Participating in the 5th FLARE Annual Conference was a fruitful experience. I am pleased to share my experience and contribution. As a leading global network, FLARE (Forests & Livelihoods: Assessment, Research, and Engagement) seeks to advance the state of knowledge and practice on forest-based livelihoods issues. Through its annual conference, it brings together leading scientists, policy experts and donor agencies to promote the science-policy intercourse, in a bid to improve global forest management. This year’s FLARE meeting ran from the 23-25 August 2019 at the School of Environment and Sustainability (SEAS), the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, United States of America.
The three-day conference ran as follows:
Day 1 offered three simultaneous workshops focusing on:
- Rights-based Agenda for Forest Landscape Restoration
- Learning from failure: The research, the psychology, and how to get better at it
- Sharing Research for Impact
Day 2 and 3 of the conference focused on the presentation of research findings of Senior and Junior Scientists, who approached the forest-livelihoods nexus from ecological, economic, institutional, socio-cultural, and governance perspectives.
This was interspersed by two keynote presentations; the first keynote presenter was Cristina Coc, Director and co-founder of the Julian Cho Society. She has been an activist for Maya Land and Forest Rights since 2003. She worked with Maya villages in Southern Belize to mobilize for the campaign to secure indigenous land and forest rights. Her presentation entitled: “Towards a Collective Dream: Forest and Economies of the Maya People After Winning Legal Affirmations to Their Lands in Southern Belize”, gave a detailed phase-based picture of over three decades of the Maya struggles to secure their land and forest rights. Mrs. Coc’s discussion centered on how indigenous peoples, who were once taken for granted by the government of Belize, remained resolute and determined to pursue their struggle to claim ownership rights. Some of the strategies employed, she noted include the creation of fruitful alliances, and the empowerment of these groups, including women and the youths. An inspiration for other indigenous forest peoples!
The second keynote presenter was David Kaimowitz, Senior Advisor for the Climate and Land Use Alliance. David leads the Ford Foundation‘s work on natural resources and climate change, with a focus on empowering poor rural families (including indigenous peoples) to gain access to and control over forests and other natural resources. His presentation on “Two Decades of Policy Narratives About Forests and Climate” centered on the evolution of the discourse on tropical deforestation, climate change mitigation and adaptation, including rights and incentive-based approaches to tropical forest conservation. Another discussion point was on the Post 2019 research and policy focus on forest and natural resource management.
Other panel discussants were renowned scientists and conservation stakeholders such as Arun Agrawal (University of Michigan), Jesse Ribot (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign), Gaia Allison (Department for International Development, DFiD), Paul Ferraro (John Hopkins University) Pam Jagger (University of Michigan), and Leticia Merino (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).
A total of 95 presentations, distributed over 23 sessions were featured at the conference. My presentation “Constitutionality manifestations and potential implications for forest co-management in the Lower Mustang District of Nepal” which was co-authored with Tobias Haller (University of Bern, Switzerland), Eckhard Auch (Institute for Tropical Forestry, TU-Dresden) and Prabin Bhusal (Institute of Forestry, Tribhuvan University, Nepal), focused on diagnosing the manifestations and potential implications of six constitutionality principles in the context of Nepal.
As a recent theoretical construct, constitutionality builds on Ostrom’s design principles and on the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework. It seeks to understand the processes and contexts within which novel institutions can be successfully constructed to address power asymmetries in natural resource management. The presentation also serves as an entry-level pitch for future research considerations, focusing on: (i) gender and class-based emic perceptions of local actors, (ii) defining pathways to craft and legitimize local forest management institutions, and (iii) determining conditions under which states are willing to legitimize bottom-up institutions in co-management.
Besides having to discuss scientific and policy issues, the over 150 participants at the conference had the opportunity to make merry and to share possible ideas for future collaboration.
At the closing ceremony, discussions were introduced on the possibility of a Special Issue with the Journal World Development. Further details on this is still being awaited. The FLARE experience is, indeed, great. I do encourage colleagues to join this network!