World Bank "CBNRM Initiative"

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


The "CBNRM Initiative" was a World Bank project that began in 1997. The main output was the "International Workshop on Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM)", which took place in Washington D.C., 10-14 May 2018. Several follow-up activities were planned and organized, including on knowledge management, internal (that is, within the World Bank) and international networking, and regional workshops. The project was managed by the World Bank Institute, and was coordinated by Chris Gerrard, and later also by Vicente Ferrer. I worked on this project as a Coordinator. The workshop took place at the premises of the World Bank headquarters. There were more than 250 participants, representing public sector and civil society in more than 60 countries.

Sponsors and Partners

The World Bank Institute, where the CBNRM Initiative was located, organized the workshop, in conjunction with Ford Foundation, International Development Research Center (IDRC), and Rockefeller Brothers Fund as co-sponsors. Further, there were a number of Partners: Africa Resources Trust, World Bank's Common Property Resource Management Network (CPRNet), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC), and The World Conservation Union (IUCN).


The overall objective with the workshop was to give the participants, the Partners and the Sponsors, as well as World Bank staff, an opportunity to learn more about how to institutionalize CBNRM 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 management of natural resources.
  • 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.
  • 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.


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 were:

  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 included the establishment or codification of well-defined property rights and responsibilities whether state, personal, or common property with respect to natural resources.
  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 included the role of catalytic organizations, such as regional and local governments and non-governmental organizations.
  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 at national, regional, and 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.
  4. Alternative Approaches to Conflict Management in the Use of Natural Resources.  Such approaches address conflicts at all societal levels, including at the local, regional, national, and international levels, including conflicts within and between communities, between administrative 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 IDRC.


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 number 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, and participants this output was made available on a dedicated workshop website on a World Bank external server.

In addition to facilitating communication between the World Bank, 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.

Follow-up Activities

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 necessary in particular because the participants, as well as the many others that worked on CBNRM, lived and worked throughout the world. Given the widespread location of its members, it was deemed necessary that this be a virtual network, one that would base its communication strategy on the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), specifically Internet and email. This network, CBNRM Net, was established in 1998, following the workshop. Importantly, it included also World Bank staff. CBNRM Net operated initially through a World Bank website, and later on through its own dedicated website. A newsletter was published

The World Bank's Common Property Resource Management Network (CPRNet), as a Partner in the May 1998 CBNRM workshop, and managed by me, was actively involved in the subsequent networking activities. This included organizing and managing CBNRM Net (see Sources for link to a Devblog article about CPRNet).

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

Exist Strategy and Closure

Towards the end of the CBNRM Initiative project a summary evaluation report was prepared. When I left the World Bank in 2000 to return to Norway, I proposed to my manager that CBNRM Net be continued, managed by others, but this did not happen (as a result it came to be managed by a Norwegian NGO, CBNRM Networking). The World Bank's West Africa region already had a strong focus on CBNRM, and this operational work continued, specifically in agriculture and rangeland management. While there was a focus on community-based management of natural resources by dedicated staff and project managers in other of the World Bank's regions, I am not certain it can be concluded that the CBNRM Initiative led to clear organization-wide strategy to promote CBNRM.

The CBNRM Initiative closed in 1999. The internal and external World Bank websites were available until November 2001 (Note 2). All the workshop material is still available on CBNRM Net's website (see Sources). All my output in connection with the workshop is also available (Note 3).

Lars T. Soeftestad

(1) This text is partly adapted from the workshop website, as available on the CBNRM Net website (see Sources). 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). Please note: the site was last updated in February 2000, and some internal/local links, as well as all external links do not work.
(3) Output from the World Bank "CBNRM Initiative", including: Announcement, Program, Plenary presentations, Case studies, Recommendations, Lists of participants, and final report, is available on at:
(4) Image credit: The World Bank "CBNRM Initiative". About: from the workshop website.
(5) Relevant Devblog articles: "CBNRM Net" at: | "World Bank 'CPRNet'" at: | "CBNRM Networking" at:

(6) Other Devblog articles: "My Networks, 1970s-current" at: | "Networks and Networking" at: | "Networks and Virtual Communication" at: | "Languages, Land Tenure, and Land Degradation" at:
(7) Permalink. URL:
(8) This article was published 30 July 2019. It was revised 14 December 2020.

Sources, General
Soeftestad, Lars T. and Chris D. Gerrard. 1999. "The International Workshop on Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM). Washington D.C., United States, 10-14 May 1998. Workshop Report." URL:

Sources, Websites
CBNRM Net. International workshop on CBNRM (Washington D.C., 10-14 May 1998). URL:
World Bank. International workshop on CBNRM (Washington D.C., 10-14 May 1998). URL: