Corridors of Power: Assembling US Environmental Foreign Aid



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Using the US Agency for International Development’s environmental program in Madagascar as a lens, I offer a historically grounded, relational, and multi-sited methodology for understanding the transnational processes that constitute political forests in the contemporary era. Neoliberal reforms conditioned the emergence of a public– private–non-profit alliance, which promoted biodiversity conservation as a US foreign aid priority. As these reforms weakened state capacity and liberalised economies, the downsized Madagascar and US governments became reliant on conservation actors to mobilise political support for their programs. This reinforced the need to maintain strategic relationships with capital-city actors, undermining prior efforts to devolve forest management to local communities. By isolating deforestation as a peasant problem “over there” and by expanding protected areas to meet global biodiversity targets, the conservation alliance created an avenue to be green that did not threaten extractive industries or key constituents. In this manner, saving the environment via protected areas expansion offered politicians a pathway through the inherent contradictions of green neoliberalism.



foreign aid, Madagascar, method