1. Overview1.1 Co-management
(Also called: participatory, collaborative, joint, mixed, multi-party or round-table management)
Natural resource management (NRM) is a major political arena. In the past, many traditional societies formed relatively closed systems in which natural resources were managed through complex interplays of reciprocities and solidarities. These systems were fully embedded in the local cultures and accommodated for differences of power and roles – including decision-making – within holistic systems of reality and meaning. Dialogue and discussion among interested parties on the basis of field experience (what is referred to as "co-management" today) were widely practised in some of these societies. In others, different social values such as religious authority, caste predestination and cultural norms determined most NRM decisions and the related sharing of costs and benefits. Communal property was generally widespread, and constituted a crucial element in the cohesion and sustainability of traditional NRM systems. Local knowledge and skills, built through extended historical experience, were another cornerstone. Most importantly, local communities tended to create themselves around a body of natural resources that they could manage together. In other words, in traditional societies the units of natural resource management and the units of social life tended to coincide.
The historical emergence of colonial powers and nation states, and their violent assumption of authority over most common lands and natural resources led to the demise of traditional NRM systems virtually everywhere. The monetisation of economic exchange weakened local systems of reciprocity and solidarity, as did the incorporation of local economies into increasingly global systems of reference. In addition, the rise in power of modern, expert-based, "scientific" practices induced severe losses in local knowledge and skills. This generalised breakdown of local NRM systems finally resulted in the disempowerment and "de-responsibilisation" (see Banuri and Amalrik, 1992) of local communities. Attitudes of confrontation and reciprocal mistrust between local communities and the representatives of the state became widespread. Community-based trial and error and the detailed discussion of local NRM practices, wherever they existed, were largely substituted by the coercive imposition of practices through laws (e.g. the nationalisation of NRs), external rules, extension services, the police and the army.
In such situations, as in all societies structured around large power differentials, such as feudal hamlets in Europe or colonial possessions in Africa and Latin America, the "weapons of the weak" have rarely included frank, open and above-board discussions. On the contrary, the disadvantaged groups, whenever they did not resort to violence, attempted to protect themselves and gain access to natural resources by means of subterfuge, lies, passive resistance, ridicule, feigned misunderstanding, raids and the like (see Scott, 1985).
In some societies characterised by large power disparities, the recent development of democratic systems and the state of law has allowed a number of social movements, unions, and consumer and minority groups to adopt a transparent and direct strategy of confrontation, sometimes in a court of law. In others, the conditions for this to happen are still a long way off on the horizon. Whether honest dialogue and straightforward confrontation are the best strategy to protect the interests of the less privileged groups can be assessed only within specific contexts.
Some such groups opt for all-out confrontation with little to no space for compromise. This is the choice of some Indigenous Peoples still fighting for the basic recognition of their ancestral rights. Others attempt to find a place at the negotiation table with more powerful actors (business, the government and the like) and encounter all sorts of obstacles and difficulties. In some cases, all groups and individuals with interests and concerns about a given territory, area or set of resources understand that co-operation is necessary for NRM effectiveness and efficiency, and agree to pursue that cooperation in the interest of everyone. This latter attitude may not yet be the most common, but it is spreading. In fact, many contemporary NRM situations show an evolving mixture of the old and the new. Some elements of traditional NRM systems persist, others are crushed by the powers of modernisation, still others adapt and evolve, incorporating new traits and ingredients.
From the point of view of development and conservation professionals – to whom this document is primarily addressed – the history of co-management is rooted in decades of field-based and theoretical efforts by individuals and groups concerned with:
Many political battles have been fought for and against co-management in the field as well as within national and international organizations. The following schematic figure summarises some of the arguments voiced by participants in the battles and debates.
Figure: Some arguments for and against CM
Main CM values and principles
the above lead to
There are no blueprints or universally applicable paths for a CM initiative. On the contrary, there is an enormous variety of options depending on specific contexts. However, to allow for comparisons and to break down the process into manageable units, four key CM components and three main phases in a CM process can be identified:
Four inter-related CM components
Three main phases in a CM process
Three main phases in a CM process
Many other relevant concepts and practices – such as participatory action research, environmental stewardship, gestion du terroir, etc. – exist, but will not be explored here.
The adaptive management approach is based on scientific findings about natural ecosystems and on field-based experience gained in several environments. These lead to acknowledge the lack of unequivocal and definitive knowledge of the ways in which ecosystems work, and the uncertainty that dominates our interaction with them. The central tenet of adaptive management is thus an open, investigative and analytical attitude. Adaptive NRM activities state explicitly what they aim to achieve, specify indicators and monitoring and evaluation methods and are modified as learning proceed (see Holling 1978, and Wilston 1986).
Basic elements of adaptive management
The stages of adaptive management (adapted from Taylor, 1998)
Concepts and approaches à pluralism
A pluralist approach focuses on recognising, acknowledging and involving the various actors, interests, concerns and values that exists in any society with respect to almost any subject. In particular:
A multiplicity of views and voices in the negotiation process is a fundamental pre-condition for equity and justice. Yet, it does not follow from this that all views and voices are equal, that they all carry the same weight or are all equally entitled to participate in the negotiation of the co-management plans and agreements.
equity is profoundly different from equality!
