3. The negotiation phase
Negotiating among institutional actors: the heart of co-management
The co-management plans, agreements and organisations are as good as the process that generated them. It is wise to invest in this process!
What has to be remembered?
The negotiation meetings
Ideally, at the beginning of negotiations there are:
No matter whether the institutional actors are many or few, whether they are organised formally or informally, whether they feel in basic agreement or oppose each other with strongly contrasting values and interests, they need to meet and discuss issues of common concern. The goal of such meetings is usually to achieve a broad accord on:
Main qualities and tasks of a good facilitator / mediator
Facilitating meetings is a task firmly anchored in the culture of the actors concerned. As mentioned, many traditional societies do not need external facilitators and know well how to negotiate in a convivial manner as part of normal life. An external facilitator may be important, however, when there are strong power imbalances, unresolved conflicts or communication problems among the parties concerned, and when the parties belong to quite different cultural backgrounds.
An external facilitator should be:
Tasks of an external facilitator:
The first meeting among institutional actors may begin with an introduction by the members of the Start-up Team, who will describe their work thus far. It is important to be transparent about who is facilitating and financially supporting the Team's work and why. The participants (representatives of the institutional actors) may then introduce themselves and mention how they are organised internally and how they (themselves) have been selected as representatives. The facilitator and Start-up Team may then illustrate a proposed set of rules for the negotiation phase as well as procedures and a schedule of meetings. The discussion could then be opened to adjust and modify the proposed rules and procedures until a broad accord is achieved.
An example of a set of rules for the negotiation process
(Rules for negotiation processes are strongly dependent on the cultural milieu; it cannot be stressed enough that the set offered here is only an example, and that this example may be appropriate in some situations and entirely inappropriate in others)
Procedural and practical aspects, such as the ones listed above, are generally easier to deal with than questions of substance (e.g., what uses of natural resources are allowed) and relationships among the institutional actors (e.g. who has a legitimate entitlement to manage the resources). In the first meeting, it is good to limit the discussion to matters of rules, procedures and logistics. An initial meeting in a calm and productive atmosphere is a good way to help the institutional actors to find out where they stand, establish working relations among themselves and start to "own" the participatory process.
When discussing who shall attend the next meeting, some people may object to the very presence of others and attempt to exclude them. The facilitator could help diffuse these potentially disruptive objections by ensuring that an inclusive approach at the discussion table does not mean that everyone present will share equally in entitlements and responsibilities for natural resource management. The people present at the meeting are representatives of social actors who have organised themselves to express their concerns. It will be the task of all representatives together to identify everyone's role and weight in terms of substantive issues and decisions.
3.2 Developing a common vision of the desired future
One or more meetings can be devoted to establishing a base of common interests and concerns among all the institutional actors. In such meetings, the participants are encouraged to discuss their long-term wishes for the NRM unit(s) at stake, i.e. the kind of environment, natural resources and living conditions they would ideally like to leave to their children and grandchildren. On this basis, the facilitator helps the participants to develop a consensus on a "vision" of such a desired future, with specific descriptions – as visual and concrete as possible – of the ecological and socio-economic situation in the NRM unit(s) (see Annex 1 for some guidance on visioning exercises and Annex 2 for an example of a rural community's vision of its desired future).
Social consensus on the vision of the future desired is extremely important for the negotiation of effective co-management plans and agreements. If conflicts and disagreements surface during the negotiation process, the facilitator will be able to bring everyone back to the vision they all wish to achieve. For this, it is useful to write up or draw the main features of the vision on a large sheet of paper (or other appropriate support) and pin it on a visible surface at the site of the negotiation. It is also a good idea to transform the vision into a charter of principles or other appropriate form of social contract (see Annex 2, again).
3.3 Ritualising the common vision An agreement is legitimised when it is accepted and recognised as binding not only by the institutional actors who developed it, but also by society as a whole. The process by which such legitimisation is achieved, however, differs according to the importance of the agreement. A simple local rule is easily legitimised and easily undone. Instead, a common vision of the future desired by an entire community is a sort of constitutional agreement. In many cultures, this calls for a strong ritual, respected and acknowledged by the whole society. Such a ritual helps raise the common vision to the spiritual and symbolic level, making it valid in the long term and particularly difficult to disavow.
The choice of the appropriate type of ritual is a culturally specific act, concerning the moral, spiritual and often religious values of the institutional actors at stake. Traditional practices are often at the heart of such ceremonies. When non-traditional actors and/or governmental representatives are involved, however, it is advisable that the institutional actors also produce and sign a written document. In this case, the ceremony held to ritualise the vision could include both a traditional ritual and a modern ritual (see, for instance, example box 6). The latter could be the public reading, signing and celebration of a document, such as a charter of principles for natural resource management and development approaches in the territory at stake.
