Legal Pluralism and Decentralization: Natural Resource Management in Mali
Summary Much recent work on decentralized natural resource management has focused on the institutional arrangements that shape the balance of powers between central and local governments. It has given comparatively less attention to relationships between local government and community-level institutions. In Mali, decentralization has superimposed modern legal institutions on community institutions. The ambiguous relationships between them can undermine both the authority of nascent local governments and the performance of customary institutions. Legal pluralism--the coexistence and interaction of multiple normative orders with different sources of legitimacy and authority--helps explain the dynamic nature of local institutions under decentralization. This article examines the experiences of three Malian communities with decentralized natural resource management: one maintains autonomy from government, another engaged its local government, and a third negotiated a multi-stakeholder agreement--a local convention. They demonstrate that crafting workable relationships between communities and local government requires a pragmatic approach to negotiating and institutionalizing political space for innovation in self-governance.
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