World Bank "CPRNet"

World Bank Group's CPRNet, Newsletter header

"The World Bank Common Property Resource Management Network" (CPRNet) was established in 1995 by me, with important support from my colleague Narpat S. Jodha (Note 1, Note 2). We were both at the time staff members of the World Bank, based at the headquarters in Washington D.C. CPRNet was an international network open to practitioners, policy makers / managers, researchers, and others interested in issues related to the protection and advancement of common property rights, commons, and sustainable natural resource management. This included, inter alia:

  1. Institutions and management of natural resources.
  2. Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM).
  3. Poverty-reduction strategies and knowledge management.
  4. Relations between property rights regimes.
  5. Traditional/local knowledge.

I had already in 1994 set up the World Bank network "Indigenous Peoples Net" (IPNet), which became a precursor to CPRNet (Note 3). CPRNet was from the very beginning closely connected with the World Bank. It was concerned with property rights, commons, sustainable natural resource management, partnerships, and tenurial and institutional aspects of managing natural resources. A fundamental premise for CPRNet’s work was to build local capacity.


For a correct understanding and analysis of CPRs, it is important to separate natural resources as such from the tenurial aspects of managing these resources. CPRNet was concerned with the latter institutional modalities. CPRs cover all types of natural resources which are shared by a group of people or communities, including transboundary resources covering two or more countries. A list of these resources would include the following: closed water bodies, coastal zones, community forests, mountain areas, open seas, pastures, rangelands, rivers and river basins, sacred groves, uncultivated waste areas, and wetlands. In addition, there are resources like air, climate, and open seas where the CPR is referred to as a global commons. Whether localized or global, these resources continue to be important parts of community resources in developing countries.

In comparison with privately owned and managed  as well as state-controlled  resources, CPRs play a crucial role in: (1) reducing rural poverty and inequality, (2) maintaining local-level biodiversity and micro-level environmental stability, (3) enhancing agricultural productivity and diversity, and (4) promoting collective sharing and group action. These issues constituted key areas of concern for the World Bank.

The focus of the World Bank's work had, until the establishment of CPRNet, largely been restricted to resource management issues where tenure was fairly clear, and to specific natural resources. Thus a large amount of work had been done on, for example, land tenure and administration in countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. There had been less focus on examining other, more complex and/or traditional, forms of tenure and management, as well as other natural resources, including aquatic areas, forests, and rangelands. This focus on one natural resource, and neglect of other resources, had sometimes resulted in damaging effects on several CPRs and those depending upon them.


CPRNet is concerned with resource management regimes that require collaborative often group-based action. Guided by the above considerations, as well as the need for harnessing the potential of CPRs as an important component of development strategies in its own right, CPRNet aimed to:

  1. Enhance the awareness about CPRs and their importance within the World Bank as institutional modalities, but also as resources that are managed collectively, as well as susceptible to induced institutional development for CPRs.
  2. Increase the understanding of the dynamic interplay between various types of property rights' regimes at the local level, and the importance of this for a correct targeting of World Bank investment operations.
  3. Function as a clearinghouse for information and data on CPRs as they pertain to World Bank operations.
  4. Create partnerships between World Bank staff and outside practitioners, whether individuals or organizations, through establishing and maintaining effective channels of communication (including, e.g., email, newsletters, and websites), as communication with local practitioners is fundamental to the World Bank's work.
  5. Link World Bank staff that need specific property rights-related operational input with outside practitioners and experts.
  6. Define the salient characteristics of and conditions for viability of institutions for natural resource management.
  7. Define and facilitate pro-active policies and operational work aimed at protection of CPRs.

