Impediments to Community Participation and
Empowerment in the Co-Management of Protected
Areas: Komodo National Park, Indonesia
School of Asian Studies
The University of Auckland, New Zealand
“Local level actions such as resource management are the very foundations of successful
sustainable development policy… Experience increasingly shows that the imperative
transition to sustainable development cannot be made without the full support of the
community and the participation of ordinary people at the local level” (Strong 1992, in
World Bank 1999).
Collaborative management, or co-management, has become a fashionable
environmental management strategy over the last decades, being adopted widely by
national and international actors in their approaches to protected area and natural resource
management. This development followed a wider shift of paradigm in conservation and
development theory and practice, from centralised top-down approaches to notions of
‘bottom-up’, community-based, participation and empowerment that inform the
sustainable development discourse. Concurrently, planning theory has been responding to
similar trends. The notion of communicative or collaborative planning promotes interdiscursive and pluralistic planning processes and the integration of top-down with
‘bottom-up’ decision-making as a means of consensus building. Cleary, both
communicative planning theory (CPT) and practice (CPP) and the concept of comanagement have been informed by the same trend, yet their conceptual relations have
thus far rarely been explored in the literature (see Hamin 2001:124; Lane 2001). Relating
CPT and its critique to the concept, practice and critique of co-management proves useful
in furthering the understanding of the shortcomings that have been observed in the comanagement context over the past years. While the critique of both is mainly concerned
with issues of power and politics, the co-management literature largely understands the
obstacles to successful co-management schemes to be determined by the wider social,
economic, political and legal frameworks. Critiques of CPT and CPP, on the other hand,
focus on the actual process from within, whereby impediments are determined by the role
of dominant actors involved in the process, yet within a wider web of power and
This paper attempts to develop an understanding of this relationship by analysing
the structural impediments to participation and empowerment of local communities in the
co-management initiative of Komodo National Park (KNP), a biodiversity hotspot in
Eastern Indonesia, where local concerns historically conflict with regional, national and
international interests. The history of KNP is one of resource use conflict and the
marginalisation of local communities, as conservation and development efforts are
supported and informed by national and international interests in the economic and
ecological value of the Park’s resources. A management plan designed by the Department
of Forestry in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in 2000 promotes the
concept of co-management as the most appropriate approach to biodiversity protection
and conservation, to attempt to meet the overall objective of biodiversity conservation
and sustainable development by establishing a multi-stakeholder partnership. The
planning and implementation process of this management initiative is the theme of this
Based on the analysis of the management plan and independent reviews of the
process, I argue that despite the co-management rhetoric and participatory initiatives, the
conventional top-down approach to conservation firmly remains due to the values and
perceptions of dominant stakeholders. Although a co-management scheme is allegedly in
place, the undercurrent discourse denies local communities full participation in the
scheme in practice. The paper will first address the conceptual relationship of CPT and
co-management, to then establish an understanding of the problematic issues in comanagement in the context of a CPT critique. Following an overview of the locality and
the wider socio-economic context, the paper will then analyse the co-management
initiative in regards to the notions of community participation and empowerment.
Linking communicative planning with co-management
Communicative planning theory is based on a critique of the instrumental and strategic
rationality of conventional planning theory. It thereby draws from the Habermasian
concept of communicative rationality, arguing for his conception of reason as generated
through an inter-subjective effort at mutual understanding in a particular context (Healey
1992:150). CPT conceptualises a planning process not determined by predefined ideas
and the epistemological framework of a western scientific-rational discourse, but
informed by an inter-discursive understanding, thus shifting the “perspective from an
individualised, subject-oriented conception of reason, to reasoning formed within intersubjective communication” (ibid.). CPT promotes the recognition of plurality and
difference for the establishment of principles of validity between all participants involved
in a process of inter-subjective dialogue. The context of CPT is the attempt to understand
“planning as a democratic enterprise, aimed to promote social justice and environmental
sustainability” (ibid.:141), thus advancing “more democratic ways of negotiating
community development and planning problems” (Tauxe 1995). It builds on the
exchange of varied perceptions and values through dialogue, and acknowledges the
diverse cultural and moral understandings of the participants (Healey 1992:152).
Accordingly, the planning process is understood as a cross-cultural practice and a process
of ‘social learning’ through active participatory dialogue (Lane 2001:667). CPT thereby
responds to claims from diverse systems of meaning and modes of reasoning, moral
perspectives, cultural expressions and material conditions as a means to enable a
multicultural planning policy discourse (McGuirk 2001:197).
Recent shifts in the environmental management debate advocate similar
approaches to conservation and resource management, which, according to Brechin et al.
(2002:45) can be understood entirely as a human organisational process and a product of
social action. Brechin et al. (ibid.:44; see also Campbell 2000) suggest developing a
strategy of ‘conservation with social justice’, which is a people-oriented strategy of
nature and biodiversity conservation that affords social justice and nature protection the
same degree of importance by addressing specific problems in context. Pannell (1997)
points out that ”[o]ne of the primary themes to emerge from current discourses on
resource management is an emphasis upon equity and social justice”. Social justice
incorporates the three broad principles of equal participation in the policymaking process,
self-representation and autonomy as well as political, economic and cultural selfdetermination (Brechin et al. 2002:45). However, the ideal of social justice cannot easily
be defined beyond specific cultural and social contexts. Through concerted dialogue and
negotiation stakeholders can determine mutually agreeable courses of action for both
conservation and human dignity (ibid.).
