2. The preparatory phase
A typical situation in the beginning
What can be done to promote co-management?
What can be done to promote co-management?
Is co-management needed in the context at stake? The analysis may begin with a realistic evaluation of the existing NRM situation, including what is de jure (i.e. in accordance with existing laws and norms), and what is de facto (i.e. what actually happens on the ground). In other words, the analysis should cover the existing power system and entitlements to manage (for instance, who plans?, who advises?, who takes decisions?, who has access to the resources?, who benefits from the resources?, who evaluates whether NRM activities need to change?) but also the unrecognised claims.
Some form of consultation and the seeking of consensus among the main stakeholders in a given territory, area or set of resources can be recommended in all situations. Yet, depending on the particular context, initiating and devoting energy to a negotiation process may be more or less appropriate depending on the perspective of the particular institutional actors.
From the point of view of government agencies possessing legal jurisdiction over a territory, area or resources at stake, it may be more appropriate to pursue partnership agreements with other stakeholders (and prevent wasteful conflicts) when one or more of the following conditions apply:
On the contrary, it may be inappropriate (or not yet appropriate) to embark on a CM process when decisions have to be taken extremely rapidly (emergency situation).
From the point of view of local communities who have customarily enjoyed full access to the relevant territory, area or resources, it may be appropriate to pursue a NRM partnership when:
It may instead not be advisable to enter into a NRM partnership when:
Even when certain individuals or groups have determined that, for them, co-management is needed and desirable, they may wonder whether it is feasible in the particular context at stake. In this case, it may be expedient to ask the following questions:
Is co-management legally feasible?
Who has the mandate to control the land and resources? Can a pluralist approach be accommodated within the existing customary/ legal frameworks? Examine traditional and modern laws, regulations, permits...
Is co-management politically feasible?
What is the history of land management and resource use in the territory or area at stake? Examine current political will and stability, the capacity to enforce decisions, the confidence in the participatory process, the presence of phenomena such as corruption and intimidation...
Is co-management institutionally feasible?
Is there a chance of building a pluralistic management institution for the territory, area or natural resources? Examine inter-institutional relations and their possible conflicts, existing examples of multi-party resource management organisations and rules, the capacity of stakeholders to organise themselves and express their choice of representatives to convey their interests and concerns...
Is co-management economically feasible?
Are there economic opportunities and alternatives to the direct exploitation of natural resources? Examine local opportunities to reconcile the conservation of nature with the satisfaction of economic needs, examine the extent of poverty in the region, the availability of capital for local investments…
Is co-management socio-culturally feasible?
Are or were there traditional systems of natural resource management in the context at stake? What are (or were) their main features and strengths? Are those still valid today? Are the traditional NRM systems still in use? Regardless of whether the answer is yes or no, why? Who is keeping them alive? What is specifically sustaining or demeaning them? If they are not being used any more, does anyone have a living memory of the systems (for instance, are there elders who practiced them and still remember clearly "how it was done")?
Examine the current population status, population dynamics and structure, the main socio-cultural changes under way
Examine social and cultural diversity amongst the institutional actors and the history of group relations among them
Examine factors affecting opportunities for social communication, including:
Feasibility conditions do not need to be absolutely ideal to decide to embark on a co-management process, but thinking about feasibility factors gives a good idea of the obstacles and hot spots to expect along the way.
An important question is also: "For all main stakeholders, what are the best alternatives to a negotiated agreement?" If some stakeholders are better served by the absence rather than the presence of co-management plans and agreements (e.g. if they currently enjoy undue benefits and/or have others bear some substantial management costs) they will have no incentive to enter into the process of negotiation. In such cases the feasibility of co-management is severely reduced and outright opposition to the CM process can be expected. Some special incentives, cajoling or even law enforcement and coercive measures may be needed to get all the stakeholders around the negotiation table (outsiders, however, should be very careful before assuming that a group is blocking negotiations to its unfair advantage. A local community, for instance, could rightly feel better protected by a firm and uncompromising stand than by entering into a negotiation as the weakest of all parties).
People engaged in promoting and supporting the CM process need knowledge and skills in the ecological, social and economic disciplines. They also need the capacity to communicate with all the stakeholders concerned and to obtain and maintain their confidence and trust. And they need energy, passion, willingness, creativity, dedication and continuity. Their work is certainly not routine work… In other words, the co-management process needs "champions"!
