Pablo Andrés Ramos, COMET-LA's researcher affiliated to the Colombian branch of the project, has presented his PhD dissertation, Linking Social and Ecological Systems in Afro-Colombian Common Property Lands: Socio-Environmental Conflict and Institutional Change in Water and Biodiversity Management, this February 2nd at the University of Erfurt, Germany.
The thesis has been elaborated as a co-tutelle between the University of Erfurt and the University of Cordoba and co-supervised by Professor Florian Hoffman and Professor Mª del Mar Delgado. The thesis challenges the idea of conflict as a negative issue and explores how conflict can be a trigger of positive institutional changes. It analyses these topics in COMET-LA's Colombian study case.
Pablo Andrés Ramos was awarded with the Suma Cum Laude distinction, the highest acknowledgement of the academic system in Germany.
Congratulations, Dr. Ramos!
The project presents its results in Mexico during the Policy Conference on “Working Together: policies and community management to meet environmental challenges”
The Policy Conference of the COMET-LA (Community Management of Environmental Challenges in Latin America) project was held last 10-11 November at the Ignacio Chávez Seminar Unit of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, with the theme of "Working Together: policies and community management to meet environmental challenges". The conference gathered international actors from the academic, social, business and multilateral world to present results of the COMET-LA project and discuss basic aspects that should be taken into account to improve natural resource governance which are vital for maintaining ecosystem services such as air quality, CO2 sequestration, food security, access to potable water or climate regulation.
One of the main accomplishments of COMET-LA was the creation of a dialogue space for different actors involved in managing natural resources in each of the case studies (Santiago Comaltepec in Mexico; Community Councils of Alto y Medio Dagua and Bajo Calima in Colombia; and Bahía Blanca Estuary in Argentina) and also between the three cases and at global level. Decision-makers, civil society, indigenous and black communities, academics and social organisations were thus able to work together to determine characteristics of the case studies' socio-ecological systems, the problems they face and the actions communities want to take to enjoy a more sustainable economic, social and environmental future.
The project also identified the need to raise awareness and environmentally educate the population, with special emphasis on young people. Likewise it must become possible for communities that conserve natural resources to achieve more socioeconomic development; the production and exploitation of natural resources should not be at odds with their conservation. There is a need to move forward toward sustainable development of them, to exploit their development potential without exhausting them or endangering their future sustainability.
During the conference, essential aspects for advancing toward better natural resource governance identified through the project were presented. It was highlighted that governance models must be developed which have the following cross-cutting components: a focus based on human and gender rights; respect for the local population's cultural identity and history; and enhanced participation by the population. It is also necessary to instil key governance principles such as rendering of accounts, an appropriate legal framework, transparency and participation.
This participation should be undertaken at local, regional, national and international scales. It should address public policies, natural resource access, decision-making and new knowledge generation, developing specific actions and drawing up legal and regulatory frameworks for inclusion.
In this process it is necessary to generate shared knowledge, fostering exchanges between traditional knowledge, management and science, pillars of the COMET-LA project. It is also important to carry out and have access to monitoring and evaluation of environmental information, and that it should have quality and be available for decision-makers as well as stakeholders.
This kind of governance requires time to create trust among actors and generate results. For this reason all the actors must be taken into account, to generate interchange spaces and acknowledge that there are different factors and pathways to achieve results, i.e. to reflect the diversity of socio-ecological systems.
The collaborative effort generated among the different COMET-LA communities will continue beyond the project's lifespan. To that end, representatives from the community councils of Alto y Medio Dagua and Bajo Calima in Colombia, the Chinaltec community of Comaltapec in Mexico, and the artisanal fishermen from Pehuen Co and Monte Hermoso in Argentina have signed a collaboration agreement to continue exchanging experience and working together. The agreement has been joined by the community councils of Córdoba and Agua Clara, Colombia, which did not directly take part in COMET-LA but have closely followed the project and would like to become involved in this network.
COMET-LA is a project financed by the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Development of the European Commission. Its aim is to identify community models for governance and sustainable management of natural resources used by different socio-ecological systems within the current context of climate change and increasing competition for their use. The project's final results will be available in January 2015.
The COMET-LA project led by the Universidad de Córdoba counts participation by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the Civil Association for Rural Studies and Farmer Counselling, the Pontifical Xavierian University, the Community Councils of the Black Communities of the Lower Calima River Basin and Alto y Medio Dagua, the Argentine Oceanographic Institute (CONICET), the National University of the South, the Aquamarina-Cecim Foundation, the Norwegian Luftforskning Institute, the James Hutton Institute of the United Kingdom, the Portuguese company Sagremarisco-Viveiros de Marisco Lda. and the Spanish Committee of the IUCN.
