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By Matthew McKinney
The theory and practice of transboundary conservation suggests that there is no single model for working across boundaries. Rather, examples from around the world suggest there is a continuum of approaches—from informal networks, to more formal partnerships, to regional institutions.
The distinction between a network and a partnership, or a partnership and a regional institution, is not always clear, and these categories are intentionally broad. Within each are various models and approaches that also range from informal to formal. Transboundary conservation initiatives tend to follow a progression from informal to more formal governance and implementation as people begin to think and act regionally.
While there is no model per se, IUCN WCPA’s Transboundary Protected Areas for Peace and Cooperation (Sandwith et al., 2001) offers the following guidelines, emphasizing the need to adapt these prescriptions to local conditions:
1. Identifying and promoting common values
2. Involving and benefiting local people
3. Obtaining and maintaining support of decision-makers
4. Promoting coordinated and co-operative activities
5. Achieving coordinated planning and protected area development
6. Developing co-operative agreements
7. Working towards funding sustainability
8. Monitoring and assessing progress
9. Dealing with tension or armed conflict
Additional research complements these nine guidelines. Working Across Boundaries: People, Nature, and Regions (McKinney and Johnson, 2009) presents ten key elements to explain what catalyzes, enables, constrains, and sustains transboundary conservation.
Ten Key Elements for Transboundary Conservation
1. Catalyst: the crisis, threat, or opportunity that compels people to think and act regionally.
2. Leadership: the need for different types of leaders to catalyze, enable, and sustain action.
3. Representation: the people, organizations, and jurisdictions needed to achieve the desired outcome.
4. Regional fit: the tension of matching the problem-shed with people’s interest.
5. Governance: the degree of decision-making authority, along with mechanisms for funding and dispute resolution.
6. Learning: the process of facilitating scientific and public learning.
7. Strategy: the formulation of a vision, goals, and aspirations.
8. Implementation: a plan to move from vision to action.
9. Outcomes: the agreements, policies, programs, and on-the ground accomplishments achieved.
10. Adaptation: the ongoing process of monitoring, evaluating, and adapting as needed.
These elements -- which can guide choices about how to prepare, organize, and take action -- focus on the process of transboundary conservation, rather than the substantive policies and plans to deal with specific conservation issues.
The distinction here between substance and process is not trivial. There is a fundamental difference between what should be done about a particular large landscape and how people who care about such issues should determine what ought to happen. The first problem is one of substance and the relative effectiveness of alternative policies and plans. The second is one of process: how to bring together the appropriate people with the best available information to address large landscape conservation.
All ten elements are present in every successful transboundary conservation effort, regardless of the style or approach adopted by the practitioners. In each case, however, the elements are managed in a unique way to create a homegrown set of solutions and institutional arrangements. Successful practitioners manage these elements in such a way that the process and set of actions that emerge are designed and built by those who best know the particular landscape.
For more information on transboundary conservation and regional collaboration, go to:
Regional Collaboration: Stewardship Across Boundaries