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Les cahiers de l’Institut français de la biodiversité
Protected Areas: Combining Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development
Foundations and Recommendations for a Development Cooperation Strategy on Protected Area Management
Friday 21 November 2003, by Web Team

As part of the preparations for the World Parks Congress to be held in Durban in 2003, and the upcoming Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wished to hold discussions on sustainable management of protected areas and their living resources and its place in France’s international cooperation. For this purpose, it charged France’s Center for International Cooperation in Agricultural Research for Development (Cirad) with coordinating a multidisciplinary working group. The group conducted a literature review, established and managed an online discussion group and carried out a series of interviews with resource persons in various institutions. This work led to the drafting of recommendations for a strategy for development cooperation on protected area management, which will serve as the foundation for our policies in this area.

Reasons for Having a Strategy for Development Cooperation on Protected Areas

The economies of the Southern countries are mostly based on exploiting renewable and non-renewable natural resources. This means that sustainable management of these resources is critical for development and the fight against poverty.

There are often conflicts in such countries relating to competition for access to resources and sharing resources amongst members of the community. These problems have been compounded by the combined effects of population growth, migration, the need for economic development and the difficulties that governments sometimes encounter in defining and enforcing management rules. The result is massive depletion of resources and damage to ecosystems that is irreparable in some cases.

In the specific instance of protected areas, particularly in Africa, the problems cited often relate to illegal human habitation in these areas, with the usual consequences, such as environmental damage and poaching. These problems lead to conflicts over the management of natural resources, which may be governed by very diverse and unclear laws and regulations. For a long time, the prevailing approach, particularly at the time when newly independent countries set up their national parks, aimed at protecting nature from man by putting it under a "bell jar". Such policies meant that populations saw their rights to use resources in protected areas confiscated. As governments grew weaker in these countries, failure to enforce laws ended up creating increasingly free access to resources, which meant massive depletion of these resources by some individuals and conflicts over their use.

A more innovative approach was taken with the move towards "participatory" projects established around protected areas. These projects involved the neighbouring communities by redistributing the benefits and establishing micro-development projects to compensate for the loss of access to protected resources. Development is still seen as a constraint rather than an opportunity for conservation, since communities do not have enough to say in the decision-making process.

This means that the Government still plays a crucial role in managing protected areas. Article 3 of the Convention on Biological Diversity upholds the States’ sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental policies. This notion of sovereignty carries with it obligations, as well as rights. Even though it enables governments to apply such principles as the user-payer principle, it also requires them to establish a system for sharing the benefits created by the exploitation of these resources.

Research has shown that there are often existing traditional resource management systems,which could be used as a basis for setting up decentralised management arrangements that involve all stakeholders, including the private sector, local communities and governments. These arrangements would be based on negotiation and arbitration. The fact that all stakeholders accept them would help maintain peace. It should be possible to create original and sustainable resource management and conflict-prevention systems at the intersection between traditional knowledge and legal and administrative rules.

In his famous article, "The Tragedy of the Commons" (1968), which really should be renamed "The Tragedy of Free Access", Hardin advanced private ownership as the only way to guarantee efficient management of resources. However, somewhere between government ownership and private ownership, there are a diversity of forms of collective ownership, particularly in Africa, where jus soli is just one of many expressions of ownership and private property is a very special case.

Thus, there are two keys : to sustainable resource management:
- Access to the resource needs to be regulated by rules and an enforcement system, rather than by providing compensation for the loss of access to the resource.
- The nature of the decision-making process for arriving at the rules and the enforcement system is critical. The way they work is likely to be very different, depending on whether decisions are imposed by one stakeholder or negotiated and set down in a contract binding all stakeholders.

The approach to land management should also be comprehensive, so as to facilitate dialogue between the different stakeholders (managers, users, owners), despite their diverging interests.

A Strategy in Keeping with France’s Development Cooperation Policies

France’s development cooperation strategy is in line with international agreements, including multilateral environmental agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as with the OECD Development Assistance Committee’s guidelines. The strategy should primarily consist of seeking ways to improve management of protected areas and their living resources in the countries that are France’s partners in development cooperation.

The arguments and recommendations contained in this document were elaborated with the participation of the resource persons from various bodies (Ministries, government agencies, scientists, non-governmental organisations, consultants and protected area managers).

This document should make a major contribution to the debates on the role of protected areas at the Durban World Parks Congress and at the Seventh Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.


This document is available in English and french

Source : Institut français de la biodiversité - 57, rue Cuvier, 75231 PARIS CEDEX 05 - France




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