Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this very important discussion on an issue very relevant to resource management in Vanuatu.
In regards to Article 10(c) we should realize that cultural practices and resource use and management are strongly and inextricably linked in Vanuatu and throughout the Pacific as well as most indigenous societies. And that customary management practices include a broad range of strategies like a combination of controls on gear or harvesting methods, timing (seasons), individual species, as well as areas (Johannes and Hickey 2004) as well as being linked to cycles of resource abundance, tidal, agricultural and customary cycles (Hickey 2004) . These management strategies may be combined in a way that fine tunes management needs of a given community based on their resource base, while allowing for access to the resources that sustain them. And this is a much more comprehensive and holistic approach to target individual communities management needs rather than simply creating 'Protected Areas’ that increasingly attempt to exclude people from large areas of their traditional resource use areas in promoting the Western ideal of biodiversity conservation (see Ruddle and Hickey for an elaboration on this including the excerpt in Annex 1).
In fact, all of the management strategies used by Western science can already be found in the Pacific, including in Vanuatu (Hickey, 2006, 2007) but long predate the western 'discovery' of these strategies. It makes sense that people living on relatively small islands would discover these management solutions long before people living on continents would. Yet, so often, projects stemming from the CBD often filter down to developing countries to uni-dimensionally promote ‘Protected Areas’ and ‘MPAs’ that often ignore the richness of management options found in customary practices and include and promote the use of TK. Instead, it sometimes seems more about increasing the number of ‘Protected Areas’ (PAs) to fulfil national obligations under the CBD to reach global targets for PAs (this topic is covered in a paper by Ruddle and Hickey, Section 2.4 in Annex 1). In doing this, little attention is sometimes paid to the quality of the initiative, but quantity is emphasized.
While the erosion and loss of traditional resource management (TRM) practices is one of the biggest threats to the biodiversity of many Pacific Islands, the greatest threat to TRM is increasingly the promotion of Western models of conservation in the Pacific like PAs and MPAs instead of projects that come to specifically target strengthening TRM an the use of TK, as well as related fundamental issues such as traditional leadership and governance. Other issues associated with the PA model, as it is currently manifesting in Vanuatu under CBD influence, is that it increasingly leads to the mapping and registration of PAs and even the promotion of state enforcement of areas under customary tenure through the creation of legislation that may result in undermining traditional tenure and leadership systems rather than support or strengthen it (this is discussed further in Johannes and Hickey 2004 and Hickey 2006). It also increasingly shifts the burden from communities and their leaders who have largely enforced their own resource management regimes in the past, to the state, which rarely has the human or financial capacity to fulfil this obligation.
The shift in enforcement from communities and their leaders to government not only may undermine the authority of traditional leaders, but also the sense of responsibility of communities to manage well the resources under their tenure, as they become increasingly dependent on the state to perform this function.
We have found that the longterm sustainability of conservation interventions in project form is significantly increased when the model is based on, and includes traditional practices and values. That is to say that after a project is over in say two to four years, will the community be able to effectively manage and support this initiative into the future without continual requests for more funding and technical assistance? When a resource management initiative is firmly anchored in the context of traditional land/marine tenure systems and draws upon traditional knowledge and practice, the community and their leaders largely have the capacity to sustain the initiative with less need for outside funding or technical assistance. This makes this approach highly cost effective for national governments as well as donors.
In summary, it would be refreshing to see a more balanced approach to overall resource management supported by the CBD in areas of the Pacific that have a strong heritage of customary tenure and resource management that more directly supports TMT, TRM and the use of TK rather than primarily the western approach of PAs. The reasons for this includes that PAs do not address the other issues of unsustainable development practices that are often allowed and that create downstream effects that may negate the value of PAs (see Ruddle and Hickey 2008, Section 2.4). And as well, despite the 100 fold increase in numbers of PAs over the last 50 years, biodiversity continues to decline on a daily basis at an accelerated rate. This would imply that this strategy is not working and we need rethink the Western approach, particularly in areas with a strong heritage of traditional resource management. Lastly, and most importantly, this approach is liable to further erode remaining traditional management strategies and important cultural links to resources with the impact of big budget projects that place biodiversity protection ideals as their foremost concern in areas of the world that maintain a day-to-day dependence on these resources as well as strong cultural links with them.
I sincerely hope these comments are useful and stimulate further discussion.
Coordinator, Traditional Resource Management Program
Vanuatu Cultural Centre
Hickey F. R. (2006). Traditional marine resource management in Vanuatu: Acknowledging, supporting and strengthening indigenous management systems. SPC Traditional Marine Resource Management and Knowledge Information Bulletin, 20:11-23. http://www.spc.int/coastfish/News/Trad/20/Trad20_11_Hickey.pdf
Hickey, F.R. (2007) Traditional Marine Resource Management in Vanuatu: World Views in Transformation (p147-168) in (eds) Haggan, N., Neis, B. and Baird, I.G. Fishers' Knowledge in Fisheries Science and Management. Coastal Management Sourcebooks 4. UNESCO: Paris, 437p.
