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Social, Cultural and Legal

This page will be extended with syntheses of case studies from different aquatic habitats / fishery types.

Human Wildlife Conflicts and Conflict Management Styles

Human-wildlife conflicts can be very complex. Core issues often look quite different, from different points of view. Conflict intensity and peoples concerns often vary with timescale, location and the activities of different stakeholders.

However, a lot has been learned about good practice in addressing human wildlife conflicts. We know that there are many possible strategies that organisations can use, and many conflict management styles that individuals can adopt. A key aspect of good practice is being open and flexible to exploring different strategies and styles.

The question is – how do we know which approaches work best? People can get used to using the same strategy and style over many years. How can we support ourselves and other stakeholders to engage with different strategies and styles that might bring us closer to solving the problem? Textbooks on conflict management would describe cormorant-fish-fisheries conflicts as a multi-stakeholder conflict where collaborative strategies might be most useful. For this reason, this part of the Platform looks mainly at good practice in a collaborative approach to problem solving.

First, though, a word on ‘styles’. The style we adopt individually or as an organisation (through habit or choice) often influences the strategies we use to address a conflict. The diagram (below) considers how people may approach a conflict, and they will be influenced by a number of factors. Groups or people each have their own interests or goals. But how they respond to situations depends also on how important they feel it is to maintain a relationship with the other person or group. This will also be influenced by the degree of power people feel they have, their preferred style, their normal approach to conflict, and their degree of flexibility in working with different approaches.

No single style is the ‘right’ one. Each style depends on circumstances and on how comfortable people feel with adopting a given style given particular relationships, goals and context. If neither the goal nor the relationship(s) are important, then withdrawal might make sense. But withdrawing completely can make it impossible to achieve lasting solutions for all parties.

Accommodation, if always used, can lead to discontent and the risk of a ‘flare up’ (e.g. “Why is it always me who gives in?”).

Forcing needs to be carefully chosen because relationships and power balances often are more important than we think they are. In some situations, ‘forcers’ may be met with costly and unexpected force in return, rather than the withdrawal or accommodation they expected.

Compromise can help build rapport but there often are situations where a compromise leaves both sides unhappy (“Could I have got more out of this negotiation – did I give them too much?”).

Co-operation and collaboration (consensus building) emphasises creativity and positive, mutually satisfying outcomes. This style may hold the greatest promise in many natural resource conflicts. However, the style can require careful handling and skillful facilitation, mediation, or other third-party support.

Good Practice Guidelines

A number of conflict management ‘good practice guidelines’ have been developed. Two frequently cited Guidelines are the OECD-DAC (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development - Development Cooperation Directorate) Guidelines “Helping Prevent Violent Conflict” (OECD-DAC, 2001), and International Alert’s 1998 “Guiding Principles for Conflict Transformation.” These can be adapted for human-wildlife conflicts. One effort to indicate how this might be done may be found on pages 19-23 of Jones et al (2005, Biodiversity Conflict Management, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (NERC).

Of course, collaborative approaches are not the only way to approach human-wildlife conflicts. In fact, some approaches can be anything but collaborative. For example, legal approaches, some customary approaches, lobbying, and some institutional approaches can be highly adversarial – even combative.

Perich-Anderson asks “…are there ever circumstances when collaboration is not appropriate at all?” The answer is yes … “…when a quick response is needed, … key stakeholders refuse to collaborate, or one party has unchallenged power to influence outcomes, when conflicts are based on deeply held values, or where there are intractable adversarial relations.”(Perich-Anderson, P. 2004. ‘The only game in town: managing multi-stakeholder conflicts,’ Chapter 12 in Pammer, WJ and Killian, J (eds), Handbook of Conflict Management, 272pp, Marcel Dekker Inc., New York).

