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.