Half a century of civil society participation in biodiversity conservation and protected area management: A case study of Bonaire


This case study examines several aspects of civil society participation in biodiversity conservation in Bonaire that have been of particular interest to participants in the Action Research and Learning Groups (ARLGs) for the projects under which this case study is being produced1. They include:

  • funding and institutional arrangements for civil society (co-)management of protected areas;
  • the organisational and institutional structures that pro- mote effective civil society participation in biodiversity conservation; 
  • the structure and role of networks and strategic alliances in strengthening the voice of civil society organisations (CSOs) and building their capacity for biodiversity conservation.

Bonaire was selected as the focus of this case study because of its long history of civil society involvement in protected areas management and advocacy on conservation issues and because it is the headquarters of the regional network, the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA). Specifically, Stichting Nationale Parken (STINAPA), the National Parks Foundation in Bonaire provides an interesting model of a CSO that has full responsibility for managing the island’s two protected areas while DCNA is now one of the few regional CSOs that provides a collective voice for its members on conservation issues and advocates for policy changes on their behalf.

The case study therefore sets out to examine what have been the enabling factors in Bonaire, at both the institutional and organisational level, that promote effective civil society participation in biodiversity conservation. It traces the evolution of CSO involvement in protected areas management in Bonaire and its impact on the wider Dutch Caribbean. It examines the structure of both STINAPA and DCNA and how these contribute to effective stakeholder participation. The case study also reviews some of the actual and potential challenges of the current institutional arrangements. As such, it aims to provide lessons that will be of value not only to CSOs in other Caribbean Overseas Entities (OEs) of the European Union (EU) but also to those in the wider Caribbean - as well as the organisations that support and partner with them. 

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