This dissertation focuses on the struggle for democratic environmental governance around energy projects in post-communist countries. What do conflicts over environmental implications of these projects and inclusiveness reveal about the prospects for democratic environmental governance in this region? This work is centred on two case studies, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Vlora Industrial and Energy Park. These are large energy projects supported by the governments of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Albania, and by powerful international players such as oil businesses, multilateral
development banks (MDBs), the European Union and the United States. Analysis of these cases is based on interviews with representatives of these actors and civil society groups, narratives by investigative journalists, as well as the relevant academic literature. I argue that the environmental governance of energy projects in the post-communist context is conditioned by the interplay of actors with divergent visions about what constitutes progressive development. Those actors initiating energy projects are shown to generally have the upper hand in defining environmental governance outcomes
which align with their material interests. However, the cases also reveal that the interaction between civil society and MDBs creates opportunities for society at large, and for non-government organizations who seek to represent them, to have a greater say in governance outcomes – even to the point of stopping some elements of proposed projects. To unpack the interplay of forces, this dissertation employs an integrated frame drawing on the theories of Gramsci, Polanyi, and Keck and Sikkink. The neo-Gramscian notion of hegemony (including 'common sense' and 'material
capabilities', 'institutional arrangements' and justificatory 'discourses' that underpin it) helps to understand the power configurations that hinder democratic dialogue. Polanyi’s concepts of society-nature relations, Keck and Sikkink's boomerang model of politics, and Gramsci's notion of civil society as a site of consent and contestation, together help discern the ways in which resistance to energy projects can serve as a starting ground for democratizing environmental governance.