Dr David Brown

Dr David Brown was, until 2014, a Senior Research Associate of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), London, where he was previously a Research Fellow and Team Leader of its Climate Change, Environment and Forestry Programme (1996-2009). A social anthropologist by training, he undertook his doctoral research in Liberia (University of Manchester, 1979). He now holds a Leverhulme Trust Emeritus Fellowship, which is funding a re-study in the same area of eastern Liberia, 35 years and two civil wars later. He has worked throughout the developing world, mostly in West-Central Africa, as an academic, consultant on applied development policy and NGO programme manager (he was OXFAM regional representative for coastal West Africa from 1983-7, based in Dakar, Senegal). From 1987-1996, he lectured in Rural Social Development at the University of Reading.

Research Interests

In recent years, Dr. Brown’s main research has been on international development policy and its implications for rural livelihoods, particularly in the forest sector. He has worked extensively on issues in forest and environmental governance including: climate change policy (particularly REDD); forest law enforcement, governance and trade (FLEGT); and community involvement in forest management.  Policy publications include edited volumes, journal articles and policy papers on forest governance and the timber trade, international forest policy, rural livelihoods and participatory development. Recent work has been mainly with the World Bank; he was leader of the consultancy team that prepared the Bank’s West Africa Forest Strategy, and was a member of the support team for the preparation of the Ghana Government’s R-PP, both in 2010. 

Dr. Brown’s anthropological publications have mainly been on Liberia and have sought to critically use ideas from anthropology and management sciences (organisational theory, theory of ritual, semantics, Marxist approaches) to understand political processes in rural eastern Liberia, particularly the linkages between local politics and the state. His current work there is focused on post-conflict development and natural resource management strategies. 

Publications include:


2008. Legal Timber: Verification and Governance in the Forest Sector, ODI, London.

2007. Bushmeat and Livelihoods: the challenge of wildlife management and poverty reduction in tropical countries, Blackwells, Oxford.

2002. Participation in Practice, ODI, London.

1998. The EU Tropical Forestry Sourcebook, ODI, London.

Articles and papers

October 2009. ‘Building national capacity for forest governance reform: The role of institutions’. Keynote paper, ‘Governance and Institutions’, World Forestry Congress, Buenos Aires.

2008. ‘How do we achieve REDD co-benefits and avoid doing harm?’ Chapter 11 of Moving Ahead with REDD: Issues, Options and Implications, CIFOR, Bogor Indonesia (D Brown, F Seymour and L Peskett). 

1998. ‘Professionalism, participation, and the public good: issues of arbitration in development management and the critique of the neo-populist approach’ in: Beyond the New Public Management: Changing Ideas and Practices in Governance ed. M.Minogue, C Poldano & D.Hulme, Edward Elgar.

1989. 'Bureaucracy as an Issue in Third World Management: An African Case study', Public Administration & Development, Vol.9 No.4, pp.369-380.

1984. 'Warfare, Oracles & Iron: A Case study of Production Among the Pre-colonial Klowe', Africa, 54(2), pp.29-47.

1982. 'Politics as Ritual: Rules as Resources in the Politics of the Liberian Hinterland', African Affairs, 81 (325), pp.479-497.


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