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Chapter 12 - Conclusions and recommendations

Richard A. Meganck and Richard E. Saunier

Social concerns and biodiversity conservation
Political will and biodiversity conservation
Information and biodiversity conservation
Development planning and biodiversity conservation


In dealing with social concerns and biodiversity conservation in a regional context, we face the challenge of narrowing the definition of the problem, since all phases of planning involve the concerns of people. Thus, in discussions involving people from a number of disciplines the tendency is to expand the scope of the problem as linkages are noted--the result of which is a quagmire of advice which is far too broad to be effectively implemented. While the conclusions and recommendations presented here attempt to represent areas of concern routinely faced by planners they also represent concerns for biodiversity conservation.

The chapter is organized into four main sections, all relating to the value of the new regional planning as a way to address the complex issues involved in conserving biodiversity: (a) social concerns, (b) political will, (c) information, and (d) development planning. Each of these is summarized in a series of "principles" organized around a given concern of biodiversity conservation. Although they do not represent a comprehensive statement on the new regional planning, they do indicate that this methodology can contribute to the in-situ conservation and ex-situ maintenance of biodiversity. Their use will help ensure the long-term viability of these resources for all concerned parties-scientists, politicians, planners, managers, local residents, and resource users.

Social concerns and biodiversity conservation

The often-repeated principle that protected areas cannot be planned in isolation from their surroundings leads to the question of what

constitutes a "region." Discussions center on the impact a protected area has on its surroundings and on the impact that economic activity often has on the integrity of a protected area. Two conclusions are relevant to this question:

(1) Integrated regional development planning provides an effective framework for addressing social and economic concerns for biodiversity conservation regardless of scale or of the complexity of the region; and

(2) While the interactions between a protected area and its region are unique, the principles offered by integrated regional development planning can help to ensure that the benefits and costs of decisions concerning biodiversity conservation are fully evaluated in the planning process.

Questions are often voiced as to whether it would be preferable to establish a protected area first, and therefore influence the development process in its surrounding region, or to formulate a regional plan that included projects to establish protected areas along with other development activities. In one sense, given the concern for biodiversity, the "protected area first" choice is logical. On the other hand, since people are to be the ultimate beneficiaries of development planning they are the prime concern of the decision-making process, and therefore protected areas should not receive preferential treatment. However, the urgency in biodiversity conservation lies with those areas under pressure for unstructured development. Likewise, given the incipient state of our knowledge on biodiversity, planners may indeed have the opportunity to plan conservation areas more frequently if development planning places a priority on financing mechanisms to support basic field research as part of the planning process and if long-term public involvement in biodiversity conservation is based on an understanding of its benefits. Three principles are relevant here:

(3) Resource planners and managers should identify areas that are important to biodiversity conservation and consider the potential development activities that would affect these areas of interest.

(4) Community development activities identified in long-range plans should reflect an understanding of the direct relationship between a region's economic viability and maintenance of its biodiversity, whether included in a protected area or not.

(5) Planners and decision-makers should be aware of the issues in the region of influence of a protected area as a basis for actively engaging and involving local communities in planning and implementing biodiversity conservation measures.

The long-term viability of local economies (as opposed to project financing) can depend on the benefits and costs of having a protected area nearby. The rights of indigenous peoples, for example, often suffer because of biodiversity conservation efforts that are neither locally initiated nor accepted. Two principles can be cited here:

(6) Local resource users who live near protected areas often require support to establish effective institutions capable of influencing and participating in political, economic, and conservation decisions that affect the viability of both the protected area and the local community.

(7) Governments at all levels should consider institutional arrangements and policies to ensure information exchange, participation, and equal distribution of the economic costs and benefits to communities that depend directly on the resources available from a protected area--particularly when decisions are taken that would negatively affect a local community for the benefit of a larger population (region, nation, world). Such arrangements should include the creation of management structures having legal standing and authority that will allow full participation by populations that have historically used the protected area.

Problems for tourism and fisheries often center on the social and economic issues related to an influx of migrants to territories bordering a protected area. Sound commercial investments, though welcomed, can have direct negative impacts on the make-up of a community. Likewise, an unexpected influx of unskilled workers can affect both the local communities and the very viability of tourism based on natural amenities. A special case has to do with fishermen and the management of marine and coastal biodiversity and protected areas.

(8) When development of a protected area results in an influx of migrant workers, their social welfare should be considered. State or national government must bear the responsibility of providing basic services for these people or the future of the protected area can easily be threatened.