Co-management is one strategy of integrating these objectives into environmental
planning and management, thus addressing collective concerns of social justice and
environmental sustainability. Co-management is understood as an approach to resource
use and development that advocates dialogue, decentralised and shared decision making,
active participation, shared responsibility and empowerment (Coombes and Hill
2005:136; Lane 2001:658). It is further considered a scheme “in which some or all of the
relevant stakeholders in a protected area are involved in a substantial way in management
activities” through the development of a partnership between the agency with jurisdiction
over the protected area and other relevant stakeholders, primarily local residents and
resource users (Borrini-Feyerabend 1999:226-27). Salm and Clark (2000:65) uphold that
“[t]he approach […] succeeds because empowering communities always works better
than commanding them”. The co-management approach is particularly suitable when
customary or legal rights historically enjoyed by local stakeholders apply to the area and
when access to natural resources is essential for the security of local livelihoods and
cultural survival (Borrini-Feyerabend 1999:227).
A decentralised planning process along with increased community participation in
decision-making provide a framework of co-operative relationships between all
stakeholders, a process that is to empower local communities by means of selfdetermination, thereby increasing the potential for successful future management. It thus
recognises the respective rights and responsibilities of stakeholders in resource
management and takes into account that the decisions to be taken are complex and
controversial, and that different values need to be harmonised (Borrini-Feyerabend et al.
2000:23). Ingles et al. (1999:1) argue that the benefits of participation are not only in
negotiating and achieving the goal of resource conservation. Moreover, the participatory
process itself benefits resource users in that it increases the skills, knowledge, confidence
and self-reliance of resource users to collaborate and engage in biodiversity conservation,
thus enhancing their social capital (see also Pretty and Smith 2004; Selman 2001).
Moreover, the empowerment process goes beyond notions of participation, democracy
and social justice by enabling people to understand the reality of their social, political,
economic, ecological and cultural environment, thereby building the capacity to cope
with the transition towards sustainable development (see Singh and Titi 1995, in James
Critique of CPT/CPP and Co-Management
Considering this conceptual convergence, it has been argued that protected areas are a
potentially rich empirical testing ground for such ideas (Lane 2001:658). The successful
co-management of protected areas could be, as Lane (ibid.:658) suggests, a strong
affirmation of these directions in planning theory. However, the politics of planning
constantly work to undermine their best endeavours (McDonald 1989, in Lane 2001:659).
Indeed, planning, as McGuirk (2001:197) concedes, is to be understood as a politicsladen and power-laden practice taking place in a local, national – and international –
organisational and political context in which the agendas of decision-making are
politically and selectively structured (see also Lane 2001; Tewdwr-Jones and
Allmendinger 1998). While CPT acknowledges the political nature of the planning
process, it nevertheless fails to fully grasp the practical context of power. CPP aims at
transforming power relations by creating deliberative forums which are thought to
temporarily negate the power context of planning and prevent processes of
‘communicative distortion’ by dominant stakeholders seeking to pursue their own
interests (McGuirk 2001:197). However, by assuming a ‘power-neutral’ mode of
dialogue and negotiation, the planning process assumes away, rather than engages with
the politics and power interests in the local context (McGuirk 2001; Tewdwr-Jones and
Allmendinger 1998). It thereby disregards the well-established power of social
institutions – regularised patterns of behaviour between groups and individuals – under
the authority of which a ‘democratic’ dialogue might just reproduce the same power
relations that it seeks to deconstruct (Allmendinger and Tewdwr-Jones 2002:10; McGuirk
2001). It is doubtful whether powerful agents in the process would willingly give in a
consensus that ultimately aims at redistributing power. Instead, it needs to be accepted
that strategic action, the active pursue of particular individual or group interests, is typical
in planning conflicts. Stakeholders are unlikely to behave openly and collaboratively
“while being faced by interest alignments they perceive as conflicting with their own”
(McGuirk 2001:207), and it is impossible to guarantee that all participants will act in an
open and honest manner all the time (Tewdwr-Jones and Allmendinger 1998:1981).
While the resilience of institutional and discursive power seems to be largely
underestimated in CPT and CPP, in the co-management context questions of power
appear to be simply absent. The complex and inherently political nature of resource
management has been widely acknowledged in the literature (Wilshusen et al. 2002:18;
Brosius et al. 1998; Thom and Washbrook 1997). Harvey (1996, in Sundberg 1998) states
that “all ecological projects (and arguments) are simultaneously political-economic
projects (and arguments) and vice versa”, as most natural resource management problems
occur in a social context. Sundberg (1998) argues that the problem is the detachment of
aid and environmental organisations from existing power relationships by solely ‘sharing’
technical and scientific knowledge with ‘target’ populations, thereby depoliticising the
conservation landscape (see also Lane 2001:666). The empowerment process, as James
(1999:14) asserts, seems to be little more than responsibility delegated from above or
from the centre. Accordingly, although one seems to be ‘empowered’ to take a share of
management responsibilities and decision-making, the contemporary sense of
‘empowerment’ does not seem to entail any direct control of resources (ibid.). Instead,
power relationships remain, and the ‘empowerment’ discourse becomes submerged under
‘traditional’ development planning and practice.
