Synthesis of E-Conference Discussions
Community-level gender dynamics, resource capacity, process of policy making, legal frameworks, economic/market forces, power disparities at the local, national and international level and value of indigenous knowledge and many other topics were discussed in the e-conference. The information and material collected provided a basis for better understanding the nexus between community forestry and conflict management. This section reviews the main points of the econference discussions and makes suggestions regarding what could be done to further understand the role of community forestry in conflict management and how community forestry can cause conflicts. Before presenting a conclusion, this section provides a brief overview of activities that CFU/FTPP are coordinating to further develop the topic of conflict management in the context of community forestry.
The e-conference was not oriented towards generating consensus regarding ideas or understandings of natural resource conflicts or their management. One of the main objectives of the e-conference was to promote dialogue and the exchange of material, experiences and theoretical and practical ideas on natural resource conflicts and conflict management in the context of community forestry. Although there was never any formally recognized consensus, there were several points over which it is fair to assume there was implicit consensus. These points are:
- there are traditional approaches in place that have been effective for managing conflicts, but these approaches are not always equitable;
- traditional practices are being weakened because of the global changes and introduction of formal systems;
- there are certain strengths and weaknesses in the formal legislative structure;
- if external intervention is planned in a potential or ongoing conflict, either for research purposes or to manage the situation, it is important to clearly define the objective of the intervention;
- conflicts have to be analysed and managed by taking into consideration the context within which they occur;
- it should always be taken into account that latent conflicts can occur;
- power plays a significant role in determining how, if at all, the conflict is manifested and managed;
- conflict management should provide weaker parties more options for managing conflicts in which they are involved;
- developing countries are dealing with new patterns of resource use as a result of, amongst other things, migration, population increase, economic changes such as economic liberalization, decentralization, and changes in the communities' resource consumption patterns;
- in East Africa and West Africa most conflicts stem from the existing political structure, issues related to land tenure and competing interests between pastoralists and agriculturists;
- efforts have been made in certain Asian countries to create greater legal space for community-based natural resource management; and · in Latin America there is a need to facilitate discussion amongst stakeholders and create a sense of responsibility regarding the follow-up options.
Within the broad range of topics, issues and ideas covered during the e-conference, there was extensive discussion of a selected range of issues. These discussions addressed the following questions:
- What are feasible objectives for conflict management?
- Does external intervention create more problems than solutions?
- When should there be external intervention in conflicts? Referred to often when there is intervention by development agents or professional mediators/facilitators.
- Will training in mediation and facilitation really reduce situations of conflict or result in overselling conflict management?
- How can external actors overcome their constraints, such as limited time and difficulties in identifying latent conflicts?
- Can conflict management operate in a legal framework independent of the legislative framework or should it work with the legal system?
- Should there be discussion regarding alternative legal frameworks if there is no support for such legal space?
- What should the characteristics of an external third party be and can an external party be truly neutral?
- What is the most ideal approach for analysing conflicts - the actor-, stake-, or resource-oriented approach or a combination?
- Why are some of the tools used in community forestry appropriate/inappropriate for conflict management?
- What legal practices/programmes provide the necessary formal legal space or legal recognition of community-based natural resource management and are these enough?
- Can indigenous knowledge be extended to conflicts that involve parties endorsing different normative principles?
- Is there a cost or risky aspect of conflict management? · Can conflict management imply `coercive harmony'? Can external actors (development agents and institutions) prevent conflicts from worsening when they have diverging perspectives regarding natural resource management?
- With conflict management or participatory approaches, are we really speaking for the voiceless in forums for the development of Forestry Master Plans and National Environmental Action Plans?
- What incentives do governments and other institutions and individuals have to effectively devolve power?
The e-conference discussions helped in the understanding of the nexus between conflict management and community forestry by assessing the principles, applications and tools used in the two different disciplines. From the discussions it is possible to conclude that participatory principles are of value to both community forestry and conflict management. However, it is clear that the application of these principles will vary depending on the context, intensity and scope of the conflict.
The e-conference discussions suggest that programmes or institutions involved in promoting community forestry would be valuable to proactive conflict management. For example, effective planning of natural resource management, involving a participatory approach, taking into consideration the impact (in terms of potential conflicts) of the management plan and addressing the relevant institutional conditions would help prevent conflicts. In addition, proactive conflict management would benefit from community forestry approaches that bring individuals from various local, national and international government and non-governmental institutions together.
