Adaptation, Conflict and Compromise in Indigenous Protected Areas Management

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



"Common property theory has increasingly broadened its scope from an initial focus on community-level systems, to recognition and examination of how these continuously interact and evolve in response to external dynamics, constraints and multi-level partnerships. The common property systems of indigenous peoples are clearly not static and brittle institutions, but have survived to the present day precisely because of their propensity towards adaptation. As indigenous peoples confront new challenges in a globalizing world, the comanagement model for protected areas governance - parks which often encompass significant tracts of their traditional lands - has presented itself as an opportunity for safeguarding common property interests. In practice, indigenous peoples have enjoyed varying degrees of success in meeting these goals through protected area partnerships with the conservation sector, as will be illustrated through case studies drawn from southern Belize. "The Government of Belize (GoB) has shown itself unusually willing to assign protected area status to an extremely large percentage of its national territory. However, expectations that the national protected areas system would be instrumental in fuelling development in Belize were tempered by subsequent reality. The GoB has in practice failed to secure sufficient funds to effectively manage its protected areas, let alone generate income and profit from their existence. In light of this situation, various co-management and local management models have been used by the GoB to supplement weak and in some cases non-existent on-the-ground management, involving local organizations and communities alike. "In Belize's southernmost Toledo District, where the greatest concentration of protected areas, intact habitats and indigenous peoples not coincidentally are located, the GoB's willingness to engage in devolved management has created political opportunities for indigenous peoples to regain a measure of control over common property alienated by protected area boundaries. Although conservation partnerships have been entered by necessity, rather than design, indigenous peoples have capitalized on the political space created to promote common property interests. "This paper will examine examples from southern Belize where local indigenous communities and organizations have exploited opportunities provided by the creation of protected areas to promote their own local governance and development aspirations. The case studies will illustrate how local indigenous communities in Belize have advanced collective rights and livelihood interests through the prism of protected areas management, and at the same time, seen their options constrained by multi-scale partnerships with the conservation sector. The analysis will moreover consider the many challenges and constraints indigenous organizations have faced in effectively balancing conservation and indigenous imperatives, and delivering sufficient local benefits to compensate for the sacrifices and adaptations which conservation partnerships have necessarily enforced. Lastly, recommendations on future directions for the study of systemic complexity in common property management systems will be discussed."



IASC, indigenous institutions, adaptive systems, conflict, common pool resources, protected areas