Environmental Conservation

THEMATIC ISSUE: Interdisciplinary Progress in Environmental Science & Management

Devolution of environment and resources governance: trends and future


a1 Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg MB R3T 2N2 Canada


How can the governance of environment and resources be devolved in a way that incorporates effective user participation and feedback learning? Approaches that use the idea of adaptive management or learning-by-doing, combined with co-management, are particularly promising. Using an interdisciplinary literature covering many types of resources, and a conceptual model with three phases (communicative action, self-organization and collective action), the paper identifies some of the major processes leading to adaptive co-management. These include deliberation, visioning, building social capital, trust and institutions, capacity-building through networks and partnerships, and action-reflection-action loops for social learning. Such adaptive co-management is not simply a theoretical possibility but something that has been documented in a number of forestry, fisheries, wildlife, protected area, and wetland cases from both developed and developing countries. However, the experience with the decentralization reforms of the 1990s is largely negative for a number of reasons. Effective devolution takes time, requiring a shift in focus from a static concept of management to a dynamic concept of governance shaped by interactions, feedback learning and adaptation over time. Sharing of governance responsibilities and an ability to learn from experience are among the emerging trends in environmental management.

(Received January 08 2010)

(Accepted May 05 2010)

(Online publication November 02 2010)


c1 Correspondence: Dr Fikret Berkes Tel: +1 204 474 6731 e-mail: berkes@cc.umanitoba.ca