Dr David Brown

David Brown

Research Affiliate

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 has worked throughout the developing world, often 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 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 international forest policy, forest governance and the timber trade, rural livelihoods and participatory development. He was leader of the consultancy team that prepared the World 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 most recent research there was funded by an Emeritus Fellowship of the Leverhulme Trust (2010-2013), and 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.

2002Participation in Practice, ODI, London.

1998The EU Tropical Forestry Sourcebook, ODI, London.

Articles and papers

Over one hundred published articles, opinion pieces and reports, including:

2017. ‘Grand Narratives of Crisis:  Customary Conflicts as a Factor in the Liberian Civil War and Implications for Policy’, Chapter 6 of the volume Politics and Policies in Upper Guinea Coast Societies, ed. C.Højberg, J.Knörr & W.Murphy, Palgrave MacMillan, New York.

2017. ‘Social Dimensions of Land Rights Reform in Liberia: Some Unresolved Issues and Policy Dilemmas’, Development Policy Review (September, forthcoming).

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 & L Peskett). 

2003. ‘The case for bushmeat as a component of development policy: issues and challenges (with A. Williams), The International Forestry Review, Vol.5, 2, pp.148-155 (reprinted in: The Earthscan Reader in Forestry & Development, ed. J.Sayer, London & Sterling, VA, 2005).

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.

1994. 'On Pastoralism and Poverty' - in Oromo Studies and other essays  ed. D.Brokensha, African Series of the Foreign & Comparative Studies Program, Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse, NY, pp.259-272.

1989. 'Bureaucracy as an Issue in Third World Management: An African Case study', Public Administration & Development, Vol.9 No.4, pp.369-380 (reprinted in: Managing Organizations in Africa, Blunt, P et al, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin [1993]).

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.

List of site pages