Focus Areas and Issues

A list of some areas and issues that are being addressed by the World Bank and that have a CPR angle or connection, and the specific nature of these issues (including concerns, interests, and requirements), would include the following (Table 1):

Table 1 - CPRs in the World Bank
Agriculture, Fisheries, Food security, Forestry, Range-land mgmt., and WaterAgricultural intensification, Agroforestry, Crop-livestock complementarities, CPR-PPR complementaries (CPRs as support lands for croplands), Diversified agriculture, Integrated coastal zone mgmt., Irrigation, Rangeland mgmt., Resource-centered research and development, River basin mgmt., Water resources mgmt., Watershed mgmt., etc.
Biodiversity and EnvironmentAnnual-perennial linkages and biomass stability, Biodiversity outside protected areas, Biophysical rehabilitation of degraded/waste lands, Deforestation and overgrazing, Economic benefits of CPRs, Environmental law, Future of marginal lands, IPRs, Medical/health anthropology, Micro-environment issues and land degradation, Micro watershed (hydrology) stability, Natural resource management, Participatory approaches, Public forests and parts, TRIP, TRRs, etc.
Poverty and Policy workGender, Indigenous peoples, Land intensification programs, Land policies, Land titling, Open access resources and options for rural poor, Resettlement, Resouce acess and autonomy issues, Tenure security, etc.
Social policy and ProgramsBeneficiary assessent and public consultation, Civil society and grassroots level initiatives and group action, Community-based development, Community-based natural resource mgmt., Conflicts and conflict mgmt., Gender, Indigenous peoples, Indigenous resource use systems and their relevance, Intellectual property rights, Internal equity and access, Local and traditional institutions, Local-level initiatives on resource upgrading and regulation, Participatory approaches, Resettlement, Social assessment, Traditional knowledge, User groups and NGOs, etc.

Within this very broad set of areas and issues, CPRNet focussed on a smaller number of selected issues. The actual focus of CPRNet's work depended on the interest and availability of the members, and the expertise and resources at disposal. Over time the focus were expected to change, reflecting changing priorities and interests on the part of members as well as changing external priorities.

Scope and Content

CPRNet aimed to be a community of practice for its members, and promoted exchange of information on CPR management, including the relations between CPR regimes and other property rights regimes. It was located within a general intellectual and applied context consisting of a broad, interdisciplinary, and intersectoral approach to natural resource management that at the time was emerging within the World Bank as well as internationally, aimed at sustainable local-level natural resource management within the context of a transparent, supportive, and collaborative nation state. This context emphasized sustainable development, community-based management, institutional reform, legal codification of relevant local institutions, and collaborative approaches including partnerships, involving a wide range of stakeholders (see section "Community-Based Natural Resource Management" below). It follows that a major emphasis was placed on awareness-raising of World Bank staff and others, followed by supporting them in working with CPRs, both at the policy level and at the operational level. Furthermore, CPRNet promoted World Bank policy dialogues and investment operations aimed at supporting and facilitating CBNRM.

Of particular importance was the emphasis given to exchange of information between outside practitioners and experts, on the one hand, and World Bank staff, on the other hand, whether as members of CPRNet or not. The type of information circulated included (but were not necessarily restricted to) the following:

  1. Announcements of seminars, conferences, presentations, and meetings relevant to CPRs.
  2. Relevant findings and recommendations reached at such meetings.
  3. Information available in periodicals and technical publications to which network members subscribed.
  4. Pertinent information posted on relevant Internet listservs and mailing lists.
  5. Interesting lessons of experience, that is, good practices, from particular countries, regions, and projects.
  6. Requests for help or assistance in technical or managerial tasks.

Community-Based Natural Resource Management

There is a close overlap and connection between community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) and CPRs. CBNRM is an approach to managing renewable natural resources. It encompasses a large amount of experimentation and regional variation, and it involves much learning by doing. CBNRM starts with individuals and communities as a foundation and point of departure, and it ends with individuals and communities as a permanent focus. It addresses the way in which local natural resources are utilized and managed through local institutions, and how co-management arrangements involving communities and the state are necessary in order to achieve sustainable management of the local resources in question.

CBNRM needs to be institutionalized to be effective. While the structure of each situation will be different, involving different sets of actors and interests, there is a need for an institutional framework that builds upon the shared values of communities while providing positive incentives for individual action. Four related elements of any institutional framework include:

  1. Effective community-based groups, both at the local level and scaled up to the regional level.
  2. Effective operational linkages between the public sector, the private sector, and community-based groups in management of natural resources.
  3. Effective approaches to conflict management with regard to use of natural resources, at all levels.
  4. An enabling policy and institutional environment, at macro and micro levels, that fosters support of existing community-based institutions, or the emergence of new institutions, to manage natural resources locally.

