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Why is it an interesting tool to promote a sustainable co-management of natural resources?
Written by: Clara Jamart
Organizations: Association pour contribuer à l’Amélioration de la Gouvernance de la Terre, de l’Eau et des Ressources naturelles (AGTER), International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), The World Conservation Union (IUCN), The IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP), CEESP Co-management Working Group (CEES-CWMG), Centre for Sustainable Development & Environment (CENESTA)
Type of document: Paper / Document for wide distribution
Borrini-Feyerabend Grazia, Pimbert Michel, Farvar M.Taghi, Kothari Ashish, Renard Yves et al, Sharing Power - Learning by Doing in Co-management of Natural Resources throughout the World, IIED, IUCN, CMWG, CEESP, 2004
Co-management is almost synonymous with local governance, because it requires local power and capacity to exist and succeed, but also because it is, by its very nature, an instrument of local empowerment. The institutional landscape of local governance is complex and varies greatly from country to country. In most respects, local governance is much more than local government; it encompasses a wide range of organisations and institutions, both formal and informal, all of whom have a role to play in the allocation and use of rights and responsibilities at the local level. Local partners in co-management processes and agreements can be of various types, and policies are required to facilitate their participation in management.
An important innovation for the sustainable management of natural resources is a component of broader policy principles that goes under the name of “subsidiarity”. Basically, this calls for a government to decentralise, delegate or devolve authority and responsibilities in several branches of social life to the lowest possible level with capacity to take responsibility for the relevant tasks (see Boxes 10.9 and 10.10).
While the specific policies and arrangements for local governance vary greatly between countries and regions depending on social and political history and conditions, many co-management bodies include representatives of local government structures (see some examples in Box 10.11). Local administrators and government agencies are important actors in co-management for a number of reasons, including the following:
local administrators should be elected bodies and thus provide a measure of local representation;
local government agencies are expected, at least in theory, to provide a measure of public accountability;
local government agencies are also expected to advance “fair rules” in institutional arrangements.
Yet, we should refrain from assuming that local administrators and agencies always and effectively represent the interests and concerns of their local constituencies. On the contrary! In situations where the electoral process has been recently introduced, is poorly understood, unfairly practiced and/or limited to making a choice among candidates who have little to do with the local environment, the experience is not flattering for local governments as natural resource managers. Customary NRM bodies or even local civil society organisations would have much better chances to succeed. As a matter of fact, it is good to promote the involve- ment of both local governmental agencies and traditional authorities in co-management bodies, to introduce a good measure of transparency and to promote local communication and mutual learning.
1 Parodi, 1971; Burns et al., 1994.
2 Esman and Uphoff, 1984.