3. The negotiation phase ... cntd

3.6 Negotiating co-management plans and agreements for each component of the strategy

For each component of the strategy, the institutional actors need to identify what needs to be done to progress towards the desired future. The objectives identified up to this point are generally broad (e.g. "to manage the forest on top of the hills in a sustainable manner") and need to be transformed into work plans that answer specific questions such as "What exactly shall be done? Who shall do it? By when? Where? How? With what financial means and human resources? Towards what specific aims? What indicators will be used to measure progress?" This is the moment when everything becomes concrete, a multiplicity of strategic options and choices becomes apparent to everyone, different points of view abound, and conflicts surface in all their power and complexity.

At this time, it is expedient to form a working group for each component of the strategy, making sure that the actors most directly affected are represented in the relevant group. It is also a good idea for each group to have its own facilitator/moderator, perhaps one of the parties themselves, who could take on the neutral role learned by watching the professional facilitator at work (the latter could remain available for all eventualities).

The groups have to come to terms with the great many avenues and options open to them to achieve a given objective and, among them, select the one best suited to the conditions and needs of the given context. Since different avenues and options will bring different costs and benefits to the institutional actors, each actor may have strong interests and concerns attached to one course of action versus another. How can they all reach a consensus or at least a broad accord among themselves? The tools already used for the situation analysis (e.g. brainstorming, conceptual frameworks, SWOT) can help again, but other methods can also be useful. Among those are the ones listed below:

Methods and tools to agree on a course of action

  • Listing alternative options and facilitating their direct comparison. Alternative options can be examined on the basis of various criteria, such as effectiveness, feasibility, cost in human, material and financial resources, expected benefits and impacts (in particular impacts in terms of environment and social equity), sustainability, and so on. The open comparison of alternative options is a very useful tool to help a group decide which option it should select from amongst the many available. The discussion can easily be summarised on a board, with alternative options listed in rows and criteria in columns. For all the criteria chosen by the group the alternative options can be scored, and the matrix will then offer a broad comparative view of options and scores. It is to be stressed that the scores should not be assigned from the top of the head, but only after a discussion of concrete issues. For example, with regard to feasibility, who is ready to take on the major responsibility for each alternative option? In what time frame? Using which material and financial resources? With regard to impact, what are the expected environmental but also the social and economic consequences of the proposed options? What degree of certainty are we dealing with in those previsions? Are there any options expected to have a positive impact on all the components of the strategy? Are there any options expected to have a negative impact on one or more strategic components?

  • Stimulating explicit discussion of the hypotheses and basic assumptions underlying alternative options. Why is it thought that a certain action will lead to a certain outcome? Taking a natural resource management plan as an example, the results expected from implementing the plan should be specified (including the values expected to be attained by biological and environmental indicators) and the ecological plausibility of achieving these values should be examined in depth. The results to be expected from socio-cultural or economic interventions should also be specified (values expected to be attained by social or economic indicators) and lessons learned from similar interventions in the past or in other places should be examined as well.
  • Facilitating the achievement of satisfactory compromises through the use of flexible instruments, such as the zoning of the territory or area to be managed and/or the specification of detailed conditions of resource use (such as by type, time, season, users, techniques, tools, etc.). Zoning basically involves subdividing a territory or area into sub-areas subjected to different objectives, conditions and rules. Examples of detailed conditions of resource use include type of resources, time of day or season, legitimate users, technologies that can and cannot be employed, etc. Zoning an area and specifying the detailed conditions of natural resource use in each zone greatly enhance the spectrum of options available to the negotiation partners, the flexibility of an NRM plan and the chances of achieving effective compromises.


