Summary. This project aims to explore the past, present and future uses of natural resources in the rural communities of the western Balkans with the objective of exploring their future potential as a foundation for achieving sustainable rural development . The project will mainly focus on the mountain villages in the three country border region of Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo, with a contrasting sample of Croatian villages included to examine the impact of EU-approximation. We shall examine the way in wh ich agriculture, forestry, wildlife, livestock grazing and rural- / eco-tourism play a part in rural life, focusing both on the material/economic and the socio/cultural importance of the activities. The role of institutional factors and norms as obstacles or facilitators of sustainable use will be given particular focus. The results will be placed within the context of the changing national policy frameworks as the region achieves ever greater integration into European political structures with particular focus on potential conflicts between different policy instruments from different sectors and incompatibilities between multiple uses. In addition, building local capacity in applied social science research and regional cooperation between research groups will be important benefits, as well as continuing existing cooperations between Norway and regional partners.