Johannes, R.E. and Hickey, F.R. (2004). Evolution of village-based marine resource management in Vanuatu between 1993 and 2001. Coastal Region and Small Island Papers 15. (Paris: UNESCO) http://www.unesco.org/csi/wise/indigenous/vanuatu1.htm
Ruddle, K, Hickey, F.R. (2008) Accounting for the mismanagement of tropical nearshore fisheries Environ Dev Sustain 10:565-589
An excerpt related to the establishment of PAs (pp 16-19) from:
Accounting for the mismanagement of tropical nearshore fisheries
By Kenneth Ruddle & Francis R. Hickey
Environ Dev Sustain (2008) 10:565-589
2.4 Donor-driven Protected Areas as a global panacea
A seemingly single-minded and universal drive to create Protected Areas (PAs) to conserve natural resources and biodiversity emerged from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD 1992), the World Summit on Sustainable Development (UNDESA 2002) and the World Parks Congress (IUCN and UMG 2004). Establishment targets ranging from 10 to 30% of national areas have been promoted. High levels of Global Environment Fund (GEF) support and funding by major foundations fuelled enthusiasm, and large, multinational NGOs (termed ‘‘Bingos’’ by some indigenous groups) emerged as implementation agencies. With nine-figure budgets, some well-intentioned Bingos launched a global campaign to expand the global network of PAs to protect biodiversity. As a consequence, the approximate global total of 1,000 PAs in the early-1960s has now increased to 108,000 that together cover some 30.5 million km2, just slightly larger than the area of Africa, or a little in excess of 20% of the earth’s total land surface.
Increasingly, however, the PA model is seen as culturally and socially flawed (Christie 2004; Dowie 2005), and proliferation of the Western ideal of a ‘protected area’ seems foreign and counter-intuitive to indigenous peoples, who have been providing environmental stewardship and protection of these areas for centuries, if not millennia. This ‘protected area’ mentality is a manifestation of the Western outlook that people are no longer part of nature; worse that they have become so destructive as to threaten nature and biodiversity, and so can no longer be regarded as an integral part of the ecosystem and capable of sustainable stewardship. Ironically, in the interests of biodiversity protection, we now endeavor to lock indigenous people living in equilibrium with their environment out of vast areas, while much larger areas are subject to the effects of global warming, open cast mining, large-scale forest clearing, rapacious industrial overfishing, and a myriad of other destructive but immensely profitable anthropogenic activities.
An unpleasant consequence of these Western-style ‘‘no-take, no-go’’ protected areas is the estimated millions (Dowie 2005) of ‘conservation refugees’ forced off their ancestral lands to support the Western ideal of protecting nature from humans. Since they are now denied access to the natural resources that could sustain them, most such refugees end up marginalized in peri-urban shanty-towns, where they now confront ‘‘real poverty’’ that they often attempt to overcome by further degrading themselves. Yet, with now more than
12% of all land protected from its indigenous inhabitants, biodiversity continues to decrease on a daily basis and at an accelerating rate (Dowie 2005), an indication that the wrong prescription is being applied to the issue of biodiversity loss and sustainable resources management.
The goal in promoting biodiversity conservation should be to promote an overall sustainable approach to resource management and development, as has inherently been practiced traditionally by a great many societies, including those in the Pacific Islands Region. This would mean appreciating and incorporating the concepts and methods of indigenous people to sustainably manage resources using a balanced, holistic approach to resource utilization, not locking them out of their ancestral lands and marginalizing them.
For example, such strategies now promoted by Western science to manage marine resources as closed areas, species and seasons, limited access and gear restrictions have been practiced in the Pacific for centuries (Johannes 1978; Hickey 2006, 2007). Only a decade ago in the Pacific Region increasing recognition and support for pre-existing or traditional marine resource management strategies and tenure systems and their underlying
knowledge base had emerged from the work of Johannes (1978), Johannes and McFarlane (1991), Ruddle and Johannes (1985, 1990), Ruddle (1998b), Hviding (1990), and others. Indeed, this had resulted in a renaissance of pre-existing systems and modern management based on them was emerging widely, as in Vanuatu (Johannes and Hickey 2004; Hickey 2006, 2007), Samoa (Fa’asili and Kelokolo 1999), Fiji (Veitayaki 2001) and Cook Islands (Tiraa 2006), among other nations (Johannes 2002). Nevertheless today an increasingly single-minded Western strategy to create more MPAs in the Pacific overshadows support for the broad range of pre-existing resource management strategies available, primarily because of the seductive power of the relatively huge amount of money being expended. Although PAs are but one tool available, they consume the bulk of the funding to support resource management.
