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The Drama of the Commons
crops, for protection of local rights to intellectual property (e.g., medicinal uses of local plants), and against global trade liberalization have spawned new social movement organizations, many of them concerned with maintaining local control over local resources or protecting local rights to use and manage commons (e.g., Burger et al., 2001). These organizations have asserted the right to participate in institutional design; their assent may be necessary for institutions to function. Also, they are linked across scale and place in ways that may help to spread design innovations.
Globalization phenomena are raising a range of new questions about the proper locus of governance. For example, it is becoming common for crop genetic resources to be developed by multinational corporations that control the genetic material and market it worldwide. The use of this material has major consequences, positive and negative, that concern national and local institutions. Another example is national government decisions in some countries to annul the rights of local resource users to govern wetlands and coastal zones in order to advance national economic development objectives tied to global markets (e.g., tourism, aquaculture) (see, e.g., Ganjanapan, 1998; Agrawal, 1999). Resources that had been managed locally have become contested terrain among local users, national governments, multinational corporations, international development banks, and social movements at various levels. It is noteworthy that some of the important actors on this list have so far received little attention in common-pool resource management research.
Another emerging phenomenon is a blurring of the distinctions between local and global commons and between traditional and new commons. For example, many new global networks of peasants, indigenous peoples, fishers, and others— whose primary objectives relate to access and control of local commons by face-to-face communities—operate as virtual communities linked together by new commons like the Internet. As another example, the destruction of a mangrove ecosystem in Thailand for the construction of a tourist resort or shrimp farm may be a loss of a traditional, local commons to the people who live there. However, from the perspective of international groups like the Mangrove Action Project and Conservation International, this destruction, along with similar acts elsewhere in Asia and Latin America, represents the degradation of a vital global commons.
Other global social changes. Other major social changes that may or may not be related to the globalization syndrome occur on a global level and form part of the context to which resource management institutions must adapt. The list of global social trends may change over time, but a current list should probably include political democratization within nation-states, privatization of government-held assets, the emergence of regional and global economic institutions, and the simultaneous devolution of political control to levels below the nation-state. These trends almost certainly affect the prospects for local resource management and