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Synthesis of E-Conference Discussions

Community-level gender dynamics, resource capacity, process of policy making, legal frameworks, economic/market forces, power disparities at the local, national and international level and value of indigenous knowledge and many other topics were discussed in the e-conference. The information and material collected provided a basis for better understanding the nexus between community forestry and conflict management. This section reviews the main points of the econference discussions and makes suggestions regarding what could be done to further understand the role of community forestry in conflict management and how community forestry can cause conflicts. Before presenting a conclusion, this section provides a brief overview of activities that CFU/FTPP are coordinating to further develop the topic of conflict management in the context of community forestry.


The e-conference was not oriented towards generating consensus regarding ideas or understandings of natural resource conflicts or their management. One of the main objectives of the e-conference was to promote dialogue and the exchange of material, experiences and theoretical and practical ideas on natural resource conflicts and conflict management in the context of community forestry. Although there was never any formally recognized consensus, there were several points over which it is fair to assume there was implicit consensus. These points are:

Within the broad range of topics, issues and ideas covered during the e-conference, there was extensive discussion of a selected range of issues. These discussions addressed the following questions:

The e-conference discussions helped in the understanding of the nexus between conflict management and community forestry by assessing the principles, applications and tools used in the two different disciplines. From the discussions it is possible to conclude that participatory principles are of value to both community forestry and conflict management. However, it is clear that the application of these principles will vary depending on the context, intensity and scope of the conflict.

The e-conference discussions suggest that programmes or institutions involved in promoting community forestry would be valuable to proactive conflict management. For example, effective planning of natural resource management, involving a participatory approach, taking into consideration the impact (in terms of potential conflicts) of the management plan and addressing the relevant institutional conditions would help prevent conflicts. In addition, proactive conflict management would benefit from community forestry approaches that bring individuals from various local, national and international government and non-governmental institutions together.

To further develop the nexus between community forestry and conflict management there needs to be additional discussion on several issues. A few key issues include understanding the dynamics in communities involved in community forestry practices without a direct link to a project or programme. Additional discussion on the use of arbitration and the principles underlying legal training would help determine how conflict management would be different from existing legal and extra-legal ways of managing conflicts. Another important issue to consider is the constraints that can be associated with conflict management. For example, external interventions of conflict management may not be able to provide the necessary time and continuity required to manage latent conflicts. Addressing these and other key issues would help determine when and how conflict management can contribute to making natural resource management an even more wholistic and integrated approach.

Where do we go from here?

Now, more than ever, conflict management in the context of natural resource conflicts is critical. With increasing decentralization, economic liberalization and globalization through trade and market invasion, governments in developing countries are changing their policies towards natural resource use. These macro changes are also affecting decision-making processes in communities seemingly isolated from global forces. Hence, there is a need to raise awareness and increase recognition of community-based natural resource management and the conflicts that result within, between and around communities. In order to do this effectively, it is important to further develop the understanding of the nexus between community forestry and conflict management. Some of the steps we see as essential to better integrating conflict management and community forestry are as follows:

With the selected structure and approach used in the e-conference, we were able to meet several of the objectives we had from the outset. The e-conference presented the opportunity to carry out a needs assessment for conflict management in the context of community forestry. The information disseminated to conferees covered a broad range of topics. This information furthered the process of developing an analytical framework for better understanding and analysing conflicts. Much material presented lessons to be learned or concerns, ideas and questions that were insightful and useful in defining the nexus between community forestry and conflict management. E-conference material is being used in research, training, course material, for project development, project evaluation and monitoring, and for field work. The e-conference structure helped connect researchers, lawyers, field practitioners, project managers and other professionals from different parts of the world. Several conferees re-established contact with former colleagues and others made new contacts, establishing an informal network.

Activities and products in conflict management

This section presents some of the products and activities in conflict management coordinated by the Community Forestry Unit (CFU) and the Forests, Trees and People Programme (FTPP). The activities and products are the further steps being taken to better understand conflict management in the context of community forestry and also increase the awareness of the need for conflict management in community forestry. The objective is to address some of the needs mentioned above. The activities and products are distinguished between those coordinated by CFU and the Global and Regional components of FTPP

From the Community Forestry Unit and the Global Component of FTPP

From the Regional Components of FTPP

`Methodology for Addressing Natural Resource Conflicts': The regional component of FTPP in Latin America coordinated an electronic conference after the global e-conference to develop a methodological guide for addressing natural resource conflicts. This methodological guide considers local participation to be a key element in the management of natural resource conflicts. The methodological guide includes three modules:

`Training Material for Trainers' is a document being coordinated by the regional component of FTPP in Asia. The material will be organized in sections, the first of which will present an introductory manual to provide background to the field, define conflict resolution and its application in society. It will also provide a framework for conflict resolution in natural resource management, with descriptions of conflicts in the field, areas for application and potential outcomes. The manual will present applications such as organizing facilitation, mediations, negotiations and working groups. There will also be place for discussion regarding process and procedures.


Natural resource conflicts are becoming a frequent occurrence. This is because natural resources serve multiple purposes ranging from commercial uses (e.g., logging, non-wood forest products) to services (e.g., biodiversity conservation) and subsistence needs. In addition, the interplay between the principal factors (e.g., migration, devaluation, resource degradation, unclear tenure, increased value and centralized decision-making) influence the perspective and relationship between different interest groups and the natural resource.

E-conference discussions covered practical and theoretical issues regarding natural resource conflicts, conflict management and community forestry. Numerous contributions implicitly advanced the process of defining the nexus between community forestry and conflict management. In the context of community forestry, conflicts arise across continuums of power, scope and intensity. Several variables impact the effectiveness of conflict management, including: all the possible combinations of actors, power disparities, stakes and resources; the relationships between these dimensions of conflicts; the role of institutions; the role of outsiders; and the approach. Therefore, conflict management cannot present a unique solution., but rather it is a processes with choices.

Conflict management inevitably changes the relationships between the actors, or parties, in terms of power, economic, political, legal and social conditions. Conflict management must ensure that all parties in conflict benefit from the changes it promotes and that the resulting process and choices extend beyond the simple resolution of a conflict. Conflict management must also be cautious about potentially negative changes from its activities such as accentuating power disparities or increasing gender-based conflicts. Conflict management should complement and work with existing policy, economic, environmental, legal and social opportunities and constraints in community forestry. The process of further defining the nexus between conflict management and community forestry should build on the need to complement the long-term objectives and flexibility of community forestry with the long-term impact of conflict management.

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