November 27, 2013

Frameworks for Cooperation: Governance of Integrated Landscapes

Emily Spiegel, Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

Landscapes are largely social constructs, their bounds defined not only by natural features but also by human interactions with the landscape. Nor do landscapes respect political or administrative boundaries. These observations contextualized the ensuing discussion at a technical session on governance for integrated landscape management during the Global Landscapes Forum in Warsaw. Governance based on such boundaries is often insufficient to manage landscapes at the scales at which they are actually used. Likewise, existing governance structures often reinforce sectoral barriers rather than promote cooperation among agriculture, forestry, conservation, and other interests.

How best, then, to pursue integrated landscape management? Consensus from the panel centered on including a broad range of actors, employing participatory planning processes, and creating frameworks for cooperation. The discussion brought forth several examples of activities that foster such participation in a constructive decision-making process.

One mechanism, land use mapping, allows stakeholders to contribute collectively to creating a map of resources and land uses within the landscape. But, this is not a simple map, panelist Edmund Barrow (IUCN) argued, requiring recognition of tradeoffs between knowledge systems, ownership for example by the pastoralists who know much more about the systems than any outsiders. Although the final map may be a useful tool, the real value lies in the process of creating it. It raises awareness among all actors about one another’s interests, and observations of current land uses facilitate discussions about what land use patterns should look like.

Yet in any participatory process, it is also important to recognize the underlying power imbalances among the actors and try to minimize their effects within the process. As panelist Terry Sunderland (CIFOR) noted, ‘participation’ as such may not be enough – there is a difference between meaningful participation and acting as spectators in the process. Complete removal of power imbalances is not plausible, according to Sally Bunning (FAO), so it is critical to build up the strengths and helping to close the knowledge gaps for more marginal groups. Frameworks for cooperation, that define different knowledge systems and facilitate a networked rather than hierarchical governance system for landscape management can play a role in achieving this.

The good news is that many resources, often institutional or human capital, are already in place. Rather than creating and imposing new governance institutions, the panel recommended strengthening these existing ones. Local governments can be durable institutions that once engaged can carry forth after the life of a ‘project’. Ultimately, champions act as particularly pivotal players in the success of integrated landscape management initiatives. As the panelists stressed throughout, in governing landscape management, never underestimate the power of participation and leadership.

Emily Spiegel is an environmental law student at Yale University. She covered proceedings at the UNFCCC COP19 in Warsaw for EcoAgriculture Partners thanks to support from Yale. 
Photo by Neil Palmer/CCAFS.
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