From Conflict to Collaboration: The Case of Cahuita National Park, Limon, Costa Rica

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"This case study examines the impact of the establishment of Cahuita National Park on the community of Cahuita, a largely Afro-Caribbean community located on the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. It analyzes the innovative tactics the community used to manage several conflict situations with the state, and evaluates the collaborative management institution that emerged as a result of negotiations. "The case has caught the attention of many players in the Central American conservation community, because it marks the first time that a national park in Costa Rica is jointly administered by the community and the state. While interesting management arrangements have been established in Costa Rica for 'lesser' conservation categories such as wildlife refuges, the arrangement in Cahuita National Park is precedent-setting in that it involves a national park intended strictly for conservation and recreation. "Moreover, Cahuita's experience of moving from conflict within the state to collaboration mirrors a policy shift on behalf of the government of Costa Rica away from centralized, top-down natural resources management towards a process of 'deconcentration, decentralization, and democratization' (Solorzano 1997). "In light of this policy context, an in-depth evaluation of the Cahuita experience is essential. This case study a) describes the historical background to the conflict situation, and events leading to the development of the joint management committee; b) analyzes the structure and process of the joint management committee; and c) discusses the implications of the Cahuita experience within a national and regional context. It contributes to the growing body of knowledge about co-management by providing an analysis of a first attempt to institute such a figure within the context of national parks management in Central America. Within the theoretical context, the paper addresses the question: Is there co-management in Cahuita National Park?"
IASC, common pool resources, co-management, parks, joint management, conflict resolution, design principles