Long-Term Harmony? Reflections on Policy Change Governance in Sustainable Management of Natural Resources through Participatory Processes

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Long-Term Harmony? Reflections on Policy Change Governance in Sustainable Management of Natural Resources through Participatory Processes
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  First draft – please do not cite without permission of the author! 1 Long-Term Harmony? Reflections on Policy Change Governance in Sustainable Management of Natural Resources through Participatory Processes Metodi Sotirov Paper presented at the 2008 Berlin Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change “Long-Term Policies: Governing Social-Ecological Change” 22-23 February 2008 Authors´ affiliation: Institute of Forest and Environmental Policy Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg Tennenbacher Str. 4 D-79106 Freiburg, Germany Tel: 0049 (0) 761 203 37 19 Fax: 0049 (0) 761 203 37 05 E-Mail: metodi.sotirov@ifp.uni-freiburg.de  Abstract Since the UNCED in 1992 and as a result of subsequent meetings within the global forest dialogue, the paradigm of sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of forests (SFM) has been introduced and promoted as a new long-term policy commitment in the Global Environmental Policy. In the wake of major efforts of policy-making at various levels worldwide, National Forest Programmes (NFPs) have been suggested as an appropriate participatory planning instrument to translate and safeguard the SFM at national and sub-national level by highlighting social and ecological priorities. Furthermore, NFPs are seen as means to improve the convergence of short-term political choices and long-term orientation of policy measures, and to coordinate the policy actors through democratic action principles such as participation, decentralisation, holistic and cross-sectoral orientation. Thus, the NFPs are deemed to be promising new participatory governance instruments with potential to contribute to substantial change in the existing policies relevant to natural resource management. Despite the plenty of theoretical and empirical findings on NFPs in European context, little knowledge exists to date, however, whether a substantial  NFP is a sufficient for substantial  or major   policy change towards SFM. Based on the state-of-the-art of participatory governance processes on forest and environmental policy in Europe, this paper deals with the question of whether the involvement of stakeholders in the formulation of policy dealing with potentially conflicting issues, like SFM, is efficient for policy change and if not, what the underlying constraints are. The essay draws particularly on the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) as an actors-based theoretical concept of policy change, and a case study from Bulgaria as a consolidating democracy. The paper argues that a substantial participatory NFPS was insufficient for substantial policy change because of actors´ behaviour based on a composition of normative beliefs, self-interests, and power constellations.  First draft – please do not cite without permission of the author! 2 1. Introduction Since the UNCED in 1992, and as a result of its follow-up within the global forest dialogue (IFF, IFP, UNFF), the paradigm of sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of forests (SFM) has been introduced and promoted as a new long-term policy commitment in the global environmental policy. In the wake of major efforts of expert work and policy-makers negotiations at various levels worldwide, National Forest Programmes (NFPs) have been suggested as an appropriate participatory planning instrument to translate and safeguard the SFM at national and sub-national level by highlighting social and ecological priorities, and thus contributing to substantial change in the existing policies relevant to natural resource management. Furthermore, NFPs are seen as means to improve the coherency of short-term political choices and long-term orientation of policy measures, and to coordinate the policy actors through democratic action principles such as participation, decentralisation, holistic and cross-sectoral orientation (Glück, 1999). Although there has been recently made major theoretical and empirical investigation on success stories and influencing factors into development of NFPs processes in European context, little empirical research has been done to analyse, however, whether a substantial  NFP is a sufficient for substantial  or major   policy change towards SFM. Therefore, this study tries to complement further the findings from the recent research on NFPs and clarifies what role participatory NFPs do have in forest policy reform processes. More concrete, this paper deals with the question of whether the involvement of stakeholders in the discussion of policy dealing with potentially conflicting issues, like SFM, is efficient for policy change and if not, what the underlying constraints are? This research does not claim any perfect general validity of its findings as they are produced in a specific national context, but it does hope to contribute to filling this knowledge gap. I proceed firstly by reviewing the literature on National Forest Programmes as it relates to the aim of this study. Secondly, I present a research design to evaluate substantive NFP process as a driver for substantive policy change and conclude by discussing the theoretical and empirical findings. 