, Volume 58, Issue 4, pp 265-273

National sovereignty & transboundary protected areas in Southern Africa

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Abstract

The notion that Transboundary Protected Areas (TBPAs) will act as `Peace Parks' has become an important argument in their promotion in post-Apartheid Southern Africa. This `Peace Parks Concept' is implicitly based upon the assumption that national sovereignty will not become a constraining factor in the creation and management of TBPAs. However, this assumption is problematic. TBPAs introduce various changes in the landscape with consequences for the ways in which a state can exercise its sovereignty over its borderland and citizens. This situation might evoke state action that could endanger the various environmental, socio-economic and political objectives of TBPAs. A state's behaviour with regard to TBPAs is not just informed by its interests in TBPAs, but also by its strategic and other interests in the wider borderland area. These are not necessarily compatible with the environmental and economic objectives of TBPAs. The ways in which these interests are mediated are highly complex and non-linear. Because of the inter-dependency that TBPAs create, the extent to which a state can pursue certain interests by means of TBPAs will be (partially) constrained by the wishes of the other states involved. In addition, power has to be shared with a wide range of non-state actors. The operation of sovereignty in TBPAs is therefore highly unpredictable and cannot be captured in static zero-sum terms. Actor Network Theory is identified as a possible starting-point to unravel and evaluate these complex political processes in TBPAs and their subsequent outcomes for state sovereignty.