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How Citizens' Property Rights Constrain National Forest Policy in Vietnam

Colloquium with Dr. Cari An Coe, Department of Political Science, UCLA; Ciriacy-Wantrup Postdoctoral Fellow, UC Berkeley

Wednesday, October 15, 2008
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Photo by Cari Coe: Household harvesting eucalyptus plantation in the Tam Dao national park buffer zone, Tuyen Quang province, Vietnam, April 2006

Why do local officials in developing countries often fail to implement national environmental policy as the national government intended?  Designed to engender “community-based natural resource management,” the decentralized implementation of environmental policy has been largely unsuccessful in meeting its intended goals of enhanced resource conservation and sustainable resource use.  Common explanations for these local failures include corruption on the part of local officials or a lack of sufficient resources and training locally to allow effective implementation.  Thus, local officials are either portrayed as unaccountable to local communities or as incapable of serving them. 

This study challenges this notion with a case study of Vietnam by showing that there are dimensions of local officials’ accountability to their communities, even in non-democratic settings, which may constrain how they implement national policy.  Using data from household surveys and interviews with local officials living in the immediate periphery of Tam Dao national park in northern Vietnam, I argue that the reason why households are using protected forest land in the national park for agro-forestry purposes is because local officials honor long-standing, community-recognized household property rights over this forest land.  Because local officials are accountable to existing community power structures, they may fail to implement policy locally in the way intended at the national level.

Cari An Coe is a Ciriacy-Wantrup Postdoctoral Fellow in the Political Economy of Natural Resource Management at UC Berkeley.  She recently completed her Ph.D. at UCLA’s Department of Political Science.  She also has a Master’s degree in Pacific International Affairs from UCSD’s Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies.  Her dissertation, entitled "A Tragedy, but No Commons: The Failure of  'Community-based' Forestry in the Buffer Zone of Tam Dao National Park, Vietnam, and the Role of Household Property Rights and Bureaucratic Conflict," explores how the allocation of forest land use rights to households reflects local political dynamics between citizens and local officials. 

Cost : Free and open to the public.


Sponsor(s): Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Political Science

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