  • Calling for an expert opinion on controversial issues. If disagreements among the institutional actors exist over matters of fact, it may be useful to call on the service of expert professionals (such as a biologist to explain the characteristics of a viable habitat, a hydrologist to estimate how much water can be extracted from a source in a sustainable way, a community elder to recall traditional range rehabilitation practices or cost-sharing mechanisms within the community, and so on). This is not to say that expert opinion should be followed, nor that, indeed, different experts may not disagree. On the contrary. But expert opinions (especially when free from economic and political conditioning) can be a helpful means of shedding light on controversial issues under discussion.
  • Providing effective conflict mediation. Conflict mediation focuses on the fact that an agreement that satisfies every party (a win-win solution) is likely to be more long lasting and more satisfactory than win-lose results. In the long run, compromise may be the best way to serve everyone's interests, especially when overt conflict is replaced by the stability and predictability of a mutually agreeable solution. An effective mediator brings the conflicting parties to agree upon a compromise solution with the help of several expedients.

One expedient is to provide space and time for everyone concerned to clearly explain their views and positions: what they want and why. They should not be interrupted except for points of clarification. Another expedient is to recall the common vision of the desired future (coming back to the present from the future). If all institutional actors have agreed upon, and perhaps even ritualised, a common vision of the desired future, it is difficult for anyone of them to abandon the negotiation table. The mediator can in fact reduce the disagreements to a matter of different paths taken to reach the same goal. Such paths can be compared, as described above, on the basis of various criteria.


  • Asking the institutional actors to devise incentives that will encourage them to agree on a given option. If one option that otherwise appears particularly interesting demands major costs and sacrifices from one or a few institutional partners, all the partners could figure out how to compensate the relative losers for everyone else's benefit. This could involve the provision of specific incentives and clauses in the plans and agreements. The very actors who would be compensated may advance suggestions about the incentives that they would like to receive, which could then be discussed by everyone (costs, feasibility, assurance of benefits to be obtained, etc.).
  • Facilitating the setting up of Community Investment Funds for sustainable development, which benefit both entire communities and the individuals or groups engaged as partners in various productive and conservation activities and services. While discussing NRM plans, one often encounters the case of a community with customary entitlement to a set of natural resources (say a forest or a fishing area) but not yet organised to invest the means and human resources necessary to manage it productively or to defend its own rights. As a consequence, the natural resources may be falling into an open-access status, and being used in an exploitative fashion by all sorts of entitled and non-entitled actors. In other situations, although the local resources may not be mismanaged or threatened, there still may be a clear need to generate financial resources for sustainable community development.

In such cases it is useful to establish a productive partnership among the community (which may contribute natural resources such as land, water or access to the fishing area), certain individuals (who may contribute their labour, including surveillance labour) and other partners who may bring in the missing factors of production (such as seeds, water, boats, engines and nets, a tourism business, etc.). Once the productive partnership is active, the benefits can be divided among the production partners, one of which is then the community in its entirety. The community share of such benefits (or an initial "factor of production" provided from the outside, such as pumps for irrigation water, boats for fishing, tractors for ploughing or vehicles for transport) can be utilised to set up a Community Investment Fund (see the following Table below).

The rules governing a Community Investment Fund are devised by the members of the specific community, who generally set up a specific management committee. The fund is usually not loaned nor replenished by payments. It is, instead, invested in productive activities, which generate a suitable wealth for the community and income for those directly involved in its operations. This tends to make a Community Investment Fund grow rather than shrink under the effect of inflation and missed repayments. At the end of each production cycle, the growing Fund can be partially or totally re-invested for community-based productive initiatives, with or without partnerships with other groups or individuals.

Community Investment Funds for sustainable development have important and natural applications in the field of co-management, both as an approach that promotes and strengthens collaboration in society and as a co-management institution in its own right, with internalised incentives for using natural resources in a sustainable way.


  • Developing a simple logical framework for the course of action agreed upon. A simple framework lists the relevant responsible actors, activities, times, resources, expected results, monitoring indicators and key assumptions. Very detailed logical framework analyses can be painful intellectual exercises, listing layers of objectives, multiple assumptions and the like. When the participants in the negotiation are from different cultures and backgrounds such exercises may be useless, if not outright counter-productive. In contrast, simple and concrete logical frameworks— each dealing with only one strategic objective—are easily understood and appreciated by everyone, including people unable o read and write.


