Conservation practitioners know all too well that their work is a form of conflict management, trying to reconcile competing (and sometimes incompatible) interests in the same—often dwindling—natural resource base. The links between natural resources and conflict are particularly evident in developing countries, where poverty, population growth and dependence on natural resources are high. Here, the availability of and access to natural resources are more likely to affect livelihood security, wealth distribution, power structures and even group identities—some of the most common sources of conflict. By trying to protect and sustainably manage the natural resource base and improve human well-being, conservationists are effectively working to minimize important causes of conflict. Conservation, in this regard, can be seen as a mechanism for conflict prevention and peacebuilding.
However, managing competing interests over scarce natural resources has its risks. Conservation policies and practices can create or exacerbate grievances that, in turn, lead to conflicts with, between and within local communities. Thus, efforts to manage and resolve natural resource-based conflicts through conservation can in themselves lead to other forms of conflict.
These dynamics underscore the need for practitioners to design and implement conservation strategies and activities that are sensitive to the causes and impacts of conflict. IISD’s conflict-sensitive conservation approach does just that: it offers guidance for conservation programming and implementation that takes into account the causes, actors and impacts of conflict in order to minimize conflict risks and maximize peacebuilding opportunities.
Since developing the approach, IISD has worked in a number of different contexts (East, West and Central Africa; Latin America) to integrate conflict sensitivity into conservation programming.
Conserving Biological Hotspots in Conflict-Affected Democratic Republic of Congo
Maiko National Park, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is so remote that the park’s northern edge can only be reached by a seven-day walk through thick, inhospitable forest.
CSC Stories: Restoring the Lake Edward Fishery in Virunga National Park
A short profile of efforts by IISD and the Wildlife Conservation Society to address the impacts of conflict on the Lake Edward fishery in Virunga National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
CSC Stories: Developing Conflict-Sensitive Management Strategies in Public-Private Conservation Concession in the Amazon
A short profile of efforts to reduce social conflicts around the Los Amigos Conservation Concession in the Peruvian Amazon by incorporating the conflict-sensitive conservation approach into conservation planning and strategies.
CSC Stories: Supporting Community Conservation in Kahuzi Biega National Park
A short profile of work by IISD and the Wildlife Conservation Society to reduce people-park conflicts by strengthening community involvement in conservation strategies in Kahuzi Biega National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Conservation and Peacebuilding in Sierra Leone
The aim of this paper is to assess the status of conservation in Sierra Leone, to outline some of the key threats to protected area management in the country and try to understand how to manage protected areas in a way that does not create or exacerbate tensions and conflicts.
Conflict-Sensitive Conservation in Gola Rainforest National Park: Workshop Report
This workshop report summarizes a meeting on conflict-sensitive conservation (CSC) which was held in Kenema, Sierra Leone, on August 2, 2011.
Healing the Rift: Peacebuilding in and around protected areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Albertine Rift
This report summarizes a 27-month project that piloted a conflict-sensitive approach to conservation in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo at four main sites: Virunga National Park, Kahuzi-Biega National Park, Itombwe Reserve and the Misotshi-Kabogo Massif.
Climate Change and Conflict: Lessons from community conservancies in northern Kenya
This report is based on the findings of research carried out in two community wildlife conservancies in northern Kenya, demonstrating how climate change is affecting the distribution and prevalence of natural resources in Kenya.
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