Here the work of Roy Lewicki, Barbara Gray and Michael Elliot is useful. They describe as ‘intractable’ those conflicts that are characterized by “… considerable intensity, persist indefinitely over long periods of time, and cannot be resolved through consensus-building efforts or by administrative, legal or political solutions.” (Lewicki, R., Gray, B. and Elliot, M. (eds) 2003: Making Sense of Intractable Environmental Conflicts).

This is where it is helpful to consider conflicts in different ‘Frames’ – working with people’s different interpretations of the issues (a) to develop a common frame for the conflict (‘interpretation’ of it), and (b) to acknowledge, create and adopt approaches that can promote tractability (improve the chances of developing and implementing solutions).

In the CorMan project, though, it is the underlying approaches of collaboration and working with different stakeholders’ ‘frames’ or interpretations, that guide and underpin much of the facilitation work and the Project as a whole.

The figure below shows a ‘clock’ of 12 key principles for good practice in collaborative approaches to multi-stakeholder human-wildlife conflicts.

  • The fundamental importance of perceptions is acknowledged. One doesn’t have to agree with the different perceptions people have. But unless people feel that their views are respected and have value, progress is unlikely.
  • It is good practice to give special consideration to the opportunities offered in cultural differences. The culture of local peoples, fishing communities, anglers, hunters, conservation groups, and other organisations and institutions all need acknowledging and bringing into to the discussion.
  • Diversity is regarded as a real plus in collaborative approaches to multi-stakeholder conflict management. This is not just about respecting diverse views, but actively engaging with them.
  • Building and maintaining effective communications – verbal, non-verbal (body language), written, electronic – is a critical part of good practice. This is not easy with cormorant conflicts, which exist across countries, at different scales and across language groups. A major part of respecting others, as well as helping people understand each other, incudes giving space and time to speakers of languages other than our own.
  • Developing rapport is about achieving a good ‘connection’ with another person or group. Being in rapport does not mean we have to agree. It means we are connected enough to be able to discuss things with respect and a positive attitude toward another’s views. How we talk to each other can often be as important as the things we say.
  • There is a need to understand and equalize power is emphasized. Local people and small groups may not have the power to get access to officials. On the other hand, officials may not know about local views and the power that local knowledge brings. The complexity of power needs to be understood, and the emphasis needs to be on ‘power with’ others, not ‘power over’ others.
  • It is a principle of good practice for negotiations in collaboration that we explore people’s underlying needs and try to reach agreements on these. This is achieved by asking good questions so that we really understand what people actually need vis-à-vis cormorant-fish-fisheries conflicts, and why they need those things.
  • We need to cast a wide net to explore many possible solutions. One thing that we have all learned is that there is no quick fix to cormorant-fish-fishery conflicts. Widening options is a necessary part of good practice, rather than rushing to solutions. That said, it must also be recognised that people have explored a lot of options. Many stakeholders are really hoping for quick progression toward solutions from among a very challenging set of issues.
  • Likewise, analysis is important. Part of CorMan’s task is to provide data from counts to improve people’s collective ability to analyse, and hence understand, more about cormorant ecology. But other analyses are also important. Good practice requires us to undertake the necessary analyses but also be mindful of the resources available (time, people, money, energy, etc).
  • Good practice requires us to (a) consider different people’s interpretations and frames of reference for the conflict, and (b) try to create and adopt approaches that can improve the chances of developing and implementing solutions.
  • Identifying and acknowledging areas of agreement (e.g. common ground) is a key aspect of good practice in collaborative approaches to conflict management. It helps to strengthen collaboration and bring a sense of progression if people focus on achievements as well as gaps.
  • Lastly, it is a critical aspect of good practice to ensure that agreements are tested against reality. This includes designing and developing indicators that measure progress and success (impact) in ways that can be easily understood by different groups. It includes other elements of good project management and ensuring the legitimacy of the agreement. Good practice also asks us to ensure that agreements are well recorded and that people understand what the consequences are of not keeping commitments or agreements.

Good Practice Principles of Building Collaboration and Consensus