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Commons in Action

"Commons in action" is a joint program by the IASC and the Elinor Ostrom Award. The animation was done by the Viumasters. Get to know their work at viumasters.com

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Property Rights: Identity, Dignity, and Opportunity for All

Articles and Photographs: John Kurien, Former Fisheries Co-Management Advisor, FAO/UN Banda Aceh
Country: Indonesia (Aceh Province after the tsunami)
Type of resources involved: Coastal aquatic resources: fisheries, coral and mangroves

What change happened to strengthen rights to the commons?

The demographically debilitated families and communities-so many men, women and children died in the tsunami-quickly revived their social institutions such as village committees, customary fishery organization, women's groups amongst others. 1 60 young men and women from each of the 160 villages along the 400 km
coastline of West Aceh were trained in community organization and fisheries management. The representatives of the customary fisheries organization in each village , called Ihok, were keen to revitalize their customary rights and responsibilities over the land and sea space. They were involved in discussions on how to revive this. A participatory film on customary conflict resolution was produced. The district fishery authorities needed to respond to the pressures from the communities and saw merit in the idea of co-management and were open to become aware of its potentials.
The FAO/UN initiated a process of contemporaneous action at the 'local' and the 'macro' levels and facilitated bringing together the three main stakeholders in the coastal fishery-the coastal community, the fisher organization and the district fishery administration-to set up fishery co-management centers in strategic places
along the coast which were decided collectively by the three groups. The institutional arrangements-rules and norms-for these initiatives were put in place and the organizational arrangements for their implementation sanctioned by the district government. These co-management committees have the mandate for governing the Iand and sea space in the form of a community property right. They are collectively involved in rejuvenation of the corals and mangroves destroyed by the tsunami; they have stopped destructive fishing methods which were started as a result ill-informed post- tsunami development assistance and provided alternative fishing gear; they have participated in the formulation of a new province level fishery legislation , now before the province parliament, to foster greater coordination and more responsible fisheries development and management; and they are convinced that mainstreaming co-management is the right way forward to regulate, conserve, allocate and rejuvenate their community resources.

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When did this happen?
This happened between 2007 and 2010.
What were key factors that made th is happen?
The crucial factors that made this process possible were the facilitation, in the form of human capacity building, undertaken by a project the FAO/UN initiated , combined with the favourable 'initial conditions' in Aceh province and a people recovering from three decades of conflict and 30 minutes of unprecedented devastation of the tsunami. These favourable conditions included: egalitarian social structures; strong religious faith ; huge degree of trust in the community; long tradition of customary practices of coastal resource management; greater self-reliance, but with some dents caused by the tsunami aid!
Who was involved?
The people and organizations involved were the coastal communities, Panglima Laot, a customary fisher organization, the district fishery departments, and it was facilitated by FAO/UN national staff.
Who benefited?
Those benefited were coastal communities , smal I-scale fishers and the district administrations.
Was there any IASC connection that facilitated this change?
Yes, the FAO Advisor is an IASC member!
Were you personally involved? May we follow u with you for more information?
Yes, I am a FAO Advisor and was involved since the beginning until the end, through facilitating the whole process of institutional deve lopment for fisheries co-management.
Any references to literature on this change:
Kurien, J., 201O: Negotiating Fisheries Co-Management in Aceh Province, Indonesia: Notes on Process, FAO/UN.

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