Preventing environmental catastrophes

15 August 2017
Loss of life. Communities left emotionally and financially decimated. Environmental cleanups that continue for decades
In many modern cases, these disasters could have been avoided.
2017 SOAR Fellowship recipient, Associate Professor Susan Park


Associate Professor Susan Park, an International Relations expert within the University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Sciences, is currently investigating the accountability processes of corporations, government and civil society in the prelude to environmental catastrophes—like the BP oil spill the occurred off the coast of Florida in 2010.

A 2017 SOAR Fellowship recipient, Associate Professor Park interrogates the “accountability gaps” in complex mining projects which have left local communities adversely affected. Examining where, when and how individuals are affected and whether accountability is the appropriate lens through which to examine the governance of large-scale extractive energy projects is at the root of her work.

“Accountability is a buzzword that policy makers love because it denotes a positive action for ensuring responsibility and answerability. But it’s often not clear whether accountability processes can prevent negative outcomes”.

“So I seek to ascertain whether it was a lack of accountability procedures or whether negative impacts occurred because accountability procedures were not being followed.”

Associate Professor Park says the fellowship will allow her to effectively “map-out” her research into the mining industry and accountability.

“The SOAR fellowship will give me an incubator period to design the project and set up a pilot for interrogating a case to examine the accountability processes in an instance where a mining project lead to negative impacts on affected communities.”

By converging accountability standards, she hopes to help reduce the likelihood of future disasters. Such insights could inform BP’s efforts to drill in the Great Australian Bight, for example.

"The funding is vital for my research because it gives me time to design the next 5 years of my work. It enables me to identify the parameters for investigating harm of affected communities all over the world through an accountability lens. I can then directly feed that back into the global discussion of holding the extractive industry accountable”.