Critics of CPT and CPT argue that planners themselves are inherently positioned
in a nexus of power, knowledge and – western scientific – rationality, which validates
expert forms of knowing, reasoning and valuing, and thereby underestimates the
challenges of affirming alternative forms of knowledge and understanding (McGuirk
2001). Indeed, the goals of planning are assumedly universally shared, ignoring the
multiplicity of interests in any planning environment (Lane 2001:659). Planners tend to
refrain from reflecting on their own – professional – background, thereby assuming the
validity of their knowledge, concepts and values. Even if local conceptions and values are
taken into account, the filtering effect of the translation of local knowledge and
community priorities is framed by expert knowledge based on the reasoning of
conventional planning discourses (see McGuirk 2001:210).
The discursive power imbalances in development and environmental planning and
management are expressed in the conflict between instrumental rationality and validated
modes of techno-scientific analysis utilised in conventional planning methods and
ecological assessments one the one hand, and the quite distinct, yet devalued modes of
knowledge and reasoning found in the local context on the other (Castro and Nielsen
2001; McGuirk 2001). Tauxe (1995) maintains that the technocratic view of planning as
“a way of systematically identifying problems, establishing goals, organizing resources,
and applying solutions” intrinsically relies on the ideological power of the language of
science, system, and expertise. Consequently, the institutional reality of planning practice
largely determines and confines the process, further aggravated by conflicting cultural
values and perceptions of a diversity of stakeholders. While this is particularly true in
international development and conservation interventions in Africa, Asia and beyond,
these observations have also been made in the ‘Western’ context. Natural resource
planning and community development in the United States, for instance, display similar
features, i.e. the conflict between multiple ways of thinking, which are usually of unequal
status. Those employing local modes of negotiating and rhetorical conventions are at a
disadvantage and ultimately disempowered in the process. Local conceptions and
knowledge are submerged under the authoritative ideology and institutional power of the
rationalist discourse of science (see Lapachelle et al. 2003; Tauxe 1995).
This tendency significantly informs conservation practice and environmental
decision-making, as the rational-scientific approach to ecological monitoring and
assessment tends to discount local knowledge, values and perceptions in the planning and
decision-making process. Instead, traditional, or conventional, conservation practice is
largely expert-driven, advocating the protection of natural resources and biodiversity
based on the argument of a ‘crisis’ of the world’s environment (Wilshusen et al. 2002:18;
Campbell 2000). Indeed, while debates about social justice and resource users’ rights in
environmental management have significantly changed the international environmental
policy landscape, this transformation is still largely rhetorical. ‘Non-use’, or strictly
limited use, is often considered the only successful approach to biodiversity conservation
and nature protection (Terborgh and Peres 2002; Wilshusen et al. 2002:18; Campbell
2000; Redford and Sanderson 2000; Redford and Richter 1999:1254). Therefore, even
though conservation policies for the most part seem to have moved away from traditional
approaches towards a synergy of conservation with development needs, conventional
perceptions of nature protection continue to be a fundamental and dominant element of
conservation practice. The prominent imperative of biodiversity conservation continues
to produce conservation approaches that marginalise the consideration of the human
dimension (Lane 2001:666). Campbell (2000) points out that most international wildlife
conservation institutions have privileged scientists as decision-makers, who tend to have
a direct stake in perpetuating and reinforcing the traditional conservation narrative based
on their professional and specialised education. These professionals, mainly biologists
and zoologists, are the dominant stakeholders who ultimately determine the outcome of
any decision-making process in conservation and natural resource management
(Campbell 2000), and thus considerably manipulate contemporary conservation practice
However, in the rhetoric of collaborative approaches to conservation and resource
management the participation of local communities features well. As participation and
‘bottom-up’ planning are said to contribute positively to the overall goal of conservation,
community participation constitutes an essential element of the co-management rhetoric.
This discourse suggests the consideration of local knowledge and values as a means of
informing the planning and decision-making process and attaining a consensus-based
scheme agreed upon by all stakeholders. Nevertheless, local communities’ level of
participation varies greatly. Often it does not go beyond the consultation process, and
local communities’ values, perceptions and aspirations are not necessarily taken into
account in the final decision-making process. Participants are poorly or selectively
represented and have only marginal input into the process, and the involvement of local
stakeholders may merely serve as a means of legitimising the decision-making process
and pre-determined outcomes (Lawrence, in Lane 2001:664). Also, fair and equitable
representation in the implementation, monitoring and review process is, even in relatively
favourable circumstances, rarely the case (Borrini-Feyerabend 1999:228). A substantial
level of control and authority in the planning and management process is hardly ever
transferred to local user groups. Governments and private enterprises often oppose the
transfer of any real power and control due to political implications or commercial
interests. Accordingly, the state or other dominant stakeholders define the rules and terms
of the partnership, thus framing the management scheme in a top-down manner (Sekhar
2000). Power relationships are thus sustained and inequalities may sometimes be
reinforced and conflict aggravated (Castro and Nielsen 2001:230; Kellert et al.
