Promoting Conflict Sensitivity in Transboundary Protected Areas: A role for peace and conflict impact assessments
Conflict is detrimental to conservation, while conservation is, in many respects, inherently conflictual. How can we reconcile the goals of peace and biodiversity conservation? One approach that is being promoted among donors, national governments and conservation groups is the establishment of transboundary protected areas (TBPA). By connecting two or more protected areas (PAs) across international boundaries, proponents anticipate benefits in terms of ecosystem integrity and functioning, eco-tourism revenue, community identity and regional peace and security. But protected areas—transboundary or otherwise—have a legacy of fueling tensions between various actors, particularly between PA authorities and local groups, as well as between different ethnic groups. Moreover, PAs can become embroiled in ongoing military conflicts through their uses as strategic bases for combatants or refugee camps in post-conflict settings.
Considering this complex nexus of PA and conflict issues, how will TBPAs address the issues differently or more effectively? More importantly, because many TBPAs are by definition being established in conflict zones, how can we be sure they are contributing to peace rather than conflict? In this paper, the authors draw from the experience of the humanitarian development sector in conflict zones and propose the design and implementation of Peace and Conflict Impact Assessments (PCIAs). As a means of determining an intervention's impact on local/regional peace and conflict dynamics, PCIAs have been used to anticipate, monitor and evaluate projects so that at the very least, they do not increase the chances of violent conflict and, at most, they contribute to peace building. Although the structure and use of PCIAs continue to be debated among development practitioners, they represent an important move toward systematically considering an intervention's impact on the broader socio-political setting. This approach should be central to the design and management considerations of TBPAs, and implementing PCIAs may prove helpful in ensuring the achievement of their stated goals.