Cooperative Conservation: beyond the rhetoric

Gabriel, Jennifer (2007) Cooperative Conservation: beyond the rhetoric. Report. Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, Cairns, QLD, Australia.

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The effective management of World Heritage sites is dependent on implementing a range of governance options that best addresses the conservation of ecosystems in tandem with the rights of Indigenous communities to fully participate in all stages of design, planning and implementation of conservation initiatives. The primary challenge lies in supporting comanagement and community-based conservation initiatives and frameworks with policies, funding, and legislative institutions that sustain rather than constrain Indigenous conservation management practices. In the last decade there have been significant developments in international conservation policy and practice; including a move away from viewing sites as isolated protected areas, to conceptualising conservation zones within larger-scale units of analysis. This paradigm shift has generated new opportunities and challenges for the co-management of conservation ‘landscapes’ and ‘seascapes’, based on the rights, institutions and knowledge of Indigenous and traditional peoples. The shift from considering conservation zones as discreetly bounded sites to a broader recognition of their contiguous relationship with regional landscapes and seascapes, has been accompanied by awareness that new forms of governance, policies and protocols are required to address conservation objectives at multiple levels. In particular, recognising alternative forms of governance and participatory management models, such as Community Conserved Areas (CCAs) or Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs), as legitimate forms of conservation management has become an international priority. Initiatives focusing on more equitable and effective models of co-management have become the cornerstone of ‘best practice’ conservation, not just in terms of capacity-building for Indigenous communities, but also for building ‘resilience’ into ecosystems. Since 2003, the IUCN has been active in promoting the legitimacy of community-based forms of governance through ‘collaborative protected area management’ (or conservation partnerships) supporting Indigenous community rights and social structures. For the effective governance of World Heritage sites, co-management (or ‘cooperative management’) offers flexible possibilities for negotiating a balance between the conservation of World Heritage values and the formal recognition and realization of Indigenous common property rights and responsibilities toward the protection of both cultural and natural values. Co-management of World Heritage sites requires the establishment of equitable partnerships amongst stakeholders, taking into consideration site-specific requirements and capacities of all stakeholders. Equitable relationships are based on an equal capacity to contribute to decision-making processes, with recognition of different ways of representing interests, priorities, capacities and ambitions. A ‘partnership approach’ to protected area governance requires not only the provision of adequate legislative and funding sources, but ensuring that formal conservation agreements are reinforced through ‘bridging’ mechanisms and protocols between Traditional Owners, non-governmental organisations, funding institutions, and state and federal governments. In the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, after many years of persistence and purposefulness, the rainforest Aboriginal groups of the area (Traditional Owners) successfully negotiated a regional (‘protocol’) agreement between state, Indigenous stakeholders and conservation organisations. The Regional Agreement was implemented in 2005 as a ministerially approved mandate to pursue Aboriginal cultural and natural resource management. As Bruce White (pers. comm. 2007) has highlighted; ‘the key stone of the [Regional] Agreement is a Memorandum of Understanding creating a single Aboriginal natural and resource management agency (Aboriginal Rainforest Council) and a whole raft of Gabriel, J. A. 2 protocols crossing policy, planning, and operational natural resource management matters, within which the Aboriginal Rainforest Council plays a critical role instituting within World Heritage Area management practice’. Importantly, whilst the Regional Agreement may not be a legally binding and enforceable agreement of the kind that may have originally been envisaged (by the Aboriginal participants on the Review Steering Committee and the Aboriginal negotiating team), Bruce White (pers. comm. 2007) makes the point that it has the advantage of being ‘relatively far reaching in its coverage of all management activities for the World Heritage Area’, and is flexible, responsive, and readily adaptable to recommendations and lessons learnt from annual reviews. Annual reviews are facilitated through a regional workshop open to all agencies and Aboriginal peoples of the Wet Tropics, encouraging the participation and ‘celebration’ of the Agreement (Bruce White pers comm. 2007). If we draw upon Dover’s five core principles for successful adaptive and innovative frameworks (cited in Hill 2006:581), it is evident that: (1) persistence; (2) purposefulness; (3) information richness and sensitivity; (4) inclusiveness and (5) flexibility are all qualities exemplified in the Wet Tropic Regional Agreement and its natural and resource management agency, the Aboriginal Rainforest Council (ARC). These core principles and flexible mechanisms for ecosystem management in the Wet Tropics Region provide a legitimate form of co-operative management that needs to be sustained, funded and supported by state and federal governments for the future benefit of the Wet Tropics Region and the fulfilment of ‘best-practice’ guidelines requiring the meaningful participation of Aboriginal people in all areas of world heritage management.

Item ID: 5513
Item Type: Report (Report)
ISBN: 978-1-921359-25-5
Keywords: world heritage; protected areas; cooperative management
Funders: James Cook University - Project 4.9.1 Indigenous landscapes of the Wet Tropcis World Heritage Area, Department of the Environment and Water Resources
Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2009 01:13
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1601 Anthropology > 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9613 Remnant Vegetation and Protected Conservation Areas > 961306 Remnant Vegetation and Protected Conservation Areas in Forest and Woodlands Environments @ 100%
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