One means of maintaining power and control over natural resources, yet adapting
to notions of sustainable development, is to deploy a counter-discourse that suggests
addressing socio-economic needs and assuring participation of local communities.
Instead of arguing for the exclusion of local communities and the prohibition of resource
us, dominant stakeholders promote the counter-narratives of ‘sustainable use’ and
community-based conservation as a means of authorising and legitimising their activities
(Campbell 2002, 2000). While the former rests on the economic and ecological value of
biodiversity assets as a rationale, e.g. through ecotourism or bioprospecting, the latter
argues that economic benefits alone may not be enough to secure local support for
conservation, and a higher level of participation and control is critical to the overall
success of conservation (Campbell 2002:30-31). Both concepts imply some of the notions
generally ascribed to the co-management approach, i.e. local level, people-centred,
participatory and decentralised (ibid.:30). The combination of the two stands in contrast
to the traditional conservation narrative. Yet, as Campbell (2002:31) argues, while they
may conflict in practice, they also coexist. As I will argue below, the propositions made
in the KNP management plan adopt to the counter-narratives of co-management,
sustainable use and, to a lesser extent, community-based conservation, while the narrative
of traditional conservation remains the fundamental discourse determining the overall
planning and implementation process.
The Management of Komodo National Park
Historically, conservation and development planning in Indonesia has by and large been
defined in a top-down manner, giving little, if any, voice to local communities. Although
the political culture of Indonesia is moving towards decentralisation of power and the
devolution of more autonomy to the regions, the country’s bureaucratic structure and
hierarchy with its institutional and political legacies is likely to determine conservation
and development planning for some time to come. However, “[e]mpowering local
communities and governments to better conserve, sustainably utilize and benefit from
biodiversity is becoming increasingly important in Indonesia in the new era of economic
hardship, political democracy and decentralization” (GEF 2000:9).
Komodo National Park is one such example, where this discourse shapes
conservation strategies. KNP and the issues underlying its management are extraordinary
in several instances. KNP is one of Indonesia's first five national parks, which were
established in 1980, and is considered the flagship of Indonesian national parks. It has
received early international attention for accommodating the Komodo Monitor, the
world’s largest living lizard, which has been protected by legislation as early as 1915.
KNP received the status of both a Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site, and is
one of the world’s 25 biodiversity hotspots. International organisations and agencies,
such as UNDP, UNEP, The World Bank, the Global Environmental Facility and The
Nature Conservancy have all been or still are involved in conservation efforts in and the
management of the Park. Indeed, environmental NGOs are among the main actors
internationally involved in the conservation and protection of biological diversity,
thereby “addressing the problems of a shrinking and environmentally threatened global
commons” (Meyer 1997).
Since its designation as a national park, the local population living within the Park
has been increasingly marginalised, their traditional use rights curtailed. While the
integration into a global cash economy transformed the local economy, the main potential
source of cash income – the utilisation and extraction of the Park’s marine resources –
was progressively more constrained (Walpole and Goodwin 2000; Hitchcock 1993),
increasingly even affecting the subsistence level of local communities. Although tourism
became a major industry in the region during the late 1980s and the 1990’s, local
communities within the Park did not benefit from the development, as the industry was
established only in the two gateway towns to the Park. Nonetheless, most of the benefits
generated through tourism flow out of the regional economy to larger national or
international tourism operators (Walpole and Goodwin 2000). To date, the majority of the
people living within the Park - 97% - continue to rely on fishing as their only source of
income (PKA & TNC 2000:15). Restrictions on access to resources, rising costs of living,
a growing population and the lack of alternative sustainable sources of income increased
the pressure on resources, also and predominantly through destructive fishing practices
by non-Park inhabitants (PKA & TNC 2000:5), to the extent that urgent action was
deemed necessary to protect the Park’s natural resources from further degradation.
In 1995, the Directorate General of Nature Protection and Conservation (PKA)
and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) initiated the planning process for the KNP
management initiative, with the main objective of establishing a terrestrial and marine
reserve in KNP for the conservation of the Park’s biodiversity and the full protection of
natural communities, species, and the terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems (PKA &
TNC 2000:11). PKA and TNC proposed a 25 Year Management Master Plan, which was
endorsed in 2000 (PKA & TNC 2000). Therein, the concept of co-management was
considered the most appropriate approach to Park management, although no preliminary
research indicates whether communities in the Park wanted such a scheme in the first
place and what form power sharing could take. Acceptance of the scheme was considered
a given – a gross miscalculation. Up to this day, the socialisation of the scheme attempts
to “introducing the community to the [Komodo Collaborative Management Initiative]”
(TNC 2003:33). However, local communities, whose rights have historically been
infringed, prove reluctant to enter a ‘partnership’ model that was imposed in a top-down
fashion, and where economic benefits and equal sharing of power are all but guaranteed.
