TNRC Knowledge Hub - Conservation Challenge: Community-based conservation

Image representing TNRC's four focus areas: wildlife, fisheries, forests, and finance

Targeting Natural Resource Corruption

Harnessing knowledge, generating evidence, and supporting innovative policy and practice for more effective anti-corruption programming

Preventing Corruption from Undermining Community-Based Conservation

To prevent corruption from undermining community-based conservation efforts, strengthen transparency, build in accountability mechanisms, and assess and mitigate the impact of higher-level corruption on local initiatives.

Does your work focus on community-based natural resource management or involve indigenous peoples and local communities? Are you concerned that corruption is driving negative outcomes? This page outlines three steps to start building anti-corruption approaches into your conservation programming.

The Challenge

  • As local communities, Indigenous peoples, and other actors at national or sub-national levels seek to assert or protect access rights and to sustainably manage and benefit from forests, fisheries, and wildlife resources, they can encounter significant challenges from corruption.
  • Corruption may marginalize women and other groups who already face power inequity and who rely heavily on environmental resources.
  • Programming to prevent corruption’s impact on community-based conservation should be informed by a careful assessment of corrupt practices involved at various levels, the power and resources of change agents and their opponents, and associated risks.

Three Steps to Follow

infographic of three steps

Step 1: Understand Corruption Get familiar with how corruption impacts conservation and ways to respond

Whether you have decades of experience or are new to the field, you may not know exactly where corruption risks lie, how they might be influencing your conservation outcomes, and what can be done about them. Start by taking the 90-minute eCourse below.

Step 2: Assess Your Situation Identify how corruption affects the objectives of your own programming

Best results will come from layering interventions at multiple risk points. The first step is to think about who has power in your implementing context. You can then start to identify drivers and facilitators of corruption and entry points for—as well as limitations on—change. The resources below will help you to ask the right questions and identify those risk points.

Step 3: Adapt Your Programming Consider approaches that fit your needs

Consider whether some of the programming avenues below would help to address your challenges. Take a moment to read these principles for getting started from recent experience testing anti-corruption approaches in various contexts.

Remember: Evidence suggests that targeting corruption through multiple approaches yields best results.

  • Landscape photo of a bank of fish
    Are concession and permitting systems insufficiently transparent, thus enabling corruption?

    Ensure access to information on public decisions, transparent approaches in community resource management, and that rules are followed

    Explore the Open Governance Guide
  • Large amounts of confiscated suveniers made with ivory
    Are permissive social norms perpetuating corruption in your context?

    Integrate behavioral change approaches

    Explore the Social Norms & Behavior Change Guide

Illustration of women of different races© Veronica Nerissa / Vecteezy

Case Study: Mobilizing youth to increase accountability in community forest governance

WWF Nepal is taking a human rights-based approach to better understand and address governance challenges in Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs), particularly how corruption undermines good governance in six focal CFUGs. A participatory assessment explored governance gaps and collected information on the socio-political context, engaging marginalized groups (including poor women, Dalit, and indigenous people). Findings from that assessment were used to target specific trainings for both duty bearers and rights holders, as well as state and non-state actors. The pilot advanced learning on the effectiveness of participatory, rights-based interventions to build transparency and accountability in community forest management. Based on that learning, the theory of change was expanded to include a hypothesis that youth, with appropriate training on risks and responsibilities, may be able to address the corruption risks in CFUG governance. The team is currently assessing their potential influence, both directly through their roles as youth leaders in the community and indirectly via their peers and parents (TNRC Pilot 2021-2023).

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Image attribution: © / Jen Guyton / WWF; © Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF; © Georgina Goodwin / Shoot The Earth / WWF-UK; © Hkun Lat / WWF-Aus