Theory and practice of user fee implementation for nature conservation in the Caribbean, an analysis of success factors and critical obstacles.

User fee systems are effectively utilised in different places throughout the Caribbean and provide sustainable financial resources that successfully enable and support conservation efforts. The main advantage of this market mechanism is that it alleviates the reliance on philanthropic and political trends that are out of reach from PA managers and subject to unpredictable but significant fluctuations. However, in several cases, user fee implementation proves to be infeasible, impracticable or otherwise too challenging. In previous research, financial flows and mechanisms were structured and hypothesised in the ‘Eco2Fin’ framework, theoretically closing a sustainable finance loop for nature conservation. But due to a lack of empirical evidence, the contextual factors that influence the functioning of sustainable finance mechanisms remain under-emphasised in academic literature. Effective utilisation of the theoretical sustainable finance mechanisms is still faced by numerous obstacles in reality. This research, with the specific -focus on user fee systems, thoroughly investigates the implementation process from firsthand knowledge and experiences. By interviewing eleven key stakeholders from ten different island states in the Caribbean, the results provide additional depth, nuance and complexity to the current base of knowledge on user fee implementation. Concluding, the most challenging obstacles that limit or constrain user fee implementation are social and political resistance, especially the combination of both, whereas the most significant drivers of user fee implementation lie in the governance and communicative domain.

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