The Komodo Collaborative Management Initiative (KCMI)
Of the ‘strong co-management structure’ to be established in the Park (PKA & TNC
2000:11), community participation was from the beginning a key objective;
“[r]ecognizing that local support is essential to conservation success, the Park Authority
and Conservancy work closely with villagers to achieve the Park's ambitious goal to
completely protect the marine ecosystem within the park boundaries” (TNC n.d.:1).
Indeed, “[p]articipation of resource users in the design and implementation of the
management plan is crucial for KNP's sustainability” (PKA & TNC 2000:63). The
approach in KNP lends itself to the assumption that aspects of CPT were a key notion in
the planning discourse; the management plan suggests a constituency building process by
which the involvement of relevant stakeholders aims at an interactive process and a
‘focused dialogue’ with specific ‘problem groups or communities’ (ibid.:23) as a means
of establishing a consensus on the Park’s management principles (ibid.:63). The approach
thus relates to some of the features of CPP, by establishing what Healey (1997, in
McGuirk 2001:199/200) calls the (bottom-up) ‘soft infrastructure’ for CPP, which are the
processes of relationship building, social collaboration and deliberation, within the (topdown) ‘hard infrastructure’ of social structuring, legal frameworks, procedures, rules and
resources (see also Tewdwr-Jones and Allmendinger 1998).
Accordingly, the Funding Proposal by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), a
major source of funding for the collaborative management initiative, states that “[t]he
project […] focuses on conservation and sustainable use […] and supports the active
involvement of local communities as managers and beneficiaries of better biodiversity
management” by means of “supporting barrier removal by promoting new management
models that develop partnerships between local government, private sector, NGOs and
local communities (GEF 2000:9, emphasis added). However, an International Finance
Corporation (IFC) project document indicates the power distribution within the
management context. Accordingly, the management objective is to improve “[…] the
effectiveness of park management through the adoption of a collaborative management
approach, involving all key stakeholder groups, including the Park authority (PHKA),
local government, a joint venture between an international NGO (The Nature
Conservancy) and a local tourism company (JPU), and with additional input from local
communities, government agencies and private sector organizations” (IFC 2001:2).
Local communities are provided the opportunity for ‘additional input’, while the
final decision-making process rests with dominant stakeholders. Indeed, as Shurcliff
(2001:15) indicates, project developers are not yet proposing that local community
groups are to be formally included in either the collaborative management agreement or
the Management Board of Directors. The composition of the board is not yet clear (Mous
et al. 2004:17), but local residents or their representatives are unlikely to have much
influence on the decision-making process at this level. According to Dhume (2002:51),
TNC and the JPU, in fact a national rather than a local company, propose to control the
majority of seats on the management board. The KCMI will instead rely on consultation
mechanisms for community inputs and participation (Shurcliff 2001:15). In the
following, I will consider the aspects of consultation, site conservation planning and the
sustainable use of the Park’s resources to analyse whether and to what extent local
communities were provided an opportunity to participate in the planning and decisionmaking process.
Consultation, according to Ingles et al. (1999:5; see also Campbell 2000; Salm and Clark
2000:67), can only be considered a low- to medium level of participation, as opposed to
shared decision-making and interactive participation. Consultation is defined as a
‘modified top-down interventionist’ approach, where “[…] there is an attempt to obtain
information from other stakeholders about their interests and knowledge before decisions
are taken. There is some participation as a result of this information-gathering, but
planning is still top-down” (Ingles et al. 1999:6). Through consultation “[e]xternal agents
define the problems and information gathering process. Such consultative process does
not concede any share in decision making, and professionals are under no obligation to
utilize the information that has been gathered” (Salm and Clark 2000:67).
While participation through consultation “is fast becoming an outdated approach”
(Salm and Clark 2000:67), there has been substantial investment in stakeholder
consultations to develop the management plan since 1996 (TNC 2003; Shurcliff 2001:2).
Bakar (1996:28) pointed out that local communities in and around KNP displayed a
‘narrow perspective’ in regards to the protected area status in that they considered the
protected area as an imposed regulation that puts constraints on their livelihood. Through
consultation of local communities it was hoped to address these concerns while at the
same time attempting “to explain to […] local communities how they will be involved in
long-term management planning of the Park” (Mous et al. 2004:18). It is indicative of the
KCMI’s top-down approach that the awareness team is explaining and promoting KNP
regulations, rather than engaging in dialogue to elaborate on different values and
perceptions held by local residents towards management of the Park (see also Mous et al.
2004:38). Moreover, according to an overview of stakeholder consultations between 1996
and 2003, the first stakeholder consultation inside the national park, where those most
affected by Park regulations reside, took place in October 2000, while most initial
meetings were held in Labuan Bajo and Jakarta (TNC 2003). The 25-year management
plan had by then been launched already.
Furthermore, there were several important gaps in consultations regarding
methodologies used. Various stakeholder groups, in particular women and marginalised
village residents, were not systematically identified (see also Shurcliff 2001:7). There
were no effective consultations about the proposed collaborative management approach
that would involve most of these diverse stakeholder groups. In fact, none of the
documents available provides a comprehensive list of all stakeholders in the first place.
