Managing natural resources better together: conference in Bangkok explores the status of co-management in Bangladesh and the region

In many areas around the world, co-management is recognised as a successful approach to natural resources management. Co-management is a fairly new concept. In the past, many societies had closed systems for the management of natural resources, where one or maybe a few parties, for example, managed the resources (for example, a forest) and decided on its uses and the distribution of its benefits.

Participants at COMACON 2015

Co-management is an approach which takes into account the variety of groups and the different role each has in relation to natural resources. It is both a political and cultural process that attempts to meet the needs of both, conservation and development while recognising the variety of perceptions, values and objectives of different stakeholders demanding a role in the management of natural resources.

The end goals are environmental conservation, sustainable use of resources and the equitable sharing of resource-related benefits and responsibilities. As such, this approach is seen as a good example as it incorporates social justice in the care and use of natural resources.

Co-management has proven to be an important tool for good governance in natural resource management across ecosystems of South and Southeast Asia. To further explore the process and status of co-management in Bangladesh and across the region, the “Regional Conference on Co-Management of Natural Resources (COMACON) 2015” was held from 27-30 October in Bangkok, Thailand.

The hosting partners were Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with IUCN Bangladesh and the Center for Natural Resource Studies (CNRS).

Close to a hundred practitioners, scientists, policy makers and experts from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Germany, Myanmar, Nepal, Laos, Philippines, Thailand, UK, USA and Viet Nam participated in the three-day conference.

The objective of the conference was to promote the exchange of best practices and cutting-edge approaches to co-management. The conference focused on four themes which were tackled in interactive group discussions aimed at developing recommendations to inform future work:

  • Livelihoods - how to ensure that co-management strengthens and diversifies livelihoods in and around areas of managed resources;
  • Financial instruments and revenue sharing - how to improve the efficacy of various incentives used in co-management such as revenue sharing, sustainable financing and benefit sharing;
  • Legal and institutional framework - how to establish legal frameworks and institutional arrangements for effective co-management of natural resources; and
  • Participatory monitoring - how to effectively monitor and evaluate co-management outcomes to improve future work.

Recommendations included enhancing the coordination and knowledge exchange among donors, implementing agencies and government to improve livelihood and conservation links; empower communities to generate and manage their own direct funding; investment in capacity building at the grassroots level; and establishing a natural resource accounting system that includes the valuation of ecological goods and services provided by communities. The complete recommendations are published here.

The conference ended with three training sessions: participatory socio-ecological monitoring; legal and administrative frameworks for co-management, including governance; and governance agreements for nature conservation.

After the conference, the work of implementing the recommendations and turning them into practical actions begins. One particular country of focus for this work is Bangladesh where co-management is a widely adapted approach and has been implemented throughout a various kinds of natural resources. The IUCN Bangladesh, together with other participants will take forward the co-management agenda in the country, as part of on-going work focused on the co-management approach.

Visit the COMACON website for more details about the event.

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