Institutions, consensus and conflict: Implications for policy and practice
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This article is a summation of the sustainable development special issue of the IDS Bulletin (Vol. 28, no. 4). Sustainable development is being heralded by institutions and organizations at varied levels. Sustainable resource management cannot be achieved without recognizing that: 1) multiple institutions are involved in resource management (e.g. village elders and kinship networks both confer access to land), 2) different people rely on different institutions to support their claims to environmental goods and services, 3) the nature of many institutions is informal and are characterized by a regular instead of fixed set of norms and 4) institutions and organizations are not independent of community power and authority relations. To address these issues, it is suggested that a "learning process approach" be followed to guide and empower subordinate groups. Through the process of empowerment, conflict will arise and negotiation is suggested as a path to resolution. Negotiations will have to take into consideration differential power relations and modes of operation. In practice and policy arenas, actors need be assured of uncertainty in relation to outcomes. Policy cannot be directed at a specific outcome given the different actors, their definitions of sustainability and their access to other agents of change. It is suggested that, in certain contexts, idealization of past community relations to environment should be utilized to further the goals of the community (e.g., decentralized control of resources).