‘Local communities’ have been conceptualised as a homogenous group, a recurrent
shortcoming in natural resource management, the term ‘community’ hiding a great deal
of complexity (see Berkes 2004:623; Agrawal and Gibson 1999). Yet the question of
how the diversity within Park communities is taken into account bears an answer.
Singleton et al. (2002:21) indicate that “[t]here are no readily constructed arrangements
that would give adequate representation to the wide range of stakeholders”. This
shortcoming effectively renders the interests of certain marginal groups invisible.
Moreover, the potential risk of competition between co-management ‘partners’ possibly
even dividing communities, a scenario discussed by Coombes and Hill (2005; see also
Berkes 2004:627), has yet to be explored in the context of KNP.
Shurcliff (2001:2) suggests involving local stakeholders in collecting and
assessing needed information for decision-making and holding open meetings in which
decisions are made, documented and publicised. The effectiveness of many of the
proposed activities to achieve KNP management objectives will depend upon cooperation
and active participation of KNP residents and resource users. Thus far, TNC and PKA
staff have directed activities in villages too much themselves, rather than effectively
consulting and subsequently modifying their activities based on information and feedback
supplied (Shurcliff 2001:13). This suggests that the activities of the awareness team, the
provision of basic information about resource use and management regulations, is
nothing more but the ‘sharing’ of technical and scientific knowledge with ‘target’
populations criticised by Sundberg (1998). Additionally, TNC awareness staff indicated
that most decisions in consultation sessions are being made by elder males, and effective
mechanisms to bring forward concerns of women, youth and particular ethnic groups
have not yet been found (Shurcliff 2001:14, 32). Moreover, due to the strong Islamic
affiliation of local communities, local Islamic leaders possess a strong influence on
everyday community life (see also Bakar 1996:6). It is not clear as to what extent official
village leaders – possibly loyal to the structures of Indonesian bureaucracy – are
representative of the diverse social and ethnic groups in the Park, while informal Islamic
authorities may potentially be in an equal, if not more suitable position to speak for
community concerns. The Site Conservation Planning procedure discussed below
supports the notion that not only have consultation procedures been inappropriate, but
also impact on management decisions has been low.
Site Conservation Planning
Site Conservation Planning (SCP) is considered a truly participatory process to
incorporate community views into the overall management plan (Mous and Gorrez 2001,
Appendix II:6). The process identifies the ecosystems that are found in the area and the
stresses and sources of stresses that act upon these systems to recommend strategies for
protection (ibid.:2). It contributes to the management objective of implementing
traditional use zones with exclusive fishing rights for Park residents. While Mous and
Gorrez (ibid.) indicate that involvement of local communities has been indirect only, the
SCP process as proposed could be considered an example of attempting to integrate
collaborative and reflexive processes of dialogue around the meanings and
understandings of customary land use practice, ecological needs and conservation
objectives, by attempting to “translate existing knowledge into management actions”
(ibid.). The concept thus borrows from Healey’s (1992:154) notion of a “respectful
discussion within and between discursive communities, […] implying recognising,
valuing, listening and searching for translative possibilities”. Thereby, communities could
become directly involved in the process, for strategies to be local and specific, thus
meaningful (Mous and Gorrez 2001:3). According to Shurcliff (2001:3), the SCP process
provides a direction for coupling awareness creation per se with finding workable,
community-based solutions to resource use and “an excellent mechanism and focus
through which to achieve empowerment of local communities” (ibid.:23).
However, the actual impact local input has on the final decision-making process is
questionable. In fact, “[c]ommunity inputs in the SCP process where hitherto indirect”,
although Mous and Gorrez concede that “more direct involvement in SCP would enhance
community support for conservation management” (2001:2). Thus far, the final decisionmaking process rests with the project planning body, constituted by PKA and TNC
planning staff. Indeed, the SCP process is largely informed by the technical expertise of
TNC (Shurcliff 2001:23). Local peoples’ perceptions of ideal land use and allocation may
be considered as a marginal input into the overall SCP process, or their concerns are
‘translated’ into the technical language of science. Based on the identification of –
scientifically determined – ecological needs, decisions are likely to be foreclosed
according to TNC expertise. As Campbell (2000) has observed in a similar context, all
experts assumed that the objectives of conservation efforts were set, and participation
was used as a means of ‘getting people on side’. In fact, the identified need to provide
awareness staff with ‘training in persuasion techniques’ (Shurcliff 2001:23), suggests that
despite the rhetoric utilised participation levels are in actual fact low and local concerns
are of marginal input at the most, as the use of persuasion is conceptually not far from
coercion (Salm and Clark 2000:67; Ingles 1999:5). Consequently, understanding is not
mutual, since the validation of knowledge and perceptions is biased, determined by a
dominant discursive capacity. This phenomenon is indeed widespread. Lane (2002:830)
observed in the context of land management in Australia that “[a]n absence of respect
(perceived or actual) for indigenous understandings of, and approaches to, land
management amounts to an act of exclusion that may make indigenous people reluctant
to participate in mainstream programs”. Thus, power sharing, dialogue and participation
in decision-making is marginal at the most, a shortcoming that also reflects on the
KCMI’s alternative livelihood programs.