COMET-LA considers it vital to establish dialogue with other local, national and international actors with a view to improving institutional permeability and acceptance and dissemination of the project's results, and to promote the actors' negotiation skills and make the results more relevant. The Spanish IUCN Committee (CeUICN) has therefore set up a Consultation Panel comprising 32 representatives of organisations, institutions and decision-makers with stakes in managing natural resources on different scales: local actors from the case studies, national actors from participating countries and international intermediary members from the 'learning arena'. The panel supports COMET-LA activities by sharing experience on community or participatory natural resource management, helping ensure that the project's results are useful in other socio-ecological contexts. Various queries concerning the project, its results and its ability to be copied in other areas or countries have also been brought before the Consultation Panel.
To that end, the Panel members agreed on the need to develop governance models that arise from communities' own needs, including the gender/ethnic cross element and involving the population in natural resource management. To meet this challenge, more inclusive legislation is needed to enable all citizens to take part in the public policy cycle, with systems for information, transparency and mutual rendering of accounts. Likewise highlighted is the importance of empowerment and capacity-building, which are necessary to ensure effective systems for community-based environmental co-management in Ibero-America, the working scope of most institutions on the Panel, and other regions.
These questions are studied in greater detail in the Policy Appraisal, a document which compares public policies on environmental matters involving the three case studies included in COMET-LA – three regions in Argentina, Colombia and Mexico with different models of community natural resource management.
Members of the Consultation Panel
A total of 28 institutions have joined to date, among them different national actors from the COMET-LA participating countries. In Mexico they are: the Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat of the Government of Mexico, the Institute of the Environment and Human Communities of the University of Guadalajara, the Regional Environmental Fund of Chinantla and Reforestamos México. In Colombia: the Intercultural Study Centre of the Pontifical Xavierian University – Cali Section, the SENA Nautical Fishing Centre, the FUNDAPAV Pacifico Vivo Agro-environmental Social Foundation, the Colombia Natura Foundation, the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute and the Directorate-General for Climate Change of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development. Lastly, in Argentina: the Foundation for Environment and Natural Resources, the Hola Pehuen! Television programme and the Natural Patagonia Foundation.
Thanks to the Consultation Panel, the COMET-LA project is being extended to other countries by means of national actors from Bolivia (Environmental Defence League), Germany (Socio-Economic Institute of the Leibnitz Centre for Agrarian Landscape Research) and Spain (six CeUICN member bodies – the Málaga AdM Sea Class, CEIDA University Centre for Environmental Dissemination of Galicia, Oxígeno, Mare Terra and Catalunya La Pedrera Foundations, and Municipal Government of Málaga).
COMET-LA's recommendations to improve natural resource governance took to the IUCN World Parks Congress, thereby elevating to international level results from the project, the Consultation Panel and proposals identified at the Final Policy Conference. The World Parks Congress hold on 12-19 November in Sydney, Australia, attended by more than 6,000 experts from 170 countries who shared innovative conservation and development experience, besides reflecting on protected area governance and management. The Promise of Sydney drew up during the event, a manifesto that will inspire the protected area conservation programme in the coming decade.
The Spanish IUCN Committee (CeUICN) held a parallel event at the Congress, titled "Improving Governance of Protected Areas". The event generated a space to reflect on essential aspects of good protected area governance, in order to reach consensus with members from various IUCN regions on respective positions ahead of the next World Conservation Congress in 2016.
To that end, the Spanish IUCN Committee shared what it has learned from COMET-LA and transmit key factors for determining bottom-up sustainable governance models identified in the Final Policy Conference.
To fuel that debate, good practices of the Spanish IUCN members with respect to protected area conservation, sustainable natural resource governance and the importance of local knowledge when developing conservation initiatives set out. Likewise, because the purpose was to reach consensus on motions, recommendations from the diagnosis on the extent of implementation of resolutions and recommendations approved at the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju put forward, because to generate new positions it is necessary to learn from successes and mistakes in application of previously approved IUCN resolutions and recommendations, including the three approved ones concerning the COMET-LA project case studies.
Scholars and local communities present the Project's results and expect replicability in similar initiatives
COMET-LA project presented its results in a Policy Conference, 10-11 November, at the Unidad de Seminarios "Ignacio Chávez" of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM by its acronym in Spanish). The Conference was organized by the Mexican team of the project and was institutionally supported by the University of Córdoba's Rector, José Carlos Villamandos, and by the Association of Universities of Latin America and the Caribbean (UDUAL by its acronym in Spanish).
During two days, COMET-LA members and local community representatives gathered CONABIO (National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity), Colombia's Humboldt Institute, the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) and other national and international institutions. The Conference was the scenario to present the results achieved, the lessons learned and the options for the future. A learning environment and a fruitful debate were the common ground as so far has been COMET-LA's Learning Arena.
