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Governing transboundary commons in Africa: the emergence and challenges of the Kavango–Zambezi Treaty

Journal article
Authors Amanda Linell
Martin Sjöstedt
Aksel Sundström
Published in International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics
Volume 19
Pages 53-68
ISSN 15679764
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Political Science
Pages 53-68
Language en
Keywords Africa, Environmental agreements, Governance of commons, Institutional theory, Transboundary resources
Subject categories Political Science


© 2018, The Author(s). The advent of ‘Peace Parks’ on the African continent is puzzling from the perspective of institutional theory. We focus on the world’s largest transfrontier conservation cooperation that exists to date, the Kavango–Zambezi Treaty, which was ratified by Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe in 2011. The collaboration seeks to foster sustainable governance of resources in the region. The paper asks two questions: What were the main factors facilitating the establishment of the Kavango–Zambezi Treaty? What potential challenges for the treaty remain on the operational level? Analysing interviews with key informants, we contribute by providing insights regarding the emergence and existing challenges of the treaty. Factors reducing coordination problems during the treaty’s establishment included that it did not compete with existing institutions at the international level, the important role played by moral authorities such as Nelson Mandela, and that consensus rather than conflict prevailed between respective political actors as they realized the function of this cooperation. The treaty is challenged by differences in macro-institutional factors amongst participating nations and a variation in the extent to which communities trust in and comply with these institutions. There are significant remaining obstacles with regard to harmonizing policies in the five partner countries.

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