Are such human resources locally available? Are there individuals willing to become part of a Start-up Team to prepare and launch the co-management process (see Sections 2.3-2.10)? Are there financial resources to support the co-management preparatory phase (including visits by the Start-up Team to the potential institutional actors, participatory assessment exercises and social communication initiatives)? Are there financial resources to support the negotiation phase (including meetings, independent facilitation and the technical support that may be required along the way)?
The initiators of a CM process – which may be local individuals (e.g. an enlightened politician), local associations and NGOs, government agencies (e.g. the agency managing a protected area) or conservation and development projects supported by donors – need to dedicate time and care to the process of assembling the necessary human and financial resources before embarking on the initiative.
A Start-up Team (or Initiation Committee, Launching Committee, etc.) is a small group of people (perhaps 4 or 5 individuals) who agree to be in charge of the CM preparatory phase. The group is usually selected by the initiators of the CM process—which may be an external project, a community leader, an enlightened government professional, an NGO, etc.— and/ or is self-selected on the basis of strong personal motivation. When the initiator is a donor-supported project, one or more project staff may become members of the Start-up Team (at times this helps assure the public perception of impartiality) but, as a rule, they should not be the majority.
Most importantly, all institutional actors should trust and feel capable of communicating with at least one person in the Start-up Team, even if they do not feel represented by him/her.
Some key characteristics of appropriate Team members are: diversity, credibility, personal motivation, and excellent communication skills.
Some key qualities of a good Team are: being active, efficient, fair, multi-disciplinary, and transparent in decision-making; acting on the basis of consensus and collaboration; being determined to launch but not to lead or dominate the CM process.
The tasks of the Start-up Team
The Start-up Team is entirely responsible for one phase of the process only: the one in which the partnership is prepared and rooted in the local context. After that, the stakeholders themselves need to take control.
During the preparatory phase, the main tasks of the Team consist in:
The Start-up Team may wish to begin its work by gathering existing information and tools to describe the main ecological and social issues (problems, opportunities, history, conflicts, power relations, etc.) as well as descriptions and delimitations of the territory, area or natural resources of interest. Maps (including old maps) are particularly valuable tools in this sense.
A preliminary outline of the issues at stake can be summarised in a short report, in writing if appropriate, to be offered to the institutional actors at the beginning of the negotiation process. The report may summarise the particular NRM context from various perspectives (historical, social, legal, political, institutional, etc.). Such reports benefit from inputs by various social actors, which can be gathered during the preparatory phase (see later). Yet, the members of the Start-up team should refrain from stating or rephrasing the positions of various parties and give only a matter-of-fact account. If there are controversies, the report may mention them, and say what they are about. Preparing such a preliminary report, however, is not always appropriate. It should definitely be avoided when there is only the slightest hint that the social actors may be intimidated or upset by it.
Not only the report, but also the maps and other relevant data and information must be made available to all stakeholders, particularly to local communities who may otherwise be deprived of the information they contain. In fact, the Start-up Team may wish to set up a small reference library at the disposal of all institutional actors during the negotiation phase.
On the basis of the preliminary ecological analysis, the Start-up Team can identify some possible natural resource management units (e.g. a water catchment area, a forest patch, a rangeland, a lake, a fishery area). Ideally, such "units" would make ecological sense (for instance they would comprise the essential elements of an ecosystem), but also social sense (for instance they would fall within a given administrative unit or community). When this coincidence of ecological and social units is not possible, the number of relevant social actors increases and the negotiation process becomes more complex. It is also possible to envisage a series of "nested" NRM units (for instance a micro-catchment nested within a river basin watershed, itself part of a larger island ecosystem).
When the NRM units are fairly small, the actors who negotiate the co-management plans and agreements are likely to be the same ones who will implement the related activities. This is often conducive to good management. In fact, many professionals would maintain that the best management level is the lowest possible one with the authority and capacity to take decisions (a criterion that often goes under the name of "subsidiarity").
It may be useful to recall that traditional societies are often characterised by a remarkable coincidence between a distinct body of natural resources and the social unit (local community) related to those resources. In more than one way, in fact, the territories, areas and natural resources under the care of a local community naturally "identify" an NRM unit.