(9) The development of coastal and marine protected areas can affect access to established fishing areas and the use of traditional fishing methods. Compensation to local fishermen should be considered as part of the costs of implementation.

(10) Often fisheries, tourism, and conservation of marine biodiversity can not only co-exist but be mutually beneficial as well. For example, local fishermen can be valuable sources of information and loyal employees of the conservation authority. Every effort should therefore be made to involve local fishermen in planning marine and coastal reserves.

Political will and biodiversity conservation

Plans are often made that, no matter how well formulated in a technical sense, are not implemented. Many reasons can be given for the archives full of unimplemented plans, including those for what have come to be referred to as "paper parks": a lack of funding, a change in development priorities, a change in political winds of a given nation or region. Sometimes, even after implementation begins, a project fails to fully produce what had been expected by the interest groups that supported it or is not fully accepted by the local community or even by the supposed beneficiaries. The reason often given for such failures is "lack of political will." Several observations, conclusions, and recommendations can be mentioned concerning this phenomenon:

(11) The desire and commitment (political will) of a decision-maker to support a proposed project is neither automatic nor predictable; it must be nurtured from the outset. Getting a decision-maker to accept a proposal is the responsibility of the planner, and therefore creating the atmosphere for its acceptance should be very high on the planning agenda.

(12) Political decisions are complex and potentially conflictive with a number of things, including the conscience and aspirations of the decision-maker, the mandates from his or her constituencies, the desires of the groups who have given financial support, the needs of the opposition, and the beliefs of his or her peers, besides the extant legislative directives, policies, and regulations. The decision will be taken according to what the decision-maker believes to be the route of minimal conflict with the more important of these.

(13) Minimizing conflicts while meeting stated goals and objectives is a function of the new regional planning. It is done through an iterative process that is integrated across sectors, is transparent and participatory, and seeks consensus from the affected parties.

(14) Educating the decision-maker and the varying constituencies from the very outset greatly facilitates agreement on what a strategy or plan should contain. Building stakeholder pride and ownership helps to assure implementation and long-term viability.

(15) Feedback mechanisms from local communities should be developed and nurtured. These provide valuable information to both the planning team and the decision-maker. Although this type of input is unwelcome in some cultures, its acceptance is increasing and should be cultivated.

(16) There are inevitably "winners" and "losers" in any planning process. The decision-maker must be confident that the interests of all affected groups have been addressed in the strategy or plan.

(17) Building a degree of flexibility into a strategy or plan can also help to ensure the support of the decision-maker. A "perfect plan" may simply be unattainable in a political sense. Therefore, both the planning team and the decision-maker must have alternative courses of action in the event that any one issue begins to threaten the viability of the project.

Information and biodiversity conservation

The availability of information is fundamental to any process that would lead to effective biodiversity conservation. Without comprehensive and credible information, constituencies cannot be built or objectives attained. However, although data gathering is a task that is never

completed and planning must contend with incomplete information, every effort to keep it accurate, relevant, and current must be made. Therefore,

(18) Wide-ranging consultations should be held at an early stage in the planning process to identify interested parties and obtain their views on key issues that must be addressed by the planning team.

(19) All involved and affected parties, including governments and corporations, have a responsibility to make relevant information available to the planning team as a means of ensuring the broadest possible debate on the decision as to how a given site should be managed.

(20) All information collected by the planning team must be accessible to any group with legitimate interests in the outcome of the planning effort.

(21) The information collected should be widely inclusive:

technical, scientific, local, and traditional.

(22) Information used by the planning team should include the historical, natural, and cultural aspects to learn from past experience in planning and managing for the future.

Development planning and biodiversity conservation

Protected areas interact with their surrounding region in two ways: (a) they play an essential part in its economic development, and (b) the protection of their resources depends on their proper management in the widest possible regional context. Once a decision is made to establish a protected area, concern for its long-term health is fundamental to any community that hopes to realize long-term benefits from the arrangement. A number of conclusions and recommendations treat this subject.

(23) Clear definition of the specific role that a protected area should play in a region or national development policy is of vital importance to ensure that it provides the wished-for range of goods and services over the long term.

(24) Realizing the full potential of a protected area, regardless of its stated goals, requires the development of linkages with other sectors of society. Protected areas cannot exist without people.

(25) Interactions between a protected area and other ongoing or proposed development activities, such as mining, forestry, agriculture, fisheries, and urban development, need to be clearly identified.

(26) Effective systems for gathering, storing, and communicating information bring together the various partners and constituents of a planning exercise. They are essential for providing maximum benefits to the community.

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