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gouvernance des ressources naturelles de la planète

Sharing Power. Example of international agreements that promote co-management principles

Documents sources

Borrini-Feyerabend Grazia, Pimbert Michel, Farvar M.Taghi, Kothari Ashish, Renard Yves et al, Sharing Power - Learning by Doing in Co-management of Natural Resources throughout the World, IIED, IUCN, CMWG, CEESP, 2004

In a context of political, economic and cultural globalisation, and in light of the power and influence of supra-national institutions and processes, it is important to consider the role of international policy frameworks and instruments. Indeed, the past three decades since the 1972 Stockholm UN Conference on the Human Environment have seen the growing importance of global governance in several ways:

  • trade liberalisation agreements have led to the emergence of powerful new institutions and corporations that are based on transnational markets;

  • regional political and economic groupings have been expanded and strengthened, including the European Union, the Free Trade Area of the Americas and the Asia Free Trade Association;

  • global standards and commitments have been formulated and adopted, particularly through a number of international conventions and agreements; and

  • institutional arrangements have been put in place for the management of the global commons, particularly through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Climate Change Convention.

International instruments and agreements impact directly on co-management at the local level, particularly because:

  • requirements for participation and co-management are stipulated in several of the conventions and other binding or non-binding instruments;

  • several multilateral and bilateral donor agencies have introduced provisions, guidelines and conditionalities aimed at promoting co-management and other participatory approaches; and

  • trade and other international policies impact on the conditions of and capacities for resource use and management at the local level.

In many respects, the most fundamental international instrument in support of co-management remains the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December 1948, the Declaration is not legally binding but is considered as an international instrument of tremendous political and symbolic importance. After the adoption of this Declaration, the UN Commission on Human Rights began drafting legally binding documents. The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) were adopted in 1966.

Articles 1.1 of both the ICESCR and ICCPR uphold the right of all peoples to self- determination : “All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”.

Articles 1.2 of both covenants similarly support the right to development : “All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based on the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence”.

Other international conventions are of particular relevance to marginal social groups who live in areas rich in biological diversity, and who may engage in co- management processes. For example Convention 169 Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, commonly known as ILO 169, was adopted in June 1989 by the Conference of the International Labour Organisation. ILO 169 specifically stresses the need for the participation of indigenous peoples in the decision-making process regarding resources and lands on which they have claims of dependence. Article 2.1 affirms that : “Governments shall have the responsibility for developing, with the participation of the peoples concerned, co-ordinated and systematic action to protect the rights of these peoples and to guarantee respect for their integrity”.

According to ILO 169, the protection of indigenous rights is the responsibility of governments, but only with the cooperation and participation of the indigenous peoples themselves. Similarly, many of the principal rights described in the United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples1 can use- fully guide co-management processes and negotiated agreements over the use of natural resources (Box 10.19).

Agenda 21, adopted at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, called for effective participation in all the elements of planning and development. In particular:

  • Chapter 8 (Integrating environment and development in decision-making) states that “an adjustment or even a fundamental reshaping of decision-making, in the light of country specific conditions, may be necessary if environment and development is to be put at the centre of economic and political decision-making, in effect achieving full integration of these factors.”

  • Chapter 23 (Strengthening the role of the major groups) identifies, in the “specific context of environment and development, the need for new forms of par- ticipation” and notes “the need of individuals, groups and organisations to participate in decisions, particularly those that affect the communities in which they live and work.”

  • In Chapter 26 (Recognising and strengthening the role of indigenous people and their communities), active participation is called for to incorporate their “values, views and knowledge.”

  • Chapter 33 (Financial resources and mechanisms) stresses that “priorities should be established by means that incorporate public participation and community involvement providing equal opportunity for men and women. In this respect, consultative groups and round tables and other nationally-based mechanisms can play a facilitative role.”

  • Chapter 37 (National mechanisms and international cooperation for capacity- building) states that, “as an important aspect of overall planning, each country should seek internal consensus at all levels of society on policies and pro- grammes needed for short and long-term capacity building to implement its Agenda 21 programme. This consensus should result from a participatory dialogue of relevant interest groups and lead to an identification of skill gaps, institutional capacities, technological and scientific requirements and resource needs to enhance environmental knowledge and administration to integrate environment and development”.

The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) reaffirmed many of the commitments and principles adopted in Rio, and promoted the concept of partnerships. In the strict sense of the term, a partnership is no different from co-management, but the dominant discourses at the Johannesburg Summit applied the concept to all forms of collaboration, including those where industry remained the primary factor and actor. Nevertheless, the Summit‘s emphasis on partnerships only serves to underscore the value of collaboration and participation, and the need to bring all actors into the management process.

One of the most significant developments that have taken place recently on the international scene in the field of natural resource governance is the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This significance lies in its focus on traditional knowledge and practices, in the fact that it is legally binding, and in an approach that goes beyond indigenous groups and includes all local communities. The Convention stresses the need to involve indigenous and other local communities in the conservation of biological diversity, and in the sharing of benefits derived from the use of these resources. Article 8(j) of the Convention commits parties to: “subject to [their] national legislation, [to] respect, preserve and maintain knowl- edge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilisation of such knowledge, innovations and practices”.