Successful reform in each of these areas is also dependent on the ability to develop legitimate fora and processes for addressing them. These processes have the highest level of political commitment, involve all legitimate stakeholders, and are transparent and accountable.

Such institutional reform processes needs to be supplemented by concerted efforts to build human capacity at all levels from community-based organizations to central government agencies in order to realize the above institutional arrangements as well as administer them over time.

Approaches and activities

CPRNet had a strong dissemination and advocacy orientation, rooted in the experiences of practitioners dealing with the social dimensions of natural resource management. It included the following activities:

  1. Register of Members – Lists of the members, organized alphabetically after family name, separately for World Bank staff and non-World Bank staff, and including employer, location and contact information, were regularly updated and distributed.
  2. Newsletter Most information dissemination was done through a monthly newsletter, the CPRNet Newsletter.
  3. Mailing ListsSpecific information was also posted to mailing lists, including updates of the Register of Members.
  4. National ChaptersNational Chapters operated in Bangladesh and Burkina Faso. Efforts were underway to establish a Chapter in Mauritania. As the Chapters grew in numbers and activities, it would have been necessary to find ways and means to support them.
  5. Seminar Series Titled "Common Property Resource Management and the World Bank", in this seminar series invited speakers, both World Bank Group staff and others, presented and discussed their work on CPR issues. The topics ranged widely in terms of geographic location, type of property resource, type of intervention, and lessons learned.
  6. Notes This was a publication series. It contained good practice advise on ongoing work related to CPR and CBNRM management. The Notes had a more-or-less standard structure (initial situation, reform/change process, outcome, and lessons learned), were brief (4-5 pages), informal, and distributed electronically.
  7. ESSD Core DatabaseUnder this project database, prepared by the World Bank Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Vice-Presidency, a perspective on "CBNRM and Property Rights" was available. This perspective, jointly sponsored by CPRNet and the World Bank Institute, where the "CBNRM Initiative" was located (Note 4), provided ready access to the relevant project portfolio, and supported comparative work and research across a range of parameters.
  8. Other ActivitiesIn collaboration with selected World Bank units and outside partners, CPRNet aimed to contribute to and be involved in: (1) Training for World Bank staff and others, (2) Applied research on CPRs, and (3) Dissemination of good practices.

Membership and Partnerships

CPRNet members were both World Bank Group staff and others working on a range of issues relating to, or incorporating, a CPR focus.

  1. World Bank Group Staff MembersWorld Bank staff members worked throughout the organization's regions, sectors, networks, and families.
  2. Global MembersThey represented NGOs, civil society in more general terms, the private sector, the public sector, research and training. They had a broad diversity in terms of training, background, and approach to CPR management.
  3. Application for MembershipMembership Application Forms could be requested from the Coordinator. CPRNet was based on electronic communication and networking, and prospective members needed only to have an email address, or else have access to one.
  4. Membership StatisticsCPRNet had over 300 members, among them both individual and institutional members. Around 50 percent of the members were World Bank staff. The non-World Bank members lived and/or worked in many countries on all continents.
  5. Partnerships CPRNet gave emphasis to establishing partnerships with like-minded networks, organizations, and NGOs.

Communication and Knowledge Management

Communication between CPRNet members, and between the members and the Coordinator, largely took place via email and the Internet.


  • The Coordinator – As the appointed Coordinator I was responsible for day-to-day management. This included, in particular, my position as Manager of CBNRM Net. I was advised by an Advisory Committee.
  • The Advisory CommitteeThe Advisory Committee consisted of: (1) World Bank staff in operations and central units, (2) global members, and, (3) representatives of the CPRNet National Chapters. Members in categories (1) and (2) in some cases represented their respective employers, and in other cases they were members in their individual capacities. The Secretary of the Advisory Committee was me, in my capacity as CPRNet Coordinator.


CPRNet was a partner in the World Bank's "CBNRM Initiative" (Note 4). As a follow-up activity of this World Bank project I created the international network "CBNRM Net" (Note 5). With support from the World Bank, CPRNet proposed to IASC to established a formal partnership. In this connection I wrote an article in the IASC journal (Soeftestad 1999). The IASC Executive Board turned down the proposal, and for reasons that were less than clear and convincing.


Several documents where produced both by and on CBNRM Net. This includes: List of members, newsletters, and papers (Note 6).


