Protected Area Management & Natural Resource Governance: Exploring Pathways for Environmental Sustainability & Peacebuilding


Recent studies demonstrate that in some contexts, protected areas (PAs) can serve as important engines for sustainable development. However, no systematic assessment has yet identified which governance systems and management tools are most effective at enabling PAs to provide social and environmental benefits. Given the multiple pressures on the world’s ecosystems, it is critically important to uncover both 1) what types of PAs are most effective at enhancing sustainability, and 2) how to manage PAs to minimize conflict/fragility and maximize peacebuilding. Across two phases, this mixed-methods project will study the drivers of peace, conflict, and environmental sustainability associated with natural resources and PAs to assess effective governance and management practices that 1) magnify positive social, economic and environmental benefits, 2) mitigate the risk of protected areas amplifying fragility and conflict risk, and 3) enhance resilience to future social, environmental, and climatological shocks.

Phase 1: We will employ a large-N geospatial statistical methodology to identify linkages between social and environmental drivers of wellbeing and conflict near PAs globally. The methodology will also enable us to estimate the social dividends of proximity to PAs according to multiple parameters of well-being and conflict-intensity scores.

Phase 2: Selecting some PAs for survey based on emergent findings from Phase 1, we will qualitatively investigate the linkages between governance and management approaches and social and ecological outcomes in and around PAs. We aim to better understand key challenges and successes to achieving conservation goals in contexts of local and state fragility, and ways to integrate the needs of a variety of different stakeholders in PA management. Main deliverables will include 2 submitted peer-reviewed publications based on each phase of the project, literature reviews and synthesis reports, and stakeholder workshops. The research will also aim to author policy guidance toolkits, and revise conflict-sensitive natural resource planning toolkits


Short-term (until March 2021)

  • Contribute to developing a knowledge base on PA impacts on livelihoods, health outcomes.
  • Contribute to developing a knowledge base on PA impacts on conflict, fragility.

Medium-term (until March 2022)

  • Include marginalized and indigenous groups in natural resource management and governance.
  • Build robust evidence on how to use PA management to reduce anthropogenic pressure on the natural resource base.

Long-term (until March 2024)

  • Foster social cohesion through conflict prevention and management.
  • Increase adaptive capacity for critical ecosystems through more responsive governance.