Assessing the Need to Manage Conflict in Community-Based Natural Resource Projects

Assessing the Need to Manage Conflict in Community-Based Natural Resource Projects

Considers the role of ‘conflict management assessment’ in community-based natural resource projects. The importance of conducting an assessment of the potential for conflict and its management in relation to a project intervention is stressed, and an assessment framework described. Within this framework the advantages of managing conflict through a consensual ‘win-win’ process of stakeholder negotiation are discussed.

Policy conclusions:

  • Interventions to assist in the management of conflict within community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) should be preceded by a ‘conflict management assessment’ (CMA). This assessment should consider: (a) whether the conflict is likely to overwhelm the existing customary, institutional and legal approaches to conflict management, and if so whether it is appropriate to try to strengthen these; (b) whether, if the conflict is left alone, new conflict management mechanisms will organically materialise within an acceptable time-frame; and (c) whether the long-term benefits of allowing the conflict to transform itself into a positive force for social reform are outweighed by the short-term costs.
  • Interventions for improved conflict management should be guided by an overall strategy which considers the full range of management options, including: ‘do-nothing’, force, withdrawal, accommodation, compromise and consensus.
  • Capacity building is a critical component of effective conflict management, involving inter alia: facilitated institutional re-organisation; skills training for the conflicting parties in direct face-to-face negotiations; and training of community leaders and ‘outside’ agencies in third-party facilitation/mediation/brokering.
  • Although stakeholder analysis of a conflict situation is valuable, it is through a process of stakeholder negotiations that the most creative and durable solutions will be found.
  • Two factors support consensual ‘win-win’ negotiations as an effective strategy for managing conflicts in CBNRM: (a) the multi-stakeholder nature of such conflicts; and (b) the common ground that exists for sustaining renewable natural resources.
  • Implementation of an overall strategy of conflict management will need to be periodically monitored to ensure that new external forces are neutral to the conflict, and that either a ‘do-nothing’ strategy is having the expected impact, or that the commitments embodied in a negotiated agreement are implemented in full and are effective.

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