for water management and Indigenous Peoples in South America. Rather than being an analysis of the project or the GCF per se, the goal of this analysis is to demonstrate the utility of the framework to analyze proposals during the design stage. We argue that proposals submitted to the GCF are reflective of a broadly held international environmental logic. We also identified indications that knowledge was organized and treated in a way that favored external actors at the expense of local actors.  Our analysis also revealed prejudices against people’s epistemic capacities, with potential implications for how the generation of local knowledge is adopted on the ground. The framework illustrates how the design of NbS may minimally disrupt power relations due to the influential role that some actors have in generating knowledge. This study contributes to the operationalization of epistemic justice in designing NbS. Through the application of the proposed framework, the study contributes to future work advancing the construction of epistemically just NbS.




Environmental Studies


Nature-based solutions, epistemic justice, Indigenous and local knowledge, Green Climate Fund, Water management


Published: 2023-03-15 10:19

Last Updated: 2023-03-15 10:19


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Data Availability (Reason not available):
The data that support the findings of this study are openly available in the Qualitative Data Repository at https://doi.org/10.5064/F6OQJNNQ.

Conflict of interest statement:
The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

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