The rationale for CPRNet can be summarized as follows: (1) there was increasing awareness internationally about the crucial importance of CPRs for sustainable management of natural resources, and for the well-being of large segments of the population, (2) the CPR agenda was expanding, both within the World Bank and in partnerships with outside organizations, (3) new critical analysis was forthcoming, and, (4) CPRs played a central role in the context of the World Bank's emphasis on poverty reduction, specifically in regard to risk reduction and poverty-equity-livelihood strategies.

A strategy for CPRNet gradually emerged that was focused around the intersection of CPRs and poverty reduction, within a context of strategic knowledge management and CBNRM. CPRs are central to the livelihood and coping strategies of many of the poor categories of people that are marginalized with respect to the mainstream, for a variety of reasons (ethnic, political, geographical, topographical, etc.). This strategy fitted well with the World Bank's goals, as it allowed for reaching out to stakeholders and collaborating with a range of relevant approaches and work underway across the World Bank. Importantly, it was a low-cost and effective means of reducing poverty.

As it turned out, however, CPRNet was not given enough priority by the World Bank. There were several reasons for this:

  1. It was deemed a task in which the World Bank had no comparative advantage, as this was concluded to be a civil society concern.
  2. Its inter-disciplinary focus turned out to not fit well with the World Bank's priorities and its organizational structure, and neither with the mode of operation of managers and staff.
  3. This form of networking, which involved both external people and World Bank staff, through utilizing Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), was clearly ahead of its time in the World Bank.
  4. The decision by the IASC to not accept the World Bank's proposal to establish a formal partnership with CPRNet was important. It was, in effect, akin to the proverbial last nail in the coffin for CPRNet.

CBNRM Net moved to civil society in 2000, first as an informal network, and later as a bona fide project under CBNRM Networking. Also in 2000 the CPRNet opted to merge with CBNRM Net. The CPRNet Newsletter series continued as the CBNRM Net Newsletter series.

Lars T. Soeftestad

(1) This article is based on the documents "Guide to CPRNet" (1995) and "Brochure on CPRNet" (1998), which were first published on the World Bank's intranet in 1998, and later on CBNRM Net's and Supras Limited's websites (see Sources).
(2) CPRNet formally belonged in the part of the World Bank Group commonly referred to as "World Bank" (more correctly: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, or IBRD). This notwithstanding, there were interest and active involvement by staff elsewhere in the World Bank Group, in particular in International Finance Corporation (IFC). In some cases it is accordingly correct to refer to CPRNet in relation to the World Bank Group, and not just the World Bank.
(3) IPNet was an electronic network for World Bank staff. It distributed information on projects, issues, activities, conference, literature, etc., relevant for the Bank's policy and operational work on indigenous peoples. IPNet operated from 1994 until 1995, when it was replaced by CPRNet.
(4) The "World Bank 'CBNRM Initiative'" was a networking project that addressed capacity development and training on CBNRM at a global level. The key output was an international CBNRM workshop that took place in May 1998 in Washington D.C. (see separate Devblog article, link in Note 8).
(5) CBNRM Net is an international network devoted to CBNRM and related issues (see separate Devblog article, link in Note 8). It was created for the participants in the International CBNRM workshop in Washington D.C. in May 1998, organized under the World Bank networking project "CBNRM Initiative" (see separate Devblog article, link in Note 8).
(6) All the output of CPRNet, prepared by me, include: Information brochure, Guide, Membership application form, Members Advisory Committee, Registers of members, Newsletters, and papers. This material are available on at:
(7) Image credit: Copyright © Lars Soeftestad, CBNRM Net. The image shows the logo and header of CPRNet Newsletter no. 10 (October 1999).
(8) Relevant Devblog articles: "CBNRM Net" at: | "World Bank 'CBNRM Initiative'" at: | "CBNRM Networking" at:

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

Sources, Documents
CPRNet. 1995. "Guide to CPRNet". URL:
CPRNet. 1998. "Brochure on CPRNet". URL:
Soeftestad, Lars. 1999. CPRs and MDBs: A contradiction in terms? The Common Property Resource Digest, no. 49, Jul 1999. Publ. by International Ass. for the Study of the Commons.

Sources, Websites
Supras Limited. URL:
World Bank. URL: