WCS Global Initiatives

Governance and Conservation

Conservation is needed when natural resources valued by society are being depleted by unsustainable use. Implicitly, conservation requires a reduction of use to sustainable levels, and this typically requires restricting access to and use of the resource being depleted. Governance is a social process for determining and enforcing who has access to how much of a resource over time.

Successful conservation depends on whether or not governance decisions about resource access and use are made through a transparent, accountable and democratic process that represents the interests and concerns of those with legitimate rights to benefit from the resource. Absent good governance, conservation will fail over the long term.

Strengthening the ability of people to govern their natural resources sustainably is, not surprisingly, a core WCS strategy.

Within WCS we know that we have succeeded in helping local groups to put in place good governance systems when

  • The governance group with jurisdiction over resources within the best wild places where we work is perceived by local women and men to have the authority to govern (i.e., is governing in their interests);
  • The governance group has the capacity to govern (i.e., the skills and knowledge to develop and implement a management plan; the staff, financial resources, and the regulatory framework to put their plans into action; and the motivation to make and enforce management rules and regulations); and when
  • The governance group has the power to exert their legitimate authority, use their capacity, and not be undermined by other less legitimate, but more politically or economically powerful, actors.

Our work

In Fiji, WCS’ innovative work with local communities to develop and implement the first ridge-to-reef management plan, is now being replicated in 9 other districts and two islands, covering some 6.3 million hectares of coastal marine habitat and 2.2 million hectares of upland forests and rivers. WCS has helped hundreds of communities, who now say they have greater access to natural resources, improved wellbeing and great livelihood security.

WCS with support from USAID has developed a relatively easy tool to assess the strengths and weaknesses of governance bodies with jurisdiction over wildlife and other natural resources within the wild places where we work. This assessment tool allows us not only to identify where groups need assistance to make their governance systems more effective by being transparent, accountable and democratic, it helps is to track and report improvements in governance systems over time.

Further Reading

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