To further develop the nexus between community forestry and conflict management there needs to be additional discussion on several issues. A few key issues include understanding the dynamics in communities involved in community forestry practices without a direct link to a project or programme. Additional discussion on the use of arbitration and the principles underlying legal training would help determine how conflict management would be different from existing legal and extra-legal ways of managing conflicts. Another important issue to consider is the constraints that can be associated with conflict management. For example, external interventions of conflict management may not be able to provide the necessary time and continuity required to manage latent conflicts. Addressing these and other key issues would help determine when and how conflict management can contribute to making natural resource management an even more wholistic and integrated approach.
Where do we go from here?
Now, more than ever, conflict management in the context of natural resource conflicts is critical. With increasing decentralization, economic liberalization and globalization through trade and market invasion, governments in developing countries are changing their policies towards natural resource use. These macro changes are also affecting decision-making processes in communities seemingly isolated from global forces. Hence, there is a need to raise awareness and increase recognition of community-based natural resource management and the conflicts that result within, between and around communities. In order to do this effectively, it is important to further develop the understanding of the nexus between community forestry and conflict management. Some of the steps we see as essential to better integrating conflict management and community forestry are as follows:
- Clarify terms and concepts associated with conflict management and community forestry, because conflicts are a social phenomenon and culture influences the perception of a conflict. It is important, therefore, to know how different cultures, societies and communities define activities such as mediation, facilitation and involvement of a third party. It is also important to clarify what, if anything, distinguishes conflict management and conflict resolution. The list of concepts or terms should also include how different regions interpret political, economic and social terms, such as `decentralization', `economic value' and `community'. The different interpretations from a disciplinary perspective would also be useful.
- Use case studies to abstract how conflict management can address natural resource conflicts. This will also require a better understanding of the interplay between dynamic factors, such as resource degradation, migration, market forces and social values. Developing effective ways to manage natural resource conflicts should address root causes of conflicts. Information from case studies would help create links between the different factors in conflict, such as commercialization and conflicts, migration and changes in resource use, legislative frameworks and resource management schemes.
- Understand the cost or risk of conflict management. There is a fine line between conflict management and creating additional conflicts and improving the situation. Recognizing, addressing and managing a situation of conflict can involve changes in relationships and dynamics between parties. These changes can be positive or negative depending on how they arise and how they are implemented and institutionalized. If, through externally run conflict management, recognition is given to a situation of conflict that cannot be fully addressed by the external party, there is a potential for creating additional conflicts that may result in greater costs to the party with less power rather than improving its standing. Conflict management is associated with risk since change can entail risks. Thus, a clear understanding of the costs of conflict and how they can be reduced is essential.
- Assess institutions. This assesment would consider the kinds of conflicts institutions are in contact with, whether they have a role in the conflict and what contribution they could make to both proactive and reactive conflict management. Such an assessment would help establish how different institutions could collaborate in the process of conflict management. This would be valuable to the development of a global network.
- Address, through additional discourse, the key questions raised during the e-conference, such as whether conflict management can imply coercive harmony. How can we reduce conflicts stemming from different development paradigms? Is conflict management, as an alternative to the legislative framework, viable and sustainable? Is an integrated legal framework the solution to managing conflicts? Is the taming of global forces such as commercialization necessary to manage conflicts?
- Consider whether community forestry is over extending itself by getting involved in proactive conflict management, which can involve policy and decision making. Should community forestry be involved in conflict management when it takes a value-based position regarding communities and their involvement in natural resource management?
- Build awareness of conflict management in the context of natural resource management and community forestry at forums for policy and decision-makers. Policy advocacy, joint decision-making, participatory assessments, research and data collection all contribute to conflict management. Therefore, it is important to increase the familiarity of experts and professionals in different fields of the contribution and role of conflict management and community forestry in natural resource conflicts.
With the selected structure and approach used in the e-conference, we were able to meet several of the objectives we had from the outset. The e-conference presented the opportunity to carry out a needs assessment for conflict management in the context of community forestry. The information disseminated to conferees covered a broad range of topics. This information furthered the process of developing an analytical framework for better understanding and analysing conflicts. Much material presented lessons to be learned or concerns, ideas and questions that were insightful and useful in defining the nexus between community forestry and conflict management. E-conference material is being used in research, training, course material, for project development, project evaluation and monitoring, and for field work. The e-conference structure helped connect researchers, lawyers, field practitioners, project managers and other professionals from different parts of the world. Several conferees re-established contact with former colleagues and others made new contacts, establishing an informal network.
