During the course of the e-conference, two distinct interests in analysing natural resource conflicts became obvious. The first was analysing natural resource conflicts to understand how to better address them, either as a party directly or indirectly involved. The second was analysing conflicts from an academic/research perspective. A case-specific analysis of conflicts includes understanding the parties involved in the conflict, their objectives, their position, their relationship with each other and the resource, and the information they have available. A broader analysis of the conflict involves identifying the possible cause of the conflict by reviewing the context within which conflicts occur, typifying conflicts, determining the stakes associated with the conflict, the resource involved, the actors' relationship with the resource and resource use, the state of the resource and its availability.
"Can different ways of solving/resolving/managing conflicts and disputes be .compared without discussing and comparing the different value systems (normative systems) underpinning them (Sheehan, 29 January 1996)?"
Analysis of the conflict needs a clear understanding of the level. at which the conflict occurs. It is also necessary to review the context of the conflict to accurately identify the interplay between power, laws, traditional practices and gender concerns. It is important that the chosen analytical framework complements the context within .which the conflict is occurring.
Potential approaches for analysing natural resource conflicts are the actor-oriented approach, the stake-oriented approach, the resource-oriented approach or a combination of the three. These approaches work with the three dimensions of natural resource conflicts: actors, resource and stake, and help determine the relationship between them. Parties directly involved in the conflict, as well as third parties and researchers, can use these approaches.
The actor-oriented approach involves understanding the conflict on the basis of power, goals and information of the actor. The premise underlying this approach is that actors involve themselves and react to a conflict based on the information they have available, the changes in power that would result and the impact it would have on their goals (Skutsch, 24 January 1996). Understanding the parties involved in the conflict can help determine their decision-making process and relationships of power (Ortiz, 28 January 1996). Knowledge of the power disparities and relationship between the parties, assists in the facilitation process.
E-conference discussions presented the following information regarding the actor-oriented approach developed by Long. The actor-oriented approach is based on the idea of `social interfaces' (which are interfaces where people interact, not actors and resources, as defined in the issues paper). Under such a framework, every situation is conceived of as an `arena' in which the various actors (e.g., local groups within the community with different interests, outside groups that make use of the resource or want to, departments within a government that may also be to some extent in competition with each other, and even individuals who have their own agenda) play out their struggle with whatever means they have at their disposal in order to reach their own goals. The researcher can trace who the various actors are and try to discern why the actors used certain strategies/tactics. Different actors have different powers and different means, therefore the particular conditions and environment in which they occur have to be considered when identifying the actors (Skutsch, 24 January 1996).
Bressers and Klok further developed the idea of actor-oriented analysis. Many models assume, in some way or other, that actors in the arena of conflict assess for themselves what the possibilities are for gaining their maximum payoff, but Bressers allows for a complex environment and interaction effects to be brought into the model. Thus, when a new opportunity arises - for example, a community forestry project is mooted or forest land is considered for reclassification - all the actors will individually try to determine their position on the matter in terms of their own interests and will react accordingly. However, how the individual makes up his/her mind and what s/he does are, in fact, controlled by three core factors: goals, power and information (not only her/his own, but also those of the other actors). Whenever something (like a community-forestry intervention) occurs, the actor decides how to react, on the basis of whatever information is available to her/him regarding what the change implies for her/his power, and how it relates to her/his goals.
Power - the capacity to do something or to prevent something from being done - is of course relative. The researcher has to assess the relative power bases. The actors always operate on the basis of `bounded rationality'; in other words, the information they have about the intervention, about other actors' goals and power, and about the reality of perceived payoffs. Their information set is less than perfect when they make their decisions. They take rational decisions, but these may be based on inadequate information and thus lead to sub-optimal solutions.
All the elements that can influence the three core factors originate either in the environment (meaning of course the wider environment, including the social/political environment, not just the physical) or in the intervention itself. The researcher needs to trace these. The three core factors provide a way to structure (the analysis of) the path from inception of the intervention to effect. And the whole process is seen as essentially two phased: first, a plan is converted to concrete measures and, second, people get to deal with the measures after they have been implemented, and a lot of formal and informal bargaining goes on at both points.
One of the constraints with this approach is its limited applicability for understanding the broader context. Another concern was that this approach would not be useful in detecting or understanding latent conflicts where the actors involved are difficult to identify.
An alternative analytical approach is the stake-oriented approach. This involves identifying the political, economic, social and environmental stakes associated with a conflict. One of the strengths of the stake-oriented approach extends beyond what is often found within a biological understanding of natural resources since it incorporates social issues (Recharte, 1 February 1996). This approach can help identify latent conflicts and actors involved indirectly in a conflict. Upon identifying the stakes, with some information on the actors, it is possible to understand the relationship between the actors and the resource.
The resource-oriented approach involves understanding the ecological aspects of the natural resource, the formal resource management systems, the informal resource management systems, and the patterns of access, control and use of the resource. Knowing about the resource over which the conflict is occurring can help identify the power differences in the actors involved. For example, when the resource is heavily degraded, the difference in power between the parties in conflict is significantly less than when the value of the resource is high, in which case the power disparities are often pronounced (Chandrasekharan, quoting Singh, 1996). This approach is often complemented with either the actor- or stake-oriented approach.
Most discussions regarding how to analyse a conflict implicitly promoted the use of a stake-oriented approach. Alternatively a combination of the stakes, actors and resource approaches was used. The combination of the three different approaches would depend on the conflict and the context within which it occurs.
E-conference discussions covered the appropriateness of each approach. It was felt that the actor-oriented approaches would be interesting at the case- specific level. At this level, the analysis would capture which parties are involved in the conflict, understand the dynamics between the parties, the historical relationship between the parties, the resource, the access, proximity, existing rights, knowledge, decision-making rights and dependency on the resource. The actororiented approach also provides information on the actors' access to information, potential alliances and the power distribution. The stake and resource approach were recommended to better understand the causes of the conflict and for information that could be related to the actors.