The Concept of Property Rights/Entitlements and Common Pool Resources:

An Economic Perspective for Analysing Sustainable Use.



Abdul Kamara


Doctoral Research Fellow

Institute of Rural Development, University of Goettingen,

Waldweg 26, D-37075 Goettingen, Germany.



The growing concern currently attached to environmental policy issues is engendered by the practical problems encountered in natural resource management, and lessons learned from the diverse parts of the world. Previous experiences have led to the adoption of an integrated and interdisciplinary approached involving experts from various fields, notably biological and social scientists. As the long focus on traditional methods of resource improvements such as stimulating growth through biotechnological methods and assessing technical options employed in resource exploitation do not seem to be effectively delivering the goods, the relevance of social organisation and management institutions are gradually being acknowledged for a complementary role in the search for solutions. Specifically, the reorientation focuses on the role property rights the system of duties and obligations, rules and sanctions that determine the access to natural resources as being crucial for sustainable management. While the issue is repeatedly highlighted by various scholars, a comprehensive synthesis of these concepts for easing interdisciplinary work is still limited.

As a theoretical framework, the paper attempts to disentangle the inter-linkages between the basic concepts (particularly property rights) that form the precepts of the theories that underscore the principles of natural resource management. This is then related to marine resources especially coral reefs, taking their specific attributes into consideration which make certain forms of property rights generally appropriate, and the typical problems that are associated with their implementation. Key issues arising from property rights theory that are relevant for analysing the sustainable use of coral reefs and associated coastal resources are then highlighted and recommendations made.