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The term Common Property refers to the property owned by all individuals in a certain community. All members of the community owning the common property are allowed to exploit the resources found therein. A case in point is when members of the community benefit from the minerals found in a communal land. Members of the community can, therefore, use the communal property as their source of livelihood. Controlling and monitoring the said common properties are, as a result, left in the hands of community members in most cases. Sometimes, the common property is held by other parties, such as the government, on behalf of members of the community. Normally, resources found in the common properties are often vast, thus, encouraging harmonious sharing among the members of the community. Lack of individual ownership of the resources makes it important to control their exploitation. Members of the community in which the common property is located may come up with rules governing the use of the resources. The aim of such rules and regulations is to prevent conflicts. Conflicts are likely to occur especially in cases where the resources found in the communal property are limited. Water bodies are one of the most common forms of communal property.
The author of this paper seeks to critically examine the possible use of common property to address common problems in the society. The paper focuses more on Indo-Pacific, where the use of customary marine tenure systems has enabled the local communities to effectively manage their local resources. However, current social and economic changes in the world are affecting the effectiveness of these local systems.
Possible Use of Common Property to Address Common Problems
The Indo-Pacific region is one of the locations in the world where the use of common property is extensive. The area enjoys the presence of a wide range of marine resources. In some regions, members of the society control the use of the resources. All members of the society have the right to exploit the resources found in the common property. As a result, the use of customary marine tenure systems in the region is common. The main aim of such systems includes the control of exploitation of resources available for the good of the entire community (Cinner 4). The use of these tenure systems has received widespread support from a number of government organizations, non-governmental organizations, and other groups involved in environmental conservation. Through the use of the tenure systems, members of the communities living in the Indo-Pacific region are able to solve most of the problems affecting them. In addition, the members can protect themselves from such problems as pollution and the exhaustion of local resources. Over-exploitation of resources is likely to negatively affect the people in the future. Adhering to the rules set aside in an attempt to control the use of local resources helps the members of the society to come together in averting tragedies likely to befall them.
Though the importance of customary marine tenure regimes in controlling the use of marine resources in the Indo-Pacific region cannot be underestimated, some critics feel that the method is ancient and cannot operate effectively in modern societies (Cinner 6). The tenure systems are incapable of addressing changes in the society, such as market influences. The exploitation of marine resources is likely determined by market demands, as opposed to tenures. Moreover, the regulations are effected successfully only over a small geographical location. As such, the technique cannot be employed over wide geographical locations (Wade 226). The level of dependency on the resources found in the common property plays a big role in the determination of levels of resource exploitation compared to customary marine tenures.
The use of customary marine tenure systems helps in the protection of inshore marine resources among communities living in the Indo-Pacific region. The protection of the marine resources involves the setting-up of mechanisms and policies likely to prevent the destruction or over-exploitation of resources. The use of such mechanisms is likely to bring about sustainability in exploiting the resources. The sustainability guarantees the local communities of a stable source of natural resources (Ostrom 18). Marine tenure systems assist in the conservation of the common property. The government and environmental conservation agencies are, therefore, saved the time and resources that would be used in enforcing conservation laws. Decision making is fast as a result of the decentralized nature of the communities controlling the use of the resources.
Some critics are, however, of the view that the use of customary marine tenure mechanisms is not fully effective in the protection of marine resources from destruction or over-exploitation in the Indo-Pacific region. The region consists of several countries with different policies concerning the legality of the tenure systems (Cinner 4). Customary marine tenure regimes are commonly operated at village levels. As such, the constitution of a country is considered superior to the tenure systems. Such countries as Indonesia, which are found in the Indo-Pacific region, allows for the open use of marine resources in their constitutions, making it difficult for communities to implement their marine tenure systems. Moreover, it is difficult to prevent the over-exploitation of resources since needs among the members of the society differ. Large families will require a considerably larger amount of resources compared to smaller families. In areas where the members of the society fully depend on the marine resources, it is difficult to control exploitation (Hardin 1247).
Customary marine tenure systems prevent the ‘stealing’ of resources by individuals residing outside the community owning the common property. The community living close to the sea own the resources found in the water bordering them. The community members can, therefore, exercise their authority over the use of such resources (Cinner 10). Immigrants into the society are expected to adhere to the rules put in place to avoid conflicts. The legal recognition of the customary marine tenure regimes in some countries helps the local communities to better manage their local resources. In addition, customary marine tenure regimes aid in dispute resolutions among members of the society. The disputes may arise as a result of conflicts in sharing the resources from the common property. By solving such disputes, community welfare is maintained. The absence of disputes in a community facilitates effective exploitation of resources.
In some cases, customary marine tenure regimes are incorporated into a people’s culture and religion, making it to be viewed as sacred by members of the society. As a result, community members are obliged to follow the rules and regulations put in place in the regimes. Failure to adhere to the rules and regulations is regarded as a taboo. Incorporation of marine tenure systems in a people’s culture makes it easier to pass the systems across many generations (Cinner 9). Adherence to the rules will, as a result, bring about sustainability since there is controlled exploitation of resources, thus preventing depletion.
Some critics are, however, of the opinion that customary marine tenure rules cannot fully prevent the resources of a community from being used by other individuals who are not members of the local community. The reason for this is that customary marine tenure regulations are only applicable over small geographical regions and the constitution of the country is supreme (Cinner 10). Such country as Indonesia allows for the open use of marine resources in their constitution. Immigrants into the common property may not identify with the tenures since they have different cultures. The immigrants may not adhere to the regulations put in place. The customary marine tenures may be sources of disputes, as opposed to being a tool of solving disputes. The manner in which a community enforces its tenure regulations could bring about conflicts. It is felt that protection of marine resources by members of the society should be as a result of self-conscience, rather than coercion, after having realized the need to do so (Hardin 1246).
Most common properties are the source of livelihood for many communities living around them. People living in these communities own the common property and are allowed to exploit any resources that the common property may offer. To safeguard their livelihood, members of the society may come up with measures to control activities carried out in their common property. It is, however, important to note that regulations put in place must be in line with the supreme law of the land, usually the constitution. The aim is to avoid disputes between the state and the community. Local resources must, however, be protected from misuse to enhance sustainability.
Cinner, Joshua. “Socioeconomic Factors Influencing Customary Marine Tenure in the Indo-Pacific.” Ecology and Society 10.1 (2005), 1-14. Print.
Hardin, Garret. “The Tragedy of Commons.” Science, New Series 152.3859 (1968), 1243-1248. Print.
Ostrom, Elinor. “The Challenge of Common-Pool Resources.” Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development 50.4 (2010), 8-21. Print.
Wade, Robert. “The Management of Common Property Resources: Finding a Cooperative Solution.” Research Observer 2.2 (1987), 219-234. Print.