Comparing types of community-funding mechanisms
(adapted from Farvar, 1999)

community investment fund

community revolving fund

is managed by, and benefits, the whole community;

may be managed by the whole community but loans are made to, and benefit, individuals;

does not need to be in cash, it can be a factor of production (e.g. land or natural resources owned by the community, or an initial outside input);

is in cash;

is invested in productive activities, usually in partnership with community groups or individuals;

is loaned as cash to individuals in the community;

produces wealth and capital for the community to re-invest;

produces income or emergency support for individual members of the community;

is subject to production risks, which are shared by all the partners;

is subject to re-payment defaults and inflation risks;

stimulates community initiatives and joint activities between the community and other partners;

stimulates individual initiatives (may even weaken community spirit and cohesion);

accommodates for and sustains common property resources.

fosters the privatisation of natural resources;

accommodates for cultural values opposed to interest charges;

where interest is charged, is unfit for cultural values opposed to the practice (e.g. some Islamic societies);

the owners or contributors of each factor of production receive a share of what is produced;

the "beneficiaries" receive loans, which they need to pay back, possibly with added interest;

the community and partners have the same incentive to improve production;

incentives are for individual production only;

the partners have incentives to use the factors of production, including communal NRs, sustainably;

incentives are for sustainable use of individual property only;

Example Box 7
Units of natural resource management and zoning of the territory

Mount Cameroon hosts an important wealth of biological diversity. It is now five years since a project has been active to conserve such biodiversity with support from GTZ and the British Cooperation Agency. The approach they adopted is the co-management of the relevant natural resources. The Social Forestry Unit of the project was charged with facilitating the CM process. The Unit started by gathering information on the key ecological and social issues in the territory, identifying the main stakeholders, assisting the weakest stakeholders to organise and identifying the units of natural resource to manage.

The approach used for defining the units of natural resource management has responded to both ecological concerns and social concerns expressed by the local population and the other stakeholders. This implied preliminary work by the project staff on the basis of an ecological analysis. The technical and scientific data were compared with the points of view of the local communities and the other stakeholders. In this way, the units of natural resources to manage were identified following criteria that accommodated both conservation values and the interests of traditionally entitled and dependent resource users.

The two dimensions of space and species appeared important to define the management units. The first involved three main levels: the entire region of Mount Cameroon, the two forest reserves classified by the State (including the one named Small Mount Cameroon), and the village traditional territories. This space configuration is characterised by a mosaic of small management units within several larger and more complex systems such as the forest reserves of Bomboko and Mokoko and the Mount Cameroon region. The borders between the small management units are not considered fixed once and for all: they can be slightly moved following various events and compromises among local groups.

The second dimension concerns the local endemic species of fauna and flora, some of which are in an endangered state. Data collected by biologists show that about ten species are in critical condition. Each endangered species defines a management unit. Currently, only Prunus africana or pygeum, endemic on volcanic soil, has been the subject of specific negotiations. The tree is highly appreciated by local communities for its traditional medicinal properties. It also supplies raw materials to Plantecam, a pharmaceutical company specialised in extracting and exporting the active ingredients in pygeum.

Agreements, disagreements, consensus and compromise

Despite its best efforts, a working group of stakeholders may not arrive at a consensus on any given option for a strategic component. In this case, one possibility is to present all the alternatives to the broader group of all institutional actors and ask for everyone's advice. The broader group may again examine and compare alternative options on the basis of a number of specific criteria, but also look at the courses of action required for the other components of the strategy. By examining all the components of the strategy at once, it may be possible to reveal, for instance, that the "losers" in one of the dimensions are the "winners" in another one. Or the discussion may advance with the help of proposals for cross-component compensations and incentives.

The aim of the negotiation is a consensus on what needs to happen– such as specific objectives, actors, means and activities– to foster each component of the strategy. As mentioned, this is likely to include specific co-management plans for the relevant unit(s) of natural resources, but also complementary agreements dealing with other building blocks leading to the common vision of the desired future. The co-management plans will specify a share of functions, benefits and responsibilities and will be signed by all institutional actors involved (see the first box on the next page). Formal agreements on the other building blocks, also signed by the actors concerned, may include project implementation contracts, a letter of intent, a municipal by-law, etc. (see the second box in the next page). The more actors and the more finances involved, the more advisable it is for the plans and agreements to be made binding (such as formal or legal contracts). The signatories should be those individuals who are directly assigned responsibility in the plans and agreement (and not the authorities who represent them!).

