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Fonds documentaire dynamique sur la
gouvernance des ressources naturelles de la planète

Sharing Power : The influence of foreign agencies might restrict the freedom of action of political decision-makers

The failure of a forest protection project promoted by the World Bank in Haiti

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 some cases, political will is not enough to implement sustainable natural resources management policies. Why is it so? Because laws and policies instruments that are supposed to derive from, and be consistent with, a national vision of development, are often directly influenced by international agencies, especially in Southern States. The Wold Bank sponsored “National Environmental Action Plans” (NEAP) and “Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers” (PRSP), as well as some strategy papers or policy statements developed in accordance with bi-lateral or multi-lateral agencies, constitutes some tools that directly put into question the independence and the freedom of action of national political decision-makers.

Box 10.2. Co-management of forests and protected areas in Haiti (adapted from Renard, 2002)

Between 1996 and 2001, the World Bank and the Government of Haiti implemented a project called Projet d’Appui Technique à la Protection des Parcs et Forêts, which aimed at conserving and managing the last remaining forests of this impoverished Caribbean country. The project had a number of components, including capacity-building and institutional strengthening for government agencies and civil society organisations, promotion of social and economic development activities within and around forests and protected areas, preparation of management plans for individual protected areas, and establishment of co-management institutions and agreements at the local level.

This project was designed and initiated at a time when the political situation in Haiti presented signs of hope. A new President of the Republic had been elected with overwhelming popular support, a relatively stable government was in place, and critical policy reforms were being initiated. This project was part of a broader vision based on the restoration of democracy and the protection of the basic rights of citizens, the improvement of governance through decentralisation and community empowerment, nd the reduction of poverty through economic diversification, social protection and improved environmental management.

Co-management of forests and protected areas fitted well in this vision. Through co-management arrangements, this project aimed at strengthening local authority and responsibility over the management of critical natural assets, at giving a prominent role to community organisations, at promoting sustainable use of resources, and at protecting the last remaining areas of forests, in a country renowned for its extreme poverty, and for the extent of its deforestation and overall environmental degradation.

While the project had a number of positive impacts before being interrupted in 2001, as a result of the sanctions imposed on Haiti by the international community, it was not able to achieve its objectives of establishing viable co-management agreements. Specifically, three factors militated against the achievement of these objectives: (a) the state and its civil society partners remained unable to protect citizens and community organisations against corruption and against political and economic violence imposed by powerful interests (the “rules of the game” that prevailed on the ground remained basically unchanged), (b) people did not trust government agencies and officials, and were not prepared to collaborate with them in matters of importance to their livelihoods and survival, and (c) the state and its agencies remained unwilling to delegate formal authority to non-governmental and community partners.

In many respects, it was futile to attempt to establish co-management institutions in a country where basic human rights were not respected, state institutions ware largely perceived as corrupt and unreliable, and community empowerment was bound to be perceived as a threat to dominant groups ans interests within and outside government.