Usually, several communities, organisations, social groups and individuals possess a direct, significant and specific stake in the identified NRM unit(s). In other words, there are many "potential institutional actors" in natural resource management. Among them, only some will be willing and capable of investing time and resources, organising themselves, taking action to get their interests and concerns socially recognised and will be ready to take on some NRM responsibility. These are the true "institutional actors" in co-management plans and agreements, the ones that the Start-up Team needs to identify, contact and involve in the process. And, in case of nested NRM units, such true actors need to be identified at each level (e.g., in our prior example, for the micro-catchment as well as for the river watershed and for the island as a whole).
How can the Start-up Team identify the potential institutional actors in a specific context? There is no recipe for that, but a checklist may help.
At times, the "potential institutional actors" are not clear about their own interests and concerns in an NRM unit. Even more often, they are not organised to communicate and promote them and/or are not willing to take on NRM responsibilities. For their preliminary stakeholder analysis, the members of the Start-up Team may begin with a list of social actors obviously possessing major interests, concerns, capacities and / or comparative advantages in natural resource management. Through contacts and meetings with them, that list will be modified. It is likely that not all the ones initially identified may be willing to organise and invest time and resources in management, but new and possibly less obvious social actors might be.
A fairly usual dilemma in stakeholder analysis presents itself when the Start-up Team discovers a variety of different interests, concerns and capacities vis-à-vis natural resources within one and the same potential institutional actor (let us say a community in the vicinity of a forest). Should one or several institutional actors be invited to participate in the negotiation process? There is no simple answer to this question. The Start-up Team may wish to explore the pros and cons of the dilemma with the most directly concerned people and groups as part of their own process of self-organisation (see below). For instance, a united community has more weight at the discussion table than several people who cannot agree on a common position. And yet, the community may be willing to speak as one voice on certain occasions and as many on others… In other words, the people who find themselves united as "one stakeholder" for some decisions may need to split and regroup on another one. This phenomenon, at times referred to as "multi-culturality" of stakeholders (see Otchet, 2000), should be acknowledged and recognised as normal.
But, are interests and a willingness to participate sufficient to take on a management role? Shouldn't the Start-up Team also ask: "Who are the social actors entitled to manage the unit(s) at stake?" It certainly should. And yet, the understanding of what constitutes a legitimate entitlement is an evolving socio-political phenomenon, best approached in a participatory way. The Start-up Team could begin by asking the potential institutional actors whether they consider they have a fair claim to participate in the management of natural resources and, if so, on what grounds. In this way, the Start-up Team will obtain a list of factors and characteristics that at least some people recognise as legitimate "roots of entitlements" in the local context. Some examples of such factors and characteristics are listed in a box in the following page.
Not all societies or groups within a society recognise all NR management claims from all social actors. They may recognise some but not others. They may recognise claims only in combination with others (e.g. dependency for survival + long-term relationship with the resources + uses based on traditional technology and practices). Some social actors may recognise their respective claims, but other actors may deny them.
Given such a multiplicity of possible views, how can resource management claims be assessed vis-à-vis one another? Who can determine their respective value and "weight"?
Ideally, this would be done via a socially endogenous process, i.e. a socio-historical development in which groups and individuals organise themselves to express their interests and concerns (and thus define themselves as "institutional actors"), prompt society to recognise their claims as "entitlements", participate in negotiating an equitable division of benefits and responsibilities, and learn-by-doing in natural resource management (see the following schematic view). In this process, the institutional actors with socially recognised entitlements may also be subdivided between "primary" and "secondary", and thus accorded different roles in natural resource management.
In many contexts, such a process will evolve with great difficulty, if at all. It may be blocked by individuals with vested interests, or by too strong a power imbalance among the social actors involved (e.g. big business and national and local administrations versus a traditional community). It may lack the human or financial resources it needs to take off. It may be impeded by a history of violence and bitter fights among relevant groups and factions. Or it may just be foreign to the local context because of a weak tradition of participatory democracy in the country.
Promoting and supporting co-management in a specific context means helping the afore-mentioned process (organising, negotiating and learning-by-doing) to start, and to develop in a fair way. In particular, it means helping local communities to identify and overcome obstacles such as the ones just listed above.
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