Conservation is about access to resources and land and inevitably there is some form of conflict over the decisions that are made. Whenever the decision is made to protect land, water and other natural resources, a decision is also being made about who can access those resources, and for what purpose. This can often lead to competing interests among stakeholders in the same, sometimes dwindling, natural resources, which in certain cases can lead to conflict. This is particularly evident in developing countries, where dependence on natural resources is high.
Conservation, as an attempt to sustainably manage natural resources and improve human well-being, inherently attempts to minimize some important causes of conflict. As such, it can often be seen as a peacebuilding tool. Despite these intentions, however, managing competing claims to scarce natural resources can also create or exacerbate grievances that can lead to conflicts with, between and within local communities. There are three broad ways in which conservation and the management of natural resources can lead to conflict:
- Conservation can restrict peoples’ access to key livelihood resources
- Conservation can introduce new or additional economic burdens or risks on the population, such as crop or livestock loss to park animals
- Conservation can result in the unequal distribution of benefits
Conservation managers and scientists should aim to manage and minimize any conflict that could result from their actions. The WCS Albertine Rift Program teamed up with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) to pilot an approach to assessing the potential for conflict in a conservation project and to provide tools that can be used to analyse and minimize the conflicts. In 2006 IISD developed the Conflict-Sensitive Conservation (CSC) approach, with input from various conservation partners including WCS. The CSC process involves two main components. The first guides practitioners through a series of steps on how to make their organization’s more conflict-sensitive; in other words, how to ensure that the CSC principles are integrated into an organization’s culture, operational practice, and across the project cycle.
The second component focuses on making specific conservation activities more sensitive to conflict dynamics. It does so through the analysis of conflicts, and uses this analysis to design, implement and monitor CSC solutions to ensure their continued conflict-sensitivity. Conflicts are analyzed and strategies implemented with the involvement of a broad variety of affected stakeholders. The CSC approach has been laid out in a Practitioners’ Manual (english, french -14MB). The main steps for the second component of the CSC process are:
i. Analyze the conflict
a) Identify conflict(s) affecting the target area through a brainstorming exercise with relevant stakeholders.
b) Prioritize the identified conflicts based on their human and conservation impacts.
c) Select the conflict(s) you will focus on, taking into account the feasibility of addressing the conflict(s)
d) Analyze the selected conflict(s), using a range of conflict analysis tools (e.g. conflict tree, conflict map, stakeholder profiles) to understand the causes, effects, actors, and dynamics of the conflict(s). Compare the results of these analyses against a conservation strategy/activity to identify how it contributes to conflict and/or peacebuilding.
ii. Design, implement and monitor CSC solution
a) Design or modify your activities to make your work conflict-sensitive – i.e. help ensure they don’t contribute to conflict factors, look for opportunities to contribute to peacebuilding – using the results of the conflict analysis. Conflict resolution/management intervention strategies can be applied differently depending on the stakeholders involved. These include:
i. consultation (where interested stakeholders give their views to facilitators and the latter plan for a wrap-up session with all parties as the final step of consultations),
ii. dialogue where stakeholders are encouraged to have a direct communication on conflicts and decide ways forward,
iii. negotiation which involves interactions between parties,
iv. mediation where a third party intervenes to facilitate discussions between parties.
Once the conflict to be addressed has been identified by stakeholders, activities are developed; actors, funding and strategies identified; a detailed strategy document is developed; and then actions implemented on the ground.
b) Implement CSC activities, maintaining a collaborative, transparent, and flexible approach to the identification of sites and partners, as well as the negotiation of contracts, and procurement of resources
c) Monitor your work, the conflict and its impact on other sectors assessed to avoid a resurgence of other conflict.
WCS piloted this approach at several sites in Virunga Park, Kahuzi Biega Park, Itombwe Massif and in the process of the creation of the Ngamikka National park. In Virunga Park we used the approach to address conflicts over access to fishing resources on Lake Edward and developed fishing committees that brought together the park authority, ICCN, fishermen, the military, police, fisheries management authority (COPEVI) and traditional chiefs (Mwami) who all had a stake in the fisheries which were declining rapidly. The success of this project led to the Governor of North Kivu funding the continuation of the committees after the end of the project. In Itombwe and Ngamikka we used the approach to be proactive about minimizing conflict during the process of creating the protected areas, or to tackle exiting conflicts over the creation of the protected area in the case of Itombwe. In Kahuzi Biega Park we tackled conflicts between local communities and ICCN over access to bamboo and other resources in the park. The pilot studies have been written up in a World Bank Case Study of conservation and conflict as an example of good practice and a final report to USAID: Healing the Rift.
Impacts of armed conflict on biodiversity
WCS has also been active in assessing the impacts of armed conflict on biodiversity and conservation in the Albertine Rift Region, particularly following the genocide in Rwanda, Northern Uganda and civil war in areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo. We have used these assessments to open up areas that were thought to be previously inaccessible because of insecurity and have used the results to raise funds for support for the rehabilitation of park infrastructure.