Forest resource governance and the devolution of power through co-management approach: policy vs practice : a case study in Rema-Kalenga Wildlife Sanctuary, Bangladesh
Abstract: In recent years co-management has been widely used as a strategy to address the challenges related to protected area governance, and devolution of power, management responsibility and empowerment of actors are recognized as central to this approach. This study examines the extent to which present co-management arrangements in Rema-Kalenga Wildlife Sanctuary (RKWS), Bangladesh has achieved devolution of power, responsibility and resource use rights and what are the prevailing gaps between policy and practice. Lockwood’s good governance principles and Agrawal and Ribot’s power decentralization framework were adopted to analyse the governance reform process and present mechanism of power sharing at study site. Our findings reveals that, co-management program has been helpful in advancing forest conservation goals, reducing corruptions, creating social networks, changing the attitude of stakeholders and minimizing resource related conflicts. But unlike many cases around the world, outcomes of this decentralization process have not been systematically positive with regard to devolution of power and management responsibility from state to local co-management organizations. Additionally, this process is struggling to offer a meaningful reciprocal partnership between state and local community due to unequal power relations and top-down accountability mechanisms. Legislative and executive powers are still withheld by the state and important controls over decision making process were retained by government agencies. There is no proper arrangement regarding the sharing of benefits arising from co-management and this governance reform has failed to have a significant impact on the socio-economic development of the local communities. This paper concludes by pointing out that though co-management has showed its potential for solving some of the pressing contemporary forest governance challenges of Bangladesh, it is still operating as like a foster child of government without any legal policy backup and state’s support which has limited the devolution process and its outcomes. It is recommended that, policy interventions, capacity building of local actors, identifying context specific enabling conditions, enhancing downward accountability, and a shift from centralized regulatory frameworks are required for ensuring equitable and democratic power sharing process.
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