Cernea (1989, in Thompson 1999) points out that resource degradation in developing
countries, while incorrectly attributed to “common property systems”, actually originates
in the dissolution of local level institutional arrangements whose very purpose was to
give rise to resource use patterns that were sustainable. In KNP, as Shurcliff (2001:19)
remarks, there are such long-standing customary use patterns that may not adversely
impact KNP’s resources. Indeed, traditional management authorities and practices could
possibly reinforce set regulations. As in other parts in Indonesia, the recognition of
traditional resource use patterns, even within established use zones, could possibly be
used to increase incentives to patrol and enforce against illegal activities and further
considerably benefit conservation and resource management (Singleton 2002:21;
Shurcliff 2001:19; see also Thorburn 2000). Considering the potential benefit of
integrating traditional ecological knowledge into an adaptive management scheme (see
Berkes et al. 2000), local knowledge and values should be determined and incorporated
into the KCMI, a point also made by Singleton et al. (2002:10, 18) in their environmental
assessment study of the KCMI. However, customary use patterns and rights as well as
local ecological knowledge are often not in line with the professionalism of expert-led
conservation strategies (Berkes 2004:627; Campbell 2000). According to Shurcliff
(2001:21) there has been some unresolved debate about whether local community
members can be involved in biological monitoring, indicating the conventional attitudes
of conservation professionals towards local knowledge and practices.
As the most feasible livelihood strategies for local communities the management
plan suggests the development of seaweed culture, the pelagic fishing industry and the
development of fish culture targeting the live reef fish industry. However,
implementation of these projects either failed due to economic and cultural barriers, or is
so far largely limited to communities living outside Park boundaries (Mous et al.
2004:48; Shurcliff 2001:21). Indeed, “[a]t present, no aquaculture development is
envisaged within the national park boundaries” (Meyer et al. 2004:13). As a
consequence, poor residents in particular face food shortage over several months a year
(Borchers 2004:87ff). Additionally, Park residents continue to be largely excluded from
the tourism industry, although many have voiced their aspiration to become more
involved. Involvement in ecotourism could potentially provide substantial benefits by
stimulating the local economy, and Park residents have expressed their aspiration to
become more involved in the tourism sector (PKA & TNC 2000:69). Instead,
involvement in the industry remains marginal and profits go to national and international
operators, who have the capacity and financial means to invest in tourism. It is a common
dilemma that high levels of leakage and low levels of local ownership undermine the
perceived potential of ecotourism as a tool for community development and conservation.
However, considering the structure of the regional and national tourism industry as well
as fluctuations in tourist numbers there is instead a need for a more balanced
diversification of the local economy. Whether abovementioned livelihood alternatives
potentially provide a platform for development is open to question and would necessitate
a revision of these programmes to assure their socio-economic and cultural viability.
While the protection of natural resources is a necessity, the prohibition and
restriction of their use based on their ecological and economic significance without
addressing local needs and aspirations in regards to alternative livelihood strategies is
unlikely to meet considerable levels of support from local communities. It further hardly
indicates efficient and meaningful dialogue. Instead it suggests that the management
approach was designed in a top-down fashion according to its ecological, yet not socioeconomic viability. However, biodiversity conservation “is unlikely to be achieved unless
the aspirations of local peoples for economic development are considered as a
fundamental component of the conservation equation” (Lane 2001:666).
From above analysis several points are evident. First, levels of community participation,
an integral element of co-management and a stated management option in KNP, are low.
To date, involvement of the community has been limited to consultation, while final
decision-making rests with TNC and other dominant stakeholders. Indeed, even the
consultation process indicates several shortcomings in incorporating local perspectives
and knowledge. TNC staff actually admits that an increased level of community
participation in the co-management initiative is not – yet – a management option. Second,
even at the community level, diverse interests and concerns are not appropriately taken
into account. Decision-making appears to be dominated by elder men, and age as well as
gender poses impediments for equal participation at the community level. Third, as
indicated by the strategies adopted by the awareness team and during SCP processes, the
management process fundamentally relies on scientific ecological expertise in
determining resource use, and attempts to introduce this knowledge to local user groups,
although customary use patterns and institutions have been in place and may prove useful
for achieving overall conservation objectives. Finally, while the discussion on ecotourism
development features well in the sustainable use discourse, Park residents are only
marginally involved. At the same time, local use of marine resources is largely curtailed
and framed by scientific ecological concerns.