Similarly, Article 10(c) stipulates that each country should: “protect and encourage customary use of biological resources in accordance with traditional cultural practices that are compatible with conservation or sustainable use requirements; support local populations to develop and implement remedial action in degraded areas where biological diversity has been reduced; and encourage cooperation between its governmental authorities and its private sectors in developing methods for sustainable use of biological resources.”

More recently, the Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on Biological Diversity has adopted the ecosystem approach as the primary framework for the implementation of the Convention. The COP has approved operational guide- lines, and these are based on twelve broad principles. Particularly noteworthy among these are principles 1 and 2, which stress the need for societal choice and decentralisation of management to the lowest possible level (Box 10.20).


Last but not least, the CBD Programme of Work on Protected Areas approved at the 7th Conference of the Parties to the Convention (February, 2004) includes an entire programme element on “Governance, participation, equity and benefit sharing”.2 The programme promotes equity and benefit-sharing and the full and effective participation of indigenous and local communities in the establishment and management of protected areas. It recommends the parties, inter alia, to:

  • 2.2.1 Establish policies and institutional mechanisms with full participation of indigenous and local communities, to facilitate the legal recognition and effective management of indigenous and local community conserved areas in a manner consistent with the goals of conserving both biodiversity and the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities.

  • 2.2.2 Implement specific plans and initiatives to effectively involve indigenous and local communities, with respect for their rights consistent with national legislation and applicable international obligations, and stakeholders 3 at all levels of protected areas planning, establishment, governance and management, with particular emphasis on identifying and removing barriers pre- venting adequate participation.

  • 2.2.4 Promote an enabling environment (legislation, policies, capacities, and resources) for the involvement of indigenous and local communities and relevant stakeholders77 in decision making, and the development of their capacities and opportunities to establish and manage protected areas, including community-conserved and private protected areas.

Another critical international instrument is the Convention to Combat Desertification, which provides for the formulation and adoption of national action programmes that specify the respective roles of government, local communities and land users, and the resources available and needed. The Parties to the Convention shall 4, inter alia:

  • (e) promote policies and strengthen institutional frameworks that develop cooper- ation and coordination, in a spirit of partnership, among the donor community, governments at all levels, local populations and community groups, and facilitate access by local populations to appropriate information and technology;

  • (f) provide for effective participation at the local, national and regional levels of non-governmental organisations and local populations, both women and men, particularly resource users, including farmers and pastoralists and their representative organisations, in policy planning, decision-making, and implementation and review of national action programmes.

Like the emphasis on partnerships, a second important trend of the past few years has been the adoption, by most multi-lateral, bi-lateral, governmental and non-governmental agencies, of the discourse on communities and participation. Yet, beyond the apparent homogeneity of this discourse, there are differing ideologies and perspectives even within individual organisations 5 and, even more importantly, the practice does not always correspond to policy discourse and rhetoric 6.

For example, non-governmental organisations from 26 countries have federated in the Pan-European Eco Forum to promote the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention)7. The Aarhus Convention has been ratified by 17 countries (only Denmark and Italy among western European countries) and came into force in October 2001. The convention concerns in particular issues related to the installation of industrial plants (for energy— including nuclear, mining, chemical and genetically modified organisms, or industrial meat production and waste management facilities that have environmental effects). The Aarhus Convention has been promoted mainly by non-governmental organisations in Eastern Europe but poses a serious challenge to nominally democratic Western European governments, which have shown particular resistance to its ratification.8 It seems that, once again, civil society needs to organise and take action to secure and consolidate its rights.

As seen in this rapid survey of policies that can foster or impede co-management regimes, inclusive participation and citizen engagement are key to getting such policies right. This is miles away from the meek “consultation” and “dialogue” on terms largely decided by others often proposed by environment and development agencies, governments and corporations. To get to the heart of the matter, the very process of policy-making (who makes policy and how) needs to be understood and transformed. The themes “empowerment of peoples”, “democratic participation”, “citizen voice”, “inclusion in policy making” and “information democracy” should be explored in great detail. As some would say, a non negotiable principle is that participation is a basic human right.



1 The Draft Declaration on the Rights for Indigenous Peoples was agreed upon by members of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations at its 11th session in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1993. The declaration is expected to be finalised in 2004 or 2005.

2 For more comprehensive analysis and guidance on the implications of the CBD Programme of Work regarding indigenous peoples and local communities, see Borrini-Feyerabend et al., 2004.

3 In this context nomadic communities and pastoralists are given special reference.

4 See

5 Jeanrenaud 2002.

6 Pimbert, 2004a; Pimbert, 2004b.

7 See and Box 10.14 earlier in this Chapter.

8 Finger-Stitch and Finger, 2003.