Activities and products in conflict management
This section presents some of the products and activities in conflict management coordinated by the Community Forestry Unit (CFU) and the Forests, Trees and People Programme (FTPP). The activities and products are the further steps being taken to better understand conflict management in the context of community forestry and also increase the awareness of the need for conflict management in community forestry. The objective is to address some of the needs mentioned above. The activities and products are distinguished between those coordinated by CFU and the Global and Regional components of FTPP
From the Community Forestry Unit and the Global Component of FTPP
- Trilingual Bibliography: This bibliography will present annotations of material, both published and unpublished, on natural resource conflicts and their management. The bibliography will identify the keywords and potential users of the different material and categorize them based on the main topic covered. The document will present the annotation in three languages: English, French and Spanish. This document will hopefully serve to clarify some of the concepts associated with conflict management and community forestry.
- Case Study Collection: This will present a selection of case studies that illustrate the complexity of conflicts, and present an analysis clearly illustrating the different elements associated with conflicts. This collection will show the application of conflict management and community forestry concepts at different levels. The document should be useful for field workers, academics, and researchers.
- Community Forestry Concept Note on Conflict Management: Produced to target academics, researchers, project/programme managers. The document presents a conceptual understanding of the field of conflict management within the context of natural resource management.
- Technical Satellite Meeting (Antalya, Turkey, 10-13 October 1997), prior to the XIth World Forestry Congress (WFC), to better understand the role of a range of institutions in natural resource conflicts and conflict management, primarily in the context of community forestry. The objective of this meeting is to gain better insight into the constraints and issues to be addressed and the potential for natural resource conflict management in sustainable forest resource management; to identify and propose priorities for action in promoting development of conflict management, taking into consideration the social, economic, political and legal institutional dimensions; to develop a broad strategy framework and guidelines for integrating conflict management into planning, policy and decision-making; and to provide suggestion/recommendations for action at various levels and to support national efforts in conflict management.
- Presentation of a special paper on conflict management and community forestry at the XIth WFC (Antalya, Turkey, 10-13 October 1997): This is an opportunity to introduce the ideas of conflict management and the prevalence of natural resource conflicts and to stress the importance of addressing such conflicts in an integrated manner at a global forum of discussions regarding forestry.
From the Regional Components of FTPP
`Methodology for Addressing Natural Resource Conflicts': The regional component of FTPP in Latin America coordinated an electronic conference after the global e-conference to develop a methodological guide for addressing natural resource conflicts. This methodological guide considers local participation to be a key element in the management of natural resource conflicts. The methodological guide includes three modules:
- presentation and definition of concepts and notions;
- discussion of key questions and strategies about how to assess and understand conflicts; and
- discussion of key questions and strategies on how to deal with conflicts.
`Training Material for Trainers' is a document being coordinated by the regional component of FTPP in Asia. The material will be organized in sections, the first of which will present an introductory manual to provide background to the field, define conflict resolution and its application in society. It will also provide a framework for conflict resolution in natural resource management, with descriptions of conflicts in the field, areas for application and potential outcomes. The manual will present applications such as organizing facilitation, mediations, negotiations and working groups. There will also be place for discussion regarding process and procedures.
Natural resource conflicts are becoming a frequent occurrence. This is because natural resources serve multiple purposes ranging from commercial uses (e.g., logging, non-wood forest products) to services (e.g., biodiversity conservation) and subsistence needs. In addition, the interplay between the principal factors (e.g., migration, devaluation, resource degradation, unclear tenure, increased value and centralized decision-making) influence the perspective and relationship between different interest groups and the natural resource.
E-conference discussions covered practical and theoretical issues regarding natural resource conflicts, conflict management and community forestry. Numerous contributions implicitly advanced the process of defining the nexus between community forestry and conflict management. In the context of community forestry, conflicts arise across continuums of power, scope and intensity. Several variables impact the effectiveness of conflict management, including: all the possible combinations of actors, power disparities, stakes and resources; the relationships between these dimensions of conflicts; the role of institutions; the role of outsiders; and the approach. Therefore, conflict management cannot present a unique solution., but rather it is a processes with choices.
Conflict management inevitably changes the relationships between the actors, or parties, in terms of power, economic, political, legal and social conditions. Conflict management must ensure that all parties in conflict benefit from the changes it promotes and that the resulting process and choices extend beyond the simple resolution of a conflict. Conflict management must also be cautious about potentially negative changes from its activities such as accentuating power disparities or increasing gender-based conflicts. Conflict management should complement and work with existing policy, economic, environmental, legal and social opportunities and constraints in community forestry. The process of further defining the nexus between conflict management and community forestry should build on the need to complement the long-term objectives and flexibility of community forestry with the long-term impact of conflict management.