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Environmental Governance as if Values Matter: Communities and Conservation in Africa

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Robinson, Lance W.
Conference: Sustaining Commons: Sustaining Our Future, the Thirteenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Hyderabad, India
Conf. Date: January 10-14
Date: 2011
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/7226
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Region: Africa
Subject(s): protected areas
environmental policy
Abstract: "In much of the recent scholarship on environmental governance, governance is defined not as an organization or set of organizations, but as a set of social functions. These social functions can be understood in relation to values: governance is social coordination in a context of diverse values, the shaping of power relations because of the moral imperative of democratic values, and the setting of direction for collective action that is informed by stakeholders’ values. However the literature on environmental governance, where it considers values, typically treats values as given and as inputs to governance, with little attention paid to the process of value formation. Value formation can be understood as a chain of causation whose general flow is from social context to held values, which help to determine assigned values, which are the basis of interests and positions. In this paper, these approaches to governance and to values are applied to case studies that were conducted in Ghana and Tanzania, with each case study involving a rural village and the relationship of people within it to two different protected areas nearby. The two communities have had very different experiences with conservation and, not surprisingly, residents expressed different sorts of values. The diversity and place-based nature of some values has clear implications for how particular communities relate to conservation agencies, and a key question for the design of governance processes is what happens when values held within a community do not align with the values embodied with conservation policies and programs. On the other hand, there was also remarkable similarity between these two communities in regards to some of people’s most fundamental held values, values that have also been described for communities elsewhere in the world. These widespread, fundamental held values, such as wanting the best for one’s children, represent an underutilized resource for global conservation. This research suggests that governance processes can benefit from multi-stakeholder deliberation that attempts to 'trace back' the value chain and to identify commonalities in stakeholders’ values while also respecting differences."

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