The process of establishing PAs in the Pacific is quite different from that in the Western countries that promulgate this approach, where privately owned land is the norm and the state effectively claims the foreshore and nearshore areas. In contrast, in the Pacific most land and nearshore areas are under customary tenure. This forms the foundation of resource management, where local groups restrict access to resources under their tenure and maintain stewardship over the resources and environment by drawing on their local knowledge of them, including local cycles of resource abundance, spawning and tidal cycles. In most countries, creating PAs therefore requires the complete agreement and cooperation of the local communities with which the tenure customarily and legally remains. This has given rise to the use throughout the Pacific of the term ‘community based MPAs’; surely somewhat rhetorical given that communities have been managing their own resources for millennia!
It is important to understand that MPA models originating in Western nations are also regarded locally as threatening among nearshore fishers who regard the unreasonable constraints on their behavior as threats to their livelihood (Bleakey 2004). Pacific communities are beginning to feel the brunt of the global targets to establish PAs that is now the predominant thrust of Western conservation efforts. Pacific Islanders have long relied directly on their resources both as a form of food security and local technology in the form of house, canoe and fishing gear construction, for farming technology, natural medicines, as well as having strong cultural and social links with their environment. The sustainable use of resources for these purposes has been successful for centuries without significant losses to biodiversity.
More recently, resources have been used on a small-scale to provide cash to pay school fees and medical expenses, as well as to purchase basic items like kerosene, soap and sugar. Such small-scale harvests pose a limited threat to global biodiversity relative to industrial country activities like clear-cut logging, urban sprawl, both general and highly concentrated pollution of air, soil and water, destructive industrial fishing methods and even nuclear weapons tests. But it is these industrial country activities that generate the huge profits unimaginable to most tropical communities, some of which, ironically and
with a supreme arrogance, are used to fund conservation efforts in the tropics!
Worse is that small Pacific Island communities with a long history of sustainable
resource use are now increasingly expected to sacrifice by allowing ever larger areas of their ancestral resource areas to become locked up in Western-style PAs to satisfy the Western concept of protecting biodiversity. This conundrum was expressed recently by a Melanesian delegate to a MPA forum, who pointedly asked ‘‘Conservation for whom and who is going to pay for it?’’, in response to continuous pressure from Western conservation groups advocating the creation of more PAs to protect the rich biodiversity of his islands in
response to global warming and other threats. But his people have been doing that for centuries, whereas the impacts generated by distant industrial countries that are the primary threat to this richness go unchecked. Small wonder that Pacific Islanders are increasingly dismayed by the persistent clamor that they bear the burdens of cleaning up the Westerners’ mess.
The approach of compensating communities for depriving them of their right to access resources has recently been adopted by some Bingos operating in the Pacific. When paid off either with cash or infrastructure like roads or schools, some Pacific communities agree to accept PAs. But there are other serious problems with this approach. Only the main ones are mentioned here.
2.4.1 Conservation requires payment
Agreements usually have a time limit of about 10 years, because most island communities would be unwilling to suspend their birthright for longer. This then begs the question of sustainability, since communities have no obligations to maintain any form of management when an agreement lapses. Further, it also sets the bad precedent that conservation requires compensation payment, and efforts therefore might not continue in lean periods when a Bingo is unable to raise the funds to renew an agreement.
2.4.2 Quantitative targets unrelated to actual protection
Scant interest is paid to the quality of PAs. Rather, emphasis is placed on reaching global targets measured quantitatively. Worse is that since many PAs exist on paper only, the number created globally bears no relationship to actual biodiversity protection.
2.4.3 External activities undermine the PA concept
MPAs limit human activities within a specified marine area, but do not address external factors that may have a major deleterious impact within them. In the Asia-Pacific Region the main such external factors that must be accounted for in any MPA design are turbidity and sedimentation resulting from farming, forestry and infrastructural developments in adjacent watersheds and coastal areas; the spread of human settlements and the consequent household and human waste and industrial pollution; and both overfishing and destructive fishing practices. This polarized Western approach of allowing destructive developments and fisheries throughout large areas in the name of development and locking up smaller areas in MPAs is in extreme contrast to the balanced and integrated pre-existing resourcemanagement systems found throughout the Pacific Islands Region. It seems a travesty to promote this highly polarized approach to resource management from Western countries to other areas of the world.
2.4.4 Unrealistic and measurable donor requirements
Increasingly rigorous donor accounting requirements have been imposed on PA projects. Scientific monitoring of resources, measurable socio-economic benefits, other ‘verifiable outputs’ are demanded within the short project time frames and are now a standard part of project cycle matrices. Economic development is increasingly integral to the conservation formula, as small nations are prodded by international donors to join the cash economy and increase their GDPs. These donor-driven expectations put additional pressure on communities to fulfill unrealistic obligations, and further contribute to alienating the communities involved.
posted on 2009-03-11 11:00 UTC by Mr. Francis Hickey, Vanuatu Cultural Centre/National Museum