2. Literature review 2.1. Sustainable forest management and Global Forest Regime In view of the urgency of the environmental threat over the forests worldwide, most notably in developing countries and countries with emerging markets, in regard to their area distribution, structural and species´ diversity, and health condition, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) set in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro the milestone for an international forest policy. During the Rio-Conference the actors involved agreed however merely on non-binding policy outputs according to international law, namely Statement on Forest Principles and Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 on „Combating the deforestation“, as means to tackle the emerging challenges in forest use and conservation. The concept of sustainable use, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests, in short sustainable forest management (SFM), is a central element of these policy outputs. Indeed, the SFM concept claims for balance of the environmental, economic, social and cultural interests in forests worldwide. Following the Earth Summit, the UN established the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) and its successor, the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF), to implement the above mentioned “soft-low” agreements. From 1995 to 2000, the IPF/IFF processes dealt with such issues as i) underlying causes of deforestation, ii) traditional forest-related knowledge,  First draft – please do not cite without permission of the author! 3 iii) international cooperation in financial assistance and technology transfer, iv) development of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management, v) and trade and environment. The IPF/IFF processes resulted in a set of 290 proposals for action for the promotion of SFM (Pülzl & Rametsteiner 2002: 260). In 2000, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) established the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) with the main objective to promote the SFM and to strengthen long-term political commitment based on the Rio Declaration, the Forest Principles, Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 and the outcome of the IPF/IFF Processes and other key milestones of international forest policy. At Pan-European level, the Ministerial Process on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE) as an intergovernmental regional initiative is of particular importance for the development of a common understanding in regard to protection and sustainable management of European forests (Mayer 1999:   181). The mentioned international cooperation efforts on SFM constitute the Global Forest Regime (Glück 1994: 85,   Weber 2003: 28) and can be seen as changed mode of natural resource governance from hierarchical to heterarchical one (Pülzl & Rametsteiner 2002: 262). As the actual understanding of SFM is based upon broadened definition moving from the traditional sustained yield concept towards multiple-use forestry or even ecosystem forest management as laid down in UNCED Forest Principles and Helsinki Resolution H1 (Castenada (2000: 34), Glück (1994), Glück & Humphreys (2002: 254), Volz (2003: 63), Weiss (2002: 217), a paradigm shift in forest policy has been observed. Indeed, this new shared understanding of SFM highlights forestry sustainability and welfare role of forests as key defining characteristics for the forest policy (Humphreys 2004: 41). Hence, since the UNCED in 1992 and its follow-up within the global forest dialogue, the paradigm of the expanded understanding of SFM has been introduced and promoted as a new long-term policy commitment in the global environmental policy. 2. 2. National Forest Programmes in European context In the wake of major efforts of expert work and policy-makers negotiations at various levels worldwide, most notably at global level at the Rio-Conference and within its follow-up on global forest dialogue, National Forest Programmes (NFPs) have been developed and suggested as an appropriate political planning instrument to translate the international commitments for achieving SFM at national and sub-national level (Glück 1999: 41, Glück et al., 2004: 2, MCPFE 2003: 1-3, Pülzl & Rametsteiner 2002: 260). MCPFE and the European Union in its EU Forest Strategy 1998 and EU Forest Action Plan 2006 also emphasise, inter alia, the National Forest Programmes (NFPs) as an appropriate means for implementation of the commitments and principles of the international forest dialogue on SFM. In this context, NFPs are also based upon above-mentioned new shared and expanded understanding of SFM. Furthermore, NFPs are seen as new framework of policy planning to improve the convergence of short-term political choices and long-term orientation of policies, and to coordinate the policy actors through democratic action principles such as participation, decentralisation, holistic and cross-sectoral orientation (Glück 1999: 42-43). In this regard NFPs are considered as “srcinal assemblage of policy tools” with a new potential of synergies and innovations that may lead to long-term attainment of SFM (Humphreys 2004: 42). Thus, NFPs are seen as promising tools to resolve conflicting economic, ecological and social interests in forests in developed and developing world (Glück & Humphreys, 2002: 254, Glück at al. 2004: 1). In order to analyse the potentials of NFPs to work in practice in European context, a four-year research programme under COST Action E19 was set up from 1999-2004 and that more than 70 researchers from various interdisciplinary research fields contributed to (Glück &  First draft – please do not cite without permission of the author! 