Local communities of Argentina, Colombia and Mexico had a key role in the Conference, since its main goal was to present results to the policy makers in a practical way. Community representatives of Bajo Calima and Alto Medio Dagua (Colombia), Santiago Comaltepec (Mexico) and Monte Hermoso (Argentina) explained the contributions of the project to the management of their environmental resources in terms of its environmental, economic and institutional aspects. They also highlighted the need of institutional strengthening and capacity building for sustainable management.
Though COMET-LA comes to an end next January 14th 2015, researchers and local community representatives agreed that the project has planted a seed at the communities fostering advances in governance and sustainability of their Socio-Ecological Environments.
The Community Council of Black Communities of the Upper and Middle and Lower Calima Dagua partners Colombia COMET-LA project, participated in the 2014-2015 version of Elinor Ostrom Prize. This award was created to honor and develop the legacy of the Nobel Prize in Economics over the government of the commons that aims to: recognize and promote academic work and applied to young scientists, professionals and organizations in the field of the commons .
In the case of these Community Councils under the guise of civil society in Colombia, have been nominated by their high degree of efficiency and success in community-based programs to ensure the welfare of communities and maintaining collective ownership of the territories especially with respect to watershed protection and rich in forests, water and biodiversity.
The process of selection of the prize winners have finished. We all wish luck ito these Colombian organizations and support them in their initiative to continue working on development models that seek the conservation of natural resources.
COMET-LA Team, Colombia
Policymakers and communities facing environmental challenges side by side
COMET-LA is a research project financed by the 7th framework programme of the European Commission, analyzing community-based management of environmental challenges in Latin America. Its epistemological approach is based on the conviction that the production of new knowledge requires inputs from different sources. Therefore, this whole project has been developed around a 'learning arena' in which researchers from different disciplines, civil society organizations, local authorities and communities, and policy makers have worked together, sharing knowledge. In this way, we have identified the factors that define bottom-up models of governance in sustainable socio-ecological systems in water, forest, biodiversity and coastal and marine area management, working in 3 case studies from Mexico, Colombia and Argentina.
The development of this research has produced a wide variety of lessons learned. Different theoretical and methodological approaches have been applied and adapted to working at the local level and, more importantly, have been adapted to be used by communities.
COMET-LA reaches its end having gathered a wealth of knowledge and experience. The aim of this Policy Conference is to share these results with politicians, authorities, other local communities and the scientific community, but especially with those decision and policy-makers determining the fate of natural resources. We aim to generate a lively discussion not only on the results of the project, but more importantly on its future consequences. We will talk about the issues that have emerged during the construction of knowledge with local communities, hoping to generate attention and enthusiasm about the need to continue expanding this approach and its implications towards other parts of Latin America.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in its Momentum of Change Project, has acknowledged COMET-LA and its efforts to stimulate women-led natural resource management in its 2013 call. UNFCCC highlights the efforts of COMET-LA's specialists working with local communities integrating science and local knowledge. The UNFCCC gives special attention to COMET-LA's approach which involves local women in identifying key variables of environmental problems and developing sustainable solutions. With a special focus on her needs and their role in communities, the project aims to create an arena for exchange, with the ultimate goal of women-led, sustainable, community-based governance in natural resource management. COMET-LA's experiences have shown that women are guardians of their environment among several activities, their local cuisine, their small home-gardens or their inherited knowledge on medicine plants.
COMET-LA also supports the knowledge of local women to make progress in climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as sustainable management of natural resources. The building of the learning arena opens-up opportunities at the local level for women to take a role in community leadership and gives a space for women voices.
The confidence of the local women is boosted by the active and leading role that the women researchers play in the international scientific arena. An example lays on the fact that most of COMET-LA's project leaders are women, both at the scientific and local levels. In each local community a civil society organization (CSO) –COMET-LA's partner- works with scientists and local people, encouraging women participation. So as so, they are fully involved in the project and looking forward to improve the knowledge about the situation and the dissemination of ideas, good practices, etc.
Knowledge sharing and communication tools are essential for the learning arena functioning. Participatory techniques and tools are basic in COMET-LA's development (workshops, focus groups, interviews, informal conversations, field trips and transects, etc.) to perceive and learn about different issues and problems affecting the dynamics of natural resources management at local level. This fact, is taken into account by the UNFCCC as the main innovation in the learning arena: the way knowledge is shared, applied and communicated to the local women.
That is the reason why the project's learning arena, can be developed at other locations with communities and problems similar to those in the analyzed case studies in Argentina, Colombia or Mexico. UNFCCC recognizes COMET-LA's belief that local knowledge can be combined with scientific research to develop women-oriented policies in many fields around the world.
Visit the special site that UNFCCC has prepared on COMET-LA: