by Deedee Chao
Governance of resource allocation usually occurs through one of three approaches, or a combination thereof: hierarchical approaches that use existing power structures, market-based approaches based on voluntary exchange, and community-based approaches that involve the cooperation of all parties involved. Because of the collaboration required by the last approach, community-based environmental management (CBEM) often requires multi-level governance (MLG), in which different actors work across horizontal and vertical dimensions administratively and jurisdictionally. It also involves a degree of decentralization of power and responsibility among the various parties. MLG has been promoted as a method that decentralizes and reassigns power to different levels and sectors of power, allowing local groups and non-governmental agents to play a larger role than they would under other methods of governance.
Sattler et al. (2016) focused on filling a research gap in CBEM methodology by investigating the role of MLG in successful CBEM scenarios, using case studies of four different CBEM cases in Latin America. The paper’s goals are to first identify the individual actors and their societal spheres and governance levels, and then identify the roles that these actors play and how they interact with each other in promoting CBEM. The study collected primary data via personal interviews, observations of participants, and stakeholder discussions, as well as secondary data through reports, governmental documents, and websites.
In their analysis of individual actors, the researchers organized them by jurisdiction–international, national, regional, local–and sector–civil society, market, state, and cross-sectoral. In the cross-comparison of these actors’ roles, the study found that actors could be primarily active or passive in promoting CBEM. While state, market, and civil society actors were involved in both roles across the board, civil society actors tended to be extremely active while state actors were passive. In addition, actors involved at the local level were much more active than international actors, suggesting more proactivity the closer the actor was to the immediate community.
The interaction of actors across sectors was beneficial when each actor offered something essential that other actors could not; for example, civil society actors were best suited for initiating systemic change, while market actors were the best sources for professional services, and public actors were best for influencing legal changes. Across jurisdictions, MLG allowed for a better distribution of decision-making responsibilities, shifting power towards local groups who were most invested in successful CBEM. These interactions were also largely made possible by the proactivity of civil society actors, who took the lead in initiating CBEM. The non-profit, purpose-driven nature of civil society actors also allowed them to act as intermediaries to facilitate interaction between different parties. In these successful scenarios, it was also found that new actors, or institutions, were created to address a gap in community needs and further facilitate interaction between jurisdictions and sectors for better collaboration. Of course, in situations where various parties with different goals are working together, problems and conflicts arise, thus necessitating a forum for conflict resolution to be created in all cases as well.
In order to apply these findings to other communities, Sattler et al. (2016) determined that it would be necessary to focus on the context of each situation and identify the civil society actors who could take the lead on initiating CBEM strategies by empowering the community and creating communication channels between other actors. The researchers also recognize that long-term studies of successful CBEM in action would be beneficial to the field, as it would document the resilience and durability of CBEM.
Sattler, C., B. Schröter, A. Meyer, G. Giersch, C. Meyer, and B. Matzdorf. 2016. Multilevel governance in community-based environmental management: a case study comparison from Latin America. Ecology and Society vol. 21, art. 24. Web.