World Bank "CBNRM Initiative"

World Bank's CBNRM workshop (Wash. DC, May 1998)

The "CBNRM Initiative" was a World Bank project. The main output was the "International Workshop on Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM)", which was organized in Washington DC, 10-14 May 2018. Certain follow-up activities were also organized, including knowledge management, internal and international networking on CBNRM, as well as regional workshops. The project was managed by the World Bank Institute, and it was coordinated by Chris Gerrard. I worked on this project the whole time as a Coordinator. The workshop took place at the premises of the World Bank headquarters. There were more than 250 participants, representing over 60 countries. Both public sector and civil society were represented.

The CBNRM Initiative operated in the period 1997-1999.

Sponsors and Partners

The World Bank Institute of the World Bank organized the workshop, in conjunction with Ford Foundation, International Development Research Center (IDRC), and Rockefeller Brothers Fund. In addition to these Sponsors, there were a number of Partners to the workshop: Africa Resources Trust, World Bank Group's Common Property Resource Management Network (CPRNet), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Association for the Study of Common Property (IASCP), and The World Conservation Union (IUCN).


The overall objective with the workshop was to give the participants, the Partners and Sponsors, as well as World Bank staff, an opportunity to learn more about how to institutionalize community-based natural resource management effectively. From this overall objective followed these more specific objectives:

  • To facilitate a learning dialogue among participants from all over the world in relation to institutional reform with respect to community-based natural resource management;
  • To identify and promote awareness of key institutional issues with respect to community-based management of natural resources;
  • To generate information and to learn about viable institutional options for community-based management of natural resources; and,
  • To enhance the capacity of existing communities, networks, stakeholder groups, and international donors to bring about positive institutional reforms with respect to community-based management of natural resources.


The workshop Themes were a way of operationalizing and achieving the objectives through focusing attention on specific issues. In order to provide a guiding structure to the workshop, as well as achieve the Objectives with the workshop, four themes were identified. The selected themes should be understood as a way of operationalizing the objectives and making them more concrete. While closely related, as well as overlapping, the themes are, at the same time, focusing on issues that are distinct enough to warrant separate treatment. Taken together, they form an overall conceptual framework for how community-based natural resource management was presented and analyzed at the workshop.

The themes structured the overall workshop, including the Plenaries and the Case Studies, in the following way: Four of the plenary presentations each addressed one of the four themes, and thus presented a framework for the set of case studies that addressed each theme. The themes are:

  • Theme no. 1: The Process of Establishing an Enabling Policy and Institutional Environment.   This process takes place at both the macro and micro levels, and fosters the emergence of community-based institutions to manage natural resources locally. This theme includes the establishment or codification of well-defined property rights and responsibilities whether state, individual, or common with respect to natural resources.
  • Theme no. 2: The Participatory Process of Organizing Effective Community-Based Groups.   This process, operating on a large scale, contributes to community-based groups effectively managing their natural resources locally. This theme includes the role of catalytic organizations, such as regional and local governments and non-governmental organizations.
  • Theme no. 3: Effective Operational Linkages Between the Public Sector, the Private Sector, and Community-Based Groups in the Management of Natural Resources.   Such linkages will, in a formal sense, be established between the government (located on national, regional, or local levels) and community-based groups in the management of natural resources. This theme includes fiscal arrangements between governments and communities, institutional arrangements to make governments more client-responsive, and monitoring and evaluating the impacts of new institutional arrangements.
  • Theme no. 4: Alternative Approaches to Conflict Management in the Use of Natural Resources.   Such approaches are addressing conflicts found at all levels, including the local, regional, national, and international levels, including conflicts within and between communities, between various levels in the management of a natural resource, such as a river system, and between nations. This theme, and the papers presented under it, were developed in collaboration with the International Development Research Centre.


In fall 1997 the international CBNRM community, as available in public sector and civil society, were invited to submit abstracts for papers to be presented and discussed at the workshop. We received an overwhelming almost 300 submissions. After detailed discussions on our side, taking into account variables like regional representation, focus areas, and ecosystem coverage, the authors of 20 of the abstracts were invited to prepare and submit full-fledged papers, following specific guidelines that we had prepared. The workshop, then, was organized around: (1) discussing these 20 selected papers and (2) a series of plenary presentations.

The plenaries and case studies each addressed one of the four themes of the workshop. Furthermore, there was a clear regional angle to the discussions, as all participants were organized in regional working groups. These working groups produced detailed recommendations to relevant stakeholders based on the experiences and lessons learned during the workshop. These stakeholders included, importantly, the governments back home as well as the World Bank itself.


The workshop produced the following material: (1) plenary presentations, (2) case studies, and (3) regional working group recommendations. Together with other documents - partly as contributed by organizations involved as Sponsors, Partners, or participants - this output was made available on a dedicated workshop website on a World Bank server. This workshop website was available until November 2001 (see Note 2 on how to access this website). All the workshop material is also available on the CBNRM Net website (see Sources for link).

Follow-up Activities

A number of regional CBNRM workshops were planned under this project, in Africa as well as in Asia. As it happened, for different reasons, only one of them took place, namely for West Africa (Niamey, Niger,12-17 October 1998).

The World Bank's Common Property Resource Management Network (CPRNet), managed by Lars Soeftestad, was a Partner of the May 1998 CBNRM workshop. It was involved in the subsequent networking activities. This involved specifically organizing a network of the workshop participants and other interested CBNRM stakeholders (see Sources for link to a Devblog article about CPRNet).

The networking activities under this project were emphasized strongly in the recommendations prepared by the workshop participants. They called for the World Bank to organize a virtual network of and for the participants. This was understood as very necessary, given that the participants live and work throughout the world, in some 60 different countries. This network was called CBNRM Net. Importantly, it included also World Bank staff.

Given the widespread location of its members around the world, it was deemed necessary that this be a virtual network, one that would base its communication strategy primarily on the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), specifically Internet and email.

In addition to facilitating communication between the World Bank, and later on CBNRM Net, and its members, using ICTs, it was also a goal that CBNRM Net should address the needs of knowledge management. That is, assemble documents on CBNRM, including research and descriptive documents, and make them available to those interested.

It was featured on the World Bank's intranet, and was also available externally.

(1) This text is adapted from the workshop website, as available on the CBNRM Net website. Section "Follow-up Activities" was prepared for this article.
(2) The workshop website was available on a World Bank server until 2001. It is still available via (see Sources for link). Note: the external links do not work.
(3) Image credit: Taken from the workshop website. Prepared by the World Bank "CBNRM Initiative".

(4) Relevant Devblog articles: World Bank CPRNet (, CBNRM Net (
(5) Permalink:
(6) This article was published 30 July 2019. It was revised 13 August 2019.

CBNRM Net. International CBNRM workshop (Washington DC, 10-14 May 1998). URL:
World Bank. International CBNRM workshop (Washington DC, 10-14 May 1998). URL:

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