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The Equity and Legitimacy of Markets for Ecosystem Services: Carbon Forestry Activities in Chiapas, Mexico

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Corbera, Esteve; Adger, W. Neil
Conference: The Commons in an Age of Global Transition: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities, the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Oaxaca, Mexico
Conf. Date: August 9-13
Date: 2004
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/1267
Sector: Forestry
Social Organization
Region: Central America & Caribbean
Subject(s): IASC
ecosystems
equity
markets
forestry--case studies
sustainability
inequality
power
carbon sequestration--case studies
Abstract: "Markets for ecosystem services are increasingly being designed and implemented across the developing world. They have been promoted by national governments and global institutions based on a faith in their ability to promote sustainable development, without a critical engagement in the implications of these markets on elements of sustainability. In this paper we argue that equity and legitimacy constitute key aspects of sustainable development and are critical to the success or failure of markets for ecosystem services. We argue that equitable procedural and distributive mechanisms built into the design and implementation of these markets could potentially challenge local and project-based power relations and hence provide a potential for transformative action. Yet most markets for ecosystem services are more likely to reinforce existing power structures and inequalities in access to resources. We examine these issues through two communities engaged in a carbon forestry project in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. These communities differ on the way in which they engage in the project, either through individually or collectively owned land, and we investigate the relations between local property regimes, legitimacy processes and the implicit distribution of benefits in the selection of participants and project- related information. Our analysis indicates that, in both cases, markets do not represent legitimate and equitable mechanisms for sustainable development and override local socio-political and property dynamics. We therefore cast doubt over the capacity for transformative action towards sustainable development of market-based mechanisms that reinforce existing inequities and vulnerabilities."

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