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Examples of existing commons around the world

1. A commons in Italy:

2. Commons in India/Rajasthan:

3. Building commons in US around the Great Lakes

    A shared and open map that dares to re-orient ourselves to the Great Lakes bio-region:

4. OWS Making Worlds workshops Febr. 2012:

5. Key elements of a Social Charter for commons activists, by Kevin Hansen:

6. Registers for commons in UK: there must be a register for common land held by every county council or London borough:

7. Commons in South Africa:  Has brilliant practical messages for building commons, for communities, NGO’s and policymakers.

The specific objectives of CROSCOG were to create a network of researchers and practitioners on commons governance that reaches across the boundaries of particular resources and eco-systems. It was also to identify and share lessons from recent research about encouraging positive conservation practices across large areas and management multiple-use commons with a comprehensive eco-system based approach. CROSCOG aimed to share these lessons with a broad audience including the global scientific community, policymakers in Southern Africa, and local communities in Southern Africa through specific, targeted outreach efforts. 

Messages to communities 

  1. Commons are life: You know how important the commons are to your livelihoods. Be strong and active in defending your commons and promoting ways to use and manage them sustainably to benefit local people. 
  2. You can take the lead: Communities do not always have to be the passive recipients or objects of outside policies, programmes and interventions. It is possible for communities to take the initiative towards outside authorities, pushing their own ideas and agendas without always needing to be in reactive mode. Build collaborative platforms and coalitions between communities to represent your interests to outside authorities. Negotiate strongly with the state and the private sector when the acquisition or use of your resources is proposed - protect your interests! Seek advice and support from NGOs or other facilitators to strengthen your positions. 
  3. Your science is valid: Rural people have valuable environmental knowledge that deserves as much respect as the knowledge of outside scientists. Treasure and build on the environmental science in your community. Seek ways to apply it and to merge it with outside science. 
  4. Build on the strengths of your local institutions: Look for strengths in your existing local institutions for the management of natural resources - including your customary law - and advocate the roles of these local institutions where these can make an equitable and effective contribution to sustainable land use and livelihoods. 
  5. Seek ways to use the opportunities provided by local government: Learn the strengths and weaknesses of your local government systems. For example, it may be possible to enact district council bylaws that will help you to govern your natural resources. Exploit whatever opportunities existing legislation and institutional structures may offer you. 

Messages to NGOs

The governance of the commons can succeed in southern Africa. There are many cases of successful governance of the southern African commons: programmes, projects and strategies that have benefited rural people in an environmentally sustainable way. Learn all you can about these successes, and help communities to learn about them too. 

1.    Co-learning with communities: Be ready to learn from and with communities, seeking insights into their systems of environmental knowledge, customary law and governance. Work with communities to build space for adaptive learning and management, deepening local scientific knowledge and building management systems that do not automatically depend only on exogenous science. 

2.    Create space for dialogue: Seek ways to create space and platforms for dialogue between stakeholders and interest groups within communities so as to build consensus and strengthen community positions for negotiation with outside authorities. 

3.    Help build coalitions: Communities can take the lead, but need support in building dialogue, coalitions and joint platforms to formulate and promote their interests and strategies towards outside agencies. They can be more effective when they scale up horisontally and take strong joint positions. 

4.    Avoid multiplication of local institutions: Communities suffer when each agency or project invents a new committee for forestry, conservation, water, wildlife or whatever. Work through existing structures whenever feasible and appropriate. 

5.    Help build community initiatives and authority: Respect community level institutions and initiatives. Help them build their political power in the natural resource management arena, to strengthen their profile vis-a-vis external authorities. This has economic and operational advantages: community resource management is often cheaper and better respected than the enforcement of statute law by outside agencies. Customary law may still have a significant role to play in this regard. 

6.    Ensure community benefits: Ensure that all conservation initiatives generate tangible benefits for local people and that these outweigh the costs that they impose on the community. Help them appraise proposals for commoditisation of their commons critically and to resist interventions that threaten their livelihoods. Develop NGO skills to support communities in negotiating hard deals with the state and the private sector that assure and promote community interests. 

7.    Seek profound simplicity and apply those insights: Avoid overly theoretical or scientific approaches. Do not automatically use templates for community consultation and involvement. Take time to learn and appreciate the profound realities and to express their operational implications in simple and practicable terms. 

8.    The power of maps: Help communities to counter outside constructions and mappings of their realities: use new technologies to help integrate and combine their spatial and environmental perceptions into larger scale maps of resources and management priorities. 

Messages to policymakers  

The commons are ecological systems that are critical for livelihoods: Most ecological systems are commons and shaped by human use that must be managed. This is true from local fisheries and grasslands to global commons such as the atmosphere. Commons play a critical role in livelihoods and ecological systems even at relatively higher scales. For example, forest commons on the local level make an important contribution to solving problems of climate change that are themselves a global-scale commons. Commons need protection and the state alone cannot provide this protection. This requires local involvement (meeting basic needs and promoting fair access to resources through effective policies). 

1.    The government's responsibility in enabling local involvement: Community structures need to be legally empowered instead of repeating the all too frequent tendency to criminalise livelihoods through micro-management of the commons. Policymakers need to reinforce the critical role played by local communities and customary practices because they reflect the community's various moral, social, political, and economic incentives that drive human behaviour. Government achieves its objectives when problems are solved by local communities. The role that government must play is ensuring that these processes are transparent, fair and legitimate. 

2.    Scaling up existing practices is a key to sustainable commons: Large scale and complex commons can in fact be managed when local people are involved. Governments should start with what they find on the ground. Some actions tear commons down while others preserve and sustain them; it is these latter actions, these practices of sustainable commons management, which must be replicated to meet the challenge of large scale and complex commons. 

Section 2: Dissemination of Knowledge 

The messages identified above have been and are being directed to specific audiences including community members, policy makers, and NGO working in sustainable development. The most important dissemination activity was the Policy Event in Cape Town which was attended by policy people as well as scholars from across Southern African and with some representation from Eastern Africa and Europe. The community and NGO messages are being distributed through a community information sheet and by radio broadcasts that have taken place in Zambia and Botswana. The NGO and policymaker messages have been published as one of the well-known PLAAS policy brief series and have been disseminated through that organisation's policy network. 

Section 3: Publishable Results 

CROSCOG has produced and submitted a total of 23 scholarly papers. These included two overall theme papers that pulled together information from all cases. It also included three cross-case comparisons on special themes: tourism, redressing historical discrimination in pelagic fisheries, and fisheries co-management. The remainder of the papers described lessons coming from specific cases of commons management. 

For more examples see also

8. Open Commons Region Linz


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