Overall, management rhetoric and practice appear to be a token concession to the
notions of co-management and partnership, as those stakeholders whose stakes are
highest have least influence on the decision-making process. Instead, management firmly
remains within a dominant concept of conservation practice, thereby denying to devolve
any meaningful level of control to local communities. The power-, knowledge- and
rationality-frames remain in place, and the multiple and contesting claims are little
explored, less mediated. The planning and management process is largely embedded in
the instrumental rationality of traditional conservation practice as represented by TNC
and, to a lesser extent, the implementing national agency. The lack of impact of public
participation suggests that decisions made were foregone conclusions. Yet, public
participation in the decision-making process should be evaluated on the ability to change
the outcome of the planning and management process, thus indicating a level of
community empowerment (Hamin 2001:126). Moreover, as Coombes and Hill
(2005:147) argue, “proponents of comanagement may be more successful if they accept
indigenous approaches to interaction, debate, and consensus”. This would also account
for co-management being an evolutionary process that requires mutual learning and trustbuilding, fundamental attributes for successful and sustainable management (see Berkes
Unfortunately, managers and scientists tend to doubt the readiness or competence
of community members in assuming planning, management and decision-making
responsibilities. Observations in the Indonesian forestry sector indicate that “[t]o be
required to consult naive and ignorant villagers and tribespeople goes against everything
[officials] have been taught about top-down forestry, as practised by professionals”
(Fortmann 1989, in Thompson 1999). This attitude of conservation experts towards local
communities is a recurrent phenomenon. Based on this perception, control over decisionmaking is relinquished on paper only, if at all. The ‘scientifically rational’ view of
conservation managers and officials, the subsequent depreciation of local communities’
knowledge, perceptions and values as well as a lack of real political commitment and
policy support are among the main obstacles to delegating more management authority to
local communities. Speaking from a vantage point of Western science and expertise,
Redford and Sanderson (2000:1364) aptly point out that “[forest people] may speak for
their version of the forest, but they do not speak for the forest we want to conserve”.
Berkes (2004:628) thus calls for a ‘cross-cultural conservation ethic’ that takes these
multiple perspectives and value systems into account and defines conservation more
As long as biologists and other ‘normal’, i.e. conservative and ‘traditional’
conservation professionals act as the filter, through which concepts of sustainable use and
community-based conservation pass before being put into practice (see McGuirk
2001:210; Campbell 2000), a new conservation philosophy is unlikely to materialise. The
filtering effect ultimately contributes to the resilience of the dominant traditional
conservation narrative, by being framed by expert knowledge based on the reasoning of a
conventional conservation discourses. While conservation objectives thus have been set
from the beginning, ‘participation’ only appears to serve as a means of ‘getting people on
side’. Although Shurcliff (2001:15) indicates that conditions are favourable to develop
collaborative management arrangements that formally include local communities in KNP,
the participatory process is unlikely to disengage from its institutional and political
legacy, which shapes the boundaries of existing interactions and capacities within the
framework of economic imperatives and political objectives, constituting what McGuirk
(2001:204) identifies as “[…] a style of communicative routines, born of a local political
culture and […] based on adversarial politics”. As such, attitudes towards conversation
are likely to be by-products of a pre-existing culture that may be antithetical to
deliberation, and in some context may be rather authoritarian than democratic (see
Allmendinger and Tewdwr-Jones 2002:15).
A thought on community participation
Collaborative planning and management lends itself to the notion of a process-oriented
approach rather than as a means of achieving an end (Ingles et al. 1999:1; Tewdwr-Jones
and Allmendinger 1998:1983). True participatory projects are those which empower
people by building skills, interests and capacities that continue even after the project
ends. This implies the institutionalisation of such initiatives and the corresponding
capacity for activities to spread beyond the immediate project in both space and time.
Thus, while they provide one measure of social capital, participatory processes are the
means to build social capital over the long run. However, while it is important to consider
the participation process as a means of capacity building and generating stocks of social
capital, hence an end in itself (Pretty and Smith 2004; Selman 2001; Ingles et al. 1999:1),
its benefits nevertheless become ambiguous once participants realise that their input and
involvement does not generate any concrete results and considerable changes in the
The issue at hand is the tendency of actors involved in the participatory process
pursuing certain objectives arising from locally situated social relations, structural
positions and cultural systems of valuing and meaning. Participants are unlikely to
behave openly and collaboratively if they deem their fundamental interests to be
contested by other groups in the process (McGuirk 2001:206/7; Tewdwr-Jones and
Allmendinger 1998). While actors may be willing to negotiate the means of achieving
their objectives, they are nevertheless unwilling to significantly transform their interests
and objectives to reach overall consensus. It thus is only a matter of who holds the power
to pursue their interests most efficiently and thereby determines the overall planning
outcome (McGuirk 2001:206). Consequently, participants continue to be embedded in a
web of inequalities through a material and discursive power and value hierarchy
While utilising participatory approaches, collaborative planning and management
is nevertheless undertaken within an institutional, political, and legal framework that
remains ‘top-down’ (Sekhar 2000; Tewdwr-Jones and Allmendinger 1998:1987). Tauxe
(1995) makes a valid point by questioning whether it is possible at all for planning to be
truly a community-based process, which goes beyond its bureaucratic discourses and
organisational forms. Thus, even provided the discourse on community participation
adopted in the co-management approach in KNP would lead to increased and more active
participation of local communities, as suggested by Singleton et al. (2002), these
procedures may in turn work to enforce dominant organisational, ideological, and
discursive forms by institutionalising and legitimising management structures, thereby
further marginalising and disempowering – certain groups within – local communities.
Indeed, a communicative approach to decision-making is likely to sustain the influence of
powerful interests, while at the same time suggesting to act more deliberatively. Any
potential empowerment process is hampered by the fact that the empowerment of one
group usually necessitates the relative disempowerment of another. Thus, alongside
collaborative approaches pursuing general interests and communicative action, specific
interests and strategic actions to pursue these co-exist. The co-management initiative of
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