All NRM plans and the associated agreements should specify actors, activities and means, but also a follow-up protocol, including the anticipated results and impacts to be monitored, the indicators and procedures to be followed and the individuals to be held accountable. It should also be noted how long the actors concerned will wait before meeting again to assess whether the chosen course of action has been effective and/or needs to be adjusted (for example through evaluation reviews). Finally, it is good to specify a set of indicators and follow-up procedures for the co-management process itself (see Section 4.3).

Copies of the co-management plans and agreements– written in terms that are simple, easily understandable and in the local language(s), or also in the local language(s)– need to be disseminated to the institutional actors and to the public at large. If a system of zoning has been agreed upon, the maps illustrating it will also need to be reproduced and disseminated.

It is important to keep the institutional actors informed about what has happened in the negotiation meetings, and especially to communicate why certain options have been retained and others excluded. The social communication system set up during the preparatory phase will again be very useful for this purpose.

3.7 Agreeing on specific CM organisations

Socio-economic development and the management of natural resources require a variety of initiatives and activities, as well as on-going experimenting and learning. In fact, the process of negotiating and implementing plans and agreements is never "finished", and some organisations need to remain in charge of executing and reviewing these plans and agreements on an on-going basis. It is also important to make sure that a pluralistic perspective in NRM is internalised in society and becomes the norm rather than the exception. In other words, it is useful to "institutionalise" the process in line with local practices and needs.

'institution' — the complex of organisations, rules, behaviours and values by which society pursues a goal

One of the crucial ingredients of a social institution is time. Only a day-by-day experience through time can give people the sense of normality and the confidence associated with spontaneous, acquired behaviour and its associated social values. Another essential ingredient is a relatively stable organisational set-up, developed on the basis of the agreed pattern of entitlements.

Elements of a co-management plan

  • the geographical limits of the territory, area, or set of natural resources at stake;
  • the complex of functions and sustainable uses it can offer;
  • a co-coordinated series of objectives, priorities and activities for the management of natural resources;
  • the recognised institutional actors;
  • the functions and responsibilities assigned to each institutional actor;
  • the entitlements and benefits granted to each institutional actor;
  • procedures for negotiating on-going decisions and managing eventual conflicts;
  • procedures for implementing and enforcing decisions;
  • expected results at given times; rules for monitoring, evaluating and eventually revising the co-management plans and agreements (follow-up protocol).

  • Examples of agreements associated with a co-management plan

  • A training initiative for one or more local community groups (elders, youth, women, farmers, pastoralists, forest dwellers, etc.)
  • The building of local infrastructures (e.g. a road, a health centre, a school, a communication network, water supplies, power supplies)
  • The setting-up of a Community Investment Fund
  • A by-law to assign some exclusive rights to one or more local stakeholders (e.g. the right to set-up a tourist businesses, the right to collect defined quantities of specific products from a protected area)
  • A public health initiative (e.g. training and supporting community health workers, providing safe water supply systems, public and private baths and toilets, etc.)
  • A project to intensify/ improve local agricultural production
  • Economic and technical support for the creation of local small industries
  • Assistance to the commercialisation of local products

  • Functions and characteristics of co-management organisations

    The organisations that may be set up to sustain the co-management plans and agreements through time may be of different types (e.g. a Board, a Council, a formal or informal Association, a Fund). Their functions (Terms of Reference) may also be fairly different, including:

    • executive bodies (responsible for implementing plans and agreements on the basis of decisions produced by others, e.g., an association of local businesses responsible for executing a project negotiated between the director of a protected area and the bordering communities)
    • decision-making bodies (fully responsible for the management of a given territory, area or set of resources, e.g. the Co-management Board in charge of a state forest, or the committee in charge of a Community Investment Fund)
    • advisory bodies (responsible for advising decision-makers, e.g. a Coastal Council, directly linked with the regional authorities charged with the NR management mandate)
    • mixed bodies (for instance holding partial management responsibility and partial advisory responsibility, such as an Advisory/Management Committee responsible for advising a Park Director on the decisions to be taken in park management but fully in charge of decisions and activities pertaining to the areas at its periphery)