Good governance depends on the legitimacy of the political system and on the respect shown by the people for its institutions. It also depends on the capacity of such institutions to respond to problems, and to achieve social consensus through agreements and compromise.
A comparison adapted from Karsenty (1998):
A patrimonial representation of a territory, an area or a set of resources
Distinctive features of the notion of patrimony in comparison with the notion of property (Karsenty and Marie, 1998)
(Karsenty and Marie, 1998)
Various stages of patrimonial mediation (adapted from Weber, 1998)
(from Babbit et al. 1994)
Conflict management is a non-violent process that promotes dialogue and negotiation. It implies:
Modern processes of conflict management are quite close to the processes used to negotiate a co-management agreement; both express the same values (dialogue, transparency, pluralism, fairness, etc.), have the same main constituents and can be facilitated in similar way.
Main constituents of modern conflict management approaches
Many traditional systems of conflict management obtained effective results via values, constituents and processes that do not fit the above description and list. Such culturally specific ways (which may use a variety of methods and techniques, from non-verbal social pressure to trance induction, from chance decisions to linguistic reframing of issues) should be recognised and responded to in a sensitive and inclusive manner. If they are sufficient and effective to deal with the conflicts at hand, by all means they should be preferred. However, when traditional systems do not suffice and/or when conflicts involve a variety of non-traditional partners, it may be appropriate to consider the modern approaches as well.
Whenever the conflicts are serious and the parties involved are distant and hostile, the presence of a facilitator, mediator or arbiter is highly recommended. A conflict-management instructor could also be called upon. Their role is similar, but not exactly the same (see below). These key figures in conflict management are often private individuals (religious leaders, retired judges, local wise-men and women, etc) possessing special characteristics and capacities (see also Section 3.1).
assist only in the running of the process. They never allow themselves to be drawn into the arguments.
act as facilitators, but also help develop a wide range of options for the parties to discuss and choose from. They help conflicting parties to reach an agreement satisfactory for everyone.
act as judges: they listen to the various parties, review pertinent documents and issue a decision, which is treated by all concerned as an expert opinion or an obligation, depending on what was decided in advance.
help the parties (usually in separate sessions) to learn the elements of conflict management, which the parties will hopefully succeed in applying to their own conflict situation.
Some suggestions on how to overcome such special circumstances are offered in Section 6 but they do not, unfortunately, come with a no guarantee of success. Below are five main checkpoints for effective conflict management (adapted from Lewis, 1996):
It is people who bring about development and manage natural resources. There can be no change for the better without involving them, mobilising their capacities and energies and enhancing their knowledge and skills. Communication caters to all these human dimensions and is vital for any activity in which the participation of local people is envisaged and sought. In addition, effective communication generally has remarkable personal effects, such as raising morale, enhancing the sense of one’s own value and dignity, and promoting social solidarity and collaboration.
Communication may be personal (one-to-one), inter-personal (among a few individuals) and social (when it involves social groups, such as a local community). Social communication for co-management initiatives is about providing the conditions for informed decision-making in society, i.e. fostering the sharing of information and the discussion of problems, opportunities and alternative options for action. It is a generally a complex phenomenon, including a variety of avenues, from one-to-one dialogue and group meetings (i.e. personal and interpersonal aspects) to the use of mass media such as the radio, TV or Internet.
It may be useful to distinguish among various types of objective for a communication initiative. These may include: informing, raising awareness and training (Chiovoloni, 1996), which can operate in an interactive fashion, but more frequently are carried out in a "top-down" mode, with the "sender" totally in control of the "message" to be passed on, and the "receiver(s)" hardly able to influence it. A rather different communication situation is generated by interactive learning (see below).
Interactive learning is crucial for co-management initiatives, as these seek to overcome the logic of top-down expert authority and prescribed behaviour. Whenever there is a gap or a conflict between what is legal (prescribed) and what is legitimate (emerging from social consensus), efforts at merely transferring information, awareness or skills are likely to be useless. Only interactive learning, built on the direct confrontation and dialogue among different views (thinking, discussing and acting together) can overcome the gap or help in managing the conflict.
There are various types of communication media, including:
Providing communities with access and skills to control and effectively use both traditional and modern media is an essential component of community development, and thus of sound management of natural resources (see Annex 1 for street theatre and community radio, two examples of participatory methods in social communication). Local media refers to communication material produced locally, whether traditional or modern (electronic). Development and natural resource problems place great strains on communities, and their local media are usually employed to channel the ideas and feelings that accompany their efforts and struggle for change. In fact, there is a close link between traditional media and local culture, including social patterns to accommodate change.
The challenge of cross-cultural communication is to bridge local and outside knowledge. For expert professionals, this challenge is mostly about understanding the system of local media and about learning to listen, including listening to silence (silence may be due to many causes and may express many types of messages, from full support to full hostility). This does not mean that expert professionals cannot set up information events or training programmes – on the contrary! Such initiatives are an important component of social communication efforts, but they should be developed with respect, intelligence and care, should be interactive rather than top-down, and should not exhaust all the resources available.
A few points to consider:
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