The common vision of a desired future is a most appropriate type of agreement to ritualise. If such a vision is ritualised it will, in fact, be regarded as intangible and sacrosanct. As such, it will be possible to use it as a common ground where all stakeholders can reconcile the controversies and conflicts that may present themselves in the course of negotiations. It cannot be said, on the other hand, when it is best to hold the ritual ceremony. In certain cases, the ceremony precedes the negotiation of specific plans and agreements. In others, the ritual does not come until after the agreements, as the partners need to see that something concrete can come out of their vision before committing the time and social capital necessary to celebrate a strong ritual.
3.4 Reviewing the current socio-ecological situation and trends With the help of a facilitator, the institutional actors can analyse the present ecological, social and economic situation and trends in the context at stake, as well as their desirability and acceptability. The discussion can start on the basis of a short report illustrated by the Start-up Team (and possibly submitted in advance), although the report should not define the limits of the discussion. Other good starting points are participatory exercises such as land-use and historical mapping, trend analysis, group interviews with the local elders, a transect walk, etc. (see Annex 1 for a description of some of these exercises).
A few methods and tools that can be useful in facilitating the development of a situation analysis among several partners are listed below:
If all the participants in the exercise are literate, it is also possible to utilise a structured
"Clarifying" means obtaining a coherent common understanding of the issues/ problems at the present moment. In particular, can everyone agree on what constitutes a "problem" and thus by definition requires change? If people disagree on this point, a helpful question may be "Is this blocking/ impeding/ slowing down the achievement of the common vision of our desired future?"
"Analysing" means setting the issues/ problems within a meaningful context of root causes and consequences, in particular with respect to the vision of the ideal future agreed upon by everyone. Such an analysis is vital to direct energy and resources in an effective way. Can everyone see the same causes and consequences for a given issue or problem? A good analysis is comprehensive and investigates several dimensions of a given context, but can be completed in a reasonable amount of time and, most importantly, is understood by everyone. Graphic conceptual frameworks are very useful to organize and communicate a situation or problem analysis (see below).
A conceptual framework can be produced collectively during a meeting to analyse the existing situation. Once a problem has been identified, the facilitator asks what are its causes and consequences. The participants in the exercise draw symbols and / or write names or very short phrases on cards and pin them on the drawing of a tree. The main problem is usually pinned over the trunk and the causes and consequences close to the roots and branches. Alternatively, cards can be spatially arranged on a board and connected by lines and arrows. Dealing with movable cards is better than dealing with a single drawing on a sheet of paper, as cards can be moved and changed much more easily at the suggestion of the participants in the meeting. In this way, the collective thinking of the group can be developed and expressed. The discussion on the conceptual framework should continue until everyone is satisfied that all the main causes and consequences of a problem have been identified, and no more ideas are offered or corrections requested.
At times, participants have different opinions or express contradictory statements. In such cases, the facilitator can ask further questions to deepen the arguments, but a consensus among group members is not necessary. Contrasting views and alternative options can be listed on the same column in the matrix. In particular circumstances, it may be necessary to gather more information once the meeting is over, information that will be communicated to the whole group in the next meeting (see Annex 1 for details).
3.5 Agreeing on a strategy towards the common vision When institutional actors have had time to discuss current issues and trends, the common vision of the desired future is recalled and compared with the present situation. What are the main points of difference? Do the trends identified and discussed indicate that society is moving towards or away from the common vision? What are the key problems and obstacles blocking progress towards the common vision? What opportunities, resources and assets can be relied on? After a realistic discussion of these points, the facilitator may ask the institutional actors to focus their attention on identifying the components (dimensions of work, key performance areas) of a strategy to achieve the common vision from the present starting point. Basically, these would be the areas in which it is necessary to act in the short to medium term in order to achieve some tangible results and change (objectives). Such results will constitute the building blocks of the common vision i.e. will help transform the desirable into the possible and/or real.
Some of the components will deal directly with natural resource management, whereas others will bear upon it in more indirect and complementary ways, i.e., via interventions geared towards economic development, health, education, social organising, governance, culture and so on (see the example in Annex 3). Indeed, it would be neither effective nor wise to conceive a management plan for natural resources in isolation from the socio-economic reality in which they are embedded. Coordinated interventions in several sectors are also important to allow an equitable distribution of the social costs and benefits of sound natural resource management.
At this stage it is not yet necessary to clarify the details of what needs to happen, but just to specify:
If the discussion proceeds well, the facilitator may challenge the participants not only to identify the main components of the strategy, but also to understand and evaluate the links among them, so as to assemble a coherent overall plan. If at all possible, the result of the discussion should be summarised on a sheet of paper and posted on the wall on the meeting premises, possibly next to the description of the agreed vision of the desired future.
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