    The institutional actors could decide to set up several CM organisations for the same NRM unit(s), for instance an advisory body and a management body, including an executive secretariat. Other important characteristics of CM organisations are:

    History and duration

    Does the organisation pre-date the co-management plans and agreements or has it been set-up on an ad hoc basis? The former is sometimes preferable, as organisations and rules are a form of valuable social capital that require time and resources to develop. Yet, the perpetuation of a society's organisations may also mean the perpetuation of its internal systems of power and social inequities. Also, is the organisation permanent or is its life-span limited to a given period or activity?


    The members may be representatives of all the institutional actors who developed the co-management plans and agreements, representatives of only a few of them, or mere professionals who do not represent any of the actors concerned (which may be the case for executive bodies). For a decision-making body, composition is a crucial issue. It is important to know who is being represented and what the balance of power is among the different institutional actors (e.g. relative number of members with entitlement to decide).

    Internal rules

    Is the organisation formal (legally recognised) or informal? Is it voluntary and self-organised or mandated by the State? Is it an open-membership organisation or a closed body, whose members can only be elected or appointed? Can anyone become a member or are there specific requirements? How is membership terminated? Is there a Chair? If so, how is the Chair elected? Is there a Secretariat? What are the terms of reference for the Chair and/or the Secretariat? How often and how are the meetings organised and held? Are the decisions taken by consensus? How are conflicts managed? Is there recourse to mediation or arbitration? Can the public, or stakeholders in general, attend the meetings? Are there reporting rules and/or arrangements for the dissemination of the proceedings? Etc.

    Economic resources

    How is the organisation sustained? Does it have any economic assets of its own? Are there membership fees? Are there income-generating activities? If some members regularly spend time on delegated tasks, are they compensated? If so, does compensation take the form of wages or a share in the proceeds?

    As mentioned, a social institution is something more than a body and a set of rules. It is akin to an internalised state of normality in doing things, including expectations and routine reflexes (in particular the sense of shared responsibility in managing natural resources), social norms (the habit of discussing decisions with various stakeholders, and accepting the value of different points of view) and the use of specific terms and concepts in everyday life (such as co-management, but also entitlements, equity, linking of benefits and responsibilities, etc.). In other words, agreeing on an NRM plan and setting up a multi-stakeholder board are crucial but not sufficient steps towards institutionalising a co-management regime. This will be achieved only when— besides and beyond the rules— behaviours and ideas become spontaneously pluralist and respectful of a variety of entitlements and concerns in society.

    3.8 Legitimising and publicising the co-management plans, agreements and organisations

    The end of the negotiation process is marked by a meeting in which the results of the participatory process are made known to the relevant community or public. The meeting is usually held in the presence of authorities with more extensive powers than those who participated in the negotiations. The institutional actors review the common vision of the desired future, the components of a strategy designed to move from the present situation to the common vision, the co-management plans for the natural resources, the agreements set up for each component of the strategy and the organisations and rules developed to accompany implementation. For each agreement involving an NRM plan or any other major initiative or project, someone also describes the follow-up protocol (results anticipated, progress indicators, responsible individuals and/or organisations, etc.).

    This meeting is an excellent opportunity to acknowledge the work of the negotiators and institutional actors and, in general, to celebrate the new hope generated for the entire stakeholder community. At this meeting, the institutional actors can also publicly vow to respect and "collectively guarantee" the co-management plans and agreements, which are presented for all to see, for example by exhibiting copies.

    It is important to note that the co-management plans, agreements and organisations are reconfirmed and celebrated here, but not ritualised and rendered sacrosanct, as it should be the case for the common vision of the desired future agreed upon by all institutional actors. On the contrary, plans, agreements and organisations are to be monitored, evaluated and modified in line with their performance, results and eventual impacts.

