Working paper Open Access
Community protocols are documents, or otherwise recorded artefacts, that record the existing practices, rights and future visions of local groups as regards their natural resources. As such, they have been recognised within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity in its Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-Sharing as one tool that allows local groups to define issues around benefit-sharing. Literature on community protocols is emerging, and work in a number of areas (including global environmental politics, political ecology and socio-legal studies) touches on issues relevant to them. Reflections on the connections amongst these areas are missing however. This article seeks to bring their insights into conversation by reflecting on community protocols both as transpositions of global processes into local realities, and as holding the potential to shape global processes. The article considers how community protocols may address unequal power relations at the local, national and international levels, and their limitations in this respect. A number of core discourses are identified in the existing literature to characterise global and local environmental policies. These discourses guide a consideration of how community protocols may address power relations, and the potential pitfalls they may encounter. Overall, the article finds that there is a delimited space where community protocols may contribute to create spaces for dialogue between actors with diverging understandings of the world. Yet many threats exist to the creation of such spaces, stemming both from how communities are defined and from where the impetus for community protocols comes from: if these processes become externally imposed rather than community-driven their potential to tackle power relations will be compromised.