Community meetings are part of the community protocol process.
Photo: Mela Chiponda


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Marked power imbalances often result in communities losing out in use conflicts over their territories and resources. This applies in particular to extractive industries and infrastructure projects. Community protocols can help bring the negotiating parties together at eye level and create a balance of interests.

Community protocols are above all a legal empowerment tool. They aim to secure a seat at the table for marginalised voices in decisions that may impact their lives, the territories on which they live and the resources on which they depend. Community protocols were applied for the first time in the context of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) – in order to reach stronger benefit-sharing arrangements between communities and business or research entities. But they may be developed for a wide range of issues and interests. For example, in India, a pastoral community drew up a protocol to claim recognition over their traditional knowledge of buffalo and camel breeding; whereas in South Africa, traditional healers from different ethnic backgrounds came together to seek access to plants that they had been denied access to by a protected area. Community protocols are also increasingly playing a role in resource extraction and infrastructure planning, e.g.

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