New IUCN WCPA Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines on transboundary conservation now available online. Read the news here and download the Guidelines here.
By Jamie McCallum and Michael Schoon
All TBC initiatives require co-operation between one or more political entities (state or region) in order to be born in the first place. As such they are innately political constructs. These entities may well have to consider national or regional sovereignty implications in promoting such a scheme thus adding another layer of political complexity.
Transboundary cooperation can enable broader political collaboration between states by using environmental management as a tool to foster good relations and reinforce confidence. By working together, officials from adjacent countries (both at the national, regional and local level) may resolve differences on an issue of relatively low political importance. Through this process, these same officials can learn to understand, trust and empathise with their counterparts, reducing the chances of misunderstanding and enabling further cooperation on areas of more political sensitivity. This can lead to greater stability, economic cooperation and social development.
In certain cases these areas of environmental cooperation can be classified as Parks for Peace (often called Peace Parks). Parks for Peace, like other TBC initiatives, are committed to the maintenance of biological diversity, but critically they are also specifically designed to promote peace and cooperation. Parks for Peace can manifest themselves in many ways. One celebrates the ongoing peaceful relationship between two countries. Another manifestation emerges as an outlet of cooperation where national relations might be strained. They can also be used as a means to ease an ongoing border dispute in the aftermath of war or even as a catalyst for peace itself. Parks for Peace can act as a goodwill gesture to rebuild peaceful cooperation after a political settlement has been reached. In areas where diplomatic initiatives have failed, talks about shared conservation objectives may be a driving force for settling of disputes.
However, there is limited scientific analysis of the role of Parks for Peace in advancing peace. As such it is important that further analysis of environmental cooperation is undertaken at the local, regional and state level.