    Results of the negotiation phase

    The negotiation phase generally has some or all of the following outputs:

    • A vision of the desired future produced jointly by all the actors concerned. The vision is legitimated by an appropriate socio-cultural ritual that renders it sacrosanct.
    • An analysis of the situation/ issues/ problems at stake and a strategy to achieve the common vision, sub-divided into components with clear objectives.
    • Negotiated co-management plans and agreements among the institutional actors on specific courses of action (objectives and activities) for each component of the strategy. The plans specify the sharing of functions, entitlements and responsibilities in natural resource management among the institutional actors at stake. The agreements deal with a variety of socio-economic issues relating to the co-management plans, and are often designed to complement one another. Plans and agreements are collectively guaranteed by the partners in the process, are specified in some detail (e.g., via simple logical frameworks) and often have a contractual form.
    • One or more CM organisations, with corresponding functions and rules, expressing the plurality of entitlements recognised in society and in charge of the activities and follow-up of the co-management plans and agreements.
    • The co-management plans, agreements and organisations are publicised and made socially legitimate by some public event, but are not ritualised and, in fact, are expected to change with time in response to lessons "learned by doing".
    • Follow-up protocols to monitor and learn from the co-management plans and agreements (including indicators, methods, organisations responsible, a time schedule, etc.).
    • A shared experience in participatory analysis, planning and decision-making for a variety of institutional actors concerned with natural resource management.

    Example Box 8
    A "double speed" management organisation

    The Waza National Park, situated in the Extreme North Province of Cameroon, was created some decades ago. Following the national legislation, the residents of the villages situated inside the park's territory were relocated outside, right at the park's borders. These communities never resigned themselves to the decision, in particular regarding the prohibition of collecting natural resources necessary for their own livelihood. Throughout the years they continued to claim fishing rights on the ponds excavated and managed by their ancestors inside the park, the right of harvesting certain plant products (for instance gum Arabic) from within the park, the right to take their animals to graze inside the park in times of drought, etc. The ensuing conflicts between communities and park management brought the Waza Logone project, implemented by the IUCN and financed by the Dutch Development Agency, to initiate a co-management process to secure the natural resources of the park via agreements among the different stakeholders.

    The process of negotiating among stakeholders facilitated by the IUCN brought about the establishment of a multi-stakeholder management structure, with the aim of approving the conventions regulating the management of the Waza park and its periphery. Noticeably, the definition of the terms of the mandate of the structure encountered the strong reluctance of the park conservation service. After several months spent in search of a suitable compromise, the parties agreed on a "double speed mandate": a consulting role regarding the management of the park itself (whose mandate stays with the conservation service), and a full management role regarding the periphery zone. With this double role in mind, the structure was named the Consultative/Management Committee of the Waza National Park and its Periphery.

    The Consultative/Management Committee of the Waza National Park and its Periphery was legalised by the Minister of Environment and Forests of Cameroon with a decision pertaining to its internal organisation and functioning rules. The structure includes members possessing full rights and members with consultative powers only.

    The members with full rights are:

  • 4 representatives from the Park Conservation Service
  • 1 representative from the Provincial Delegation of Environment and Forests
  • 3 representatives of the Central Service of the Environment and Forests Ministry
  • 5 representatives of the men from the settled communities in the park's periphery
  • 5 representatives of the women from the settled communities in the park's periphery
  • 2 representatives of cattle-rearing nomads (a man and a woman) and 1 representative of transhumant cattle-rearing people usually interested in the pasture of Waza Park and its periphery.
  • 2 representatives of youths (a man and a woman) from the settled communities in the park's periphery.

    The members with consultative powers only are:

  • the mayors of the interested rural municipalities (Waza, Zina, Petté),
  • the head authorities of the relevant Districts (Waza, Zina, Ngodeni, Fadaré, Kossa),
  • a representative of the Scientific Council for the Waza park
  • three representatives of the Waza Logone project
  • a representative of the Management Committee of the Waza-Logone Plain (another multi-party management structure in the same province, also promoted by the Waza Logone project).

  • Comments and feedback on this page, or this publication, are welcomed. These should be may be sent by e-mail to the authors at: gbf@cenesta.org, taghi@unforgettable.com, cogestion.iucn@camnet.cm, reseau.cogestion@camnet.cm

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