UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Protecting places for nature, people, and peace : a critial socio-legal review of transboundary conservation areas Hsiao, Elaine C.


Transboundary Conservation Areas (TBCAs), such as ‘Parks for Peace’ which have an explicit peace objective, have been heralded for their potential to simultaneously contribute towards biodiversity conservation and peace. In a world affected by frequent armed conflicts and widespread environmental degradation, the ecological peacebuilding potential of TBCAs should inspire hope. However, TBCA literature is unclear as to whether TBCAs with or without an explicit peace objective contribute positively to peace. Political ecologists describe them as externally-imposed, heavy-handed or even coercive, neoliberal constructs, and even long-time proponents caution that they can contribute to conflicts if not undertaken appropriately. This dissertation proposes that TBCAs and Parks for Peace have not generated the peace dividends envisioned because they are not appropriately designed for peace, conflict-sensitivity, or conflict resilience. The dissertation’s analytical framework combines a political ecology approach with socio-legal analysis and peace studies perspectives. Empirically, the dissertation examines 56 transboundary agreements representing 32 TBCAs, responses to a survey of 88 TBCA practitioners, and field research conducted in two case studies from the Great Rift Valley in East Africa – (1) the Greater Virunga Landscape (GVL), and (2) the Kidepo Landscape. Findings indicate that TBCAs can contribute to peace if they are properly designed and negotiated at the appropriate level for desired functionality (i.e., operational integration on the ground may be better achieved through localized agreements, whereas regional political integration requires higher-level agreement), that sustained support to activities on the ground is essential in conflict or post-conflict settings, and that bottom-up agreements can provide greater conflict resilience. TBCA agreements must provide clear mandates supporting peace and conflict resolution through cross-border institutional frameworks and on-going activities. Most importantly, they must be conflict-sensitive for TBCAs seeking to transform violence and conflict, and conflict-sensitivity must refer to all three categories of international, social and ecological peace.

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