4 Humphreys 2002: 253, for further details on authors´ contributions see Glück at al. 2004). After completion of this major research cooperation analysing by its time more than 17 European countries including almost all of EU member states (EU-15), EU acceding countries (Hungary, Lithuania, Poland) and EFTA member states (Norway, Switzerland), the GoFor research project on “New Modes of Governance for Sustainable Forestry in Europe” was launched in 2004 with EU financial support with the main aim “to evaluate evolving practices of new modes of governance as a basis for policy relevant conclusions and recommendations in order to safeguard sustainable forest management in Europe.”. In this framework several case studies are dedicated also to evaluation of NFPs processes (see project internet site for more details on partners and case studies: http://www.boku.ac.at/GoFOR/ ). Further process-oriented analysis on NFPs has been initiated and meantime accomplished through single project driven studies on Bulgaria (Ratarova 2004), Germany (Elsasser 2007), Kyrgystan (Kouplevatskaya-Yunusova & Buttoud 2006), Spain (Domingues & Tena 2006), Switzerland (Zingerli & Zimmermann 2006), and others. These major research efforts have so far produced enormous theoretically sound propositions and empirically based findings on NFPs processes in a European context. Yet, one can use the four basic principles such as i) public participation, ii) holistic and intersectoral co-ordination, iii) decentralisation and iv) long term, iterative and adaptive planning with their defining characteristic to critically delineate national forest policy processes as a National Forest Programme (Glück & Humphreys 2002: 255) and assess whether it is of substantive or of symbolic nature (Schanz 1999: 239-240, Glück 1999: 47-48). Following the findings revealed by the mentioned research projects a substantive NFP may be defined as one that to significant extent accommodates the four basic principles mentioned above (Glück & Humphreys 2002: 257) and one that aspires at significant change of existing policies, while a symbolic NFP merely supports and legitimises the status quo (Glück 2004: 13; Humphreys, 2004: 19). Schanz defines further a substantial approach of NFPs the one that institutionalises a continuous discursive stakeholders´ forum in line with a communicative mode of rationality (Schanz 2002: 273) and not necessarily produces a plan or another “product” (Schanz 2000: 17) typical for the traditional and most dominated in Europe mode of instrumental rationality (Schanz: 2002: 276). In this regard the NFP notion of participation is very much coherent with the model of participation as a goal as deliberative approach (Shannon 2004) and but less in line with the participation as means based on rationalist approach (Humphreys, 2004: 32). In this context the role of participation becomes central to the concept of NFPs as it seen not  just as a means, but rather as a model for involving the concerned stakeholders in order to understand better their often conflicting objectives, to find appropriate balance between them, and by that way to achieve sustainable development through democracy of “consensus in diversity” (Applestrand 2002). In regard to the participatory nature of NFPs Elsasser concludes, however, that participatory NFPs illustrate a challenging exercise because of the incoherency between the need for substantive agreements under the rule of unanimity in consensus making and the increasing number of participating stakeholders with often conflicting positions (Elsasser 2002:299), or due to the fundamental democratic legitimisation deficit of stakeholders involved towards population representation (Elsasser 2007: 1028). On the other hand, participation could moreover set the fundamentals for social discourse on SFM where the participation of competing positions might be the main task (Elsasser 2007) and the NFPs could be organised as “discursive institutions” to institutionalise the continuous stakeholders´ dialogue process in order to identify, accommodate and address different normative perspectives of SFM (Schanz 2002). Furthermore Shannon suggests even a “constructing” analytic-deliberative or social  First draft – please do not cite without permission of the author! 5 process as integrative constructivist model for policy formulation and decisions that unites the rational and communicative policy models, and is to generate endogenous to the NFPs information/knowledge and interests as main substantial goal (Shannon 2004: 58-61). Finally, scholars are already provided with tools for analysis or even prediction of success or failure of NFP´s processes by looking at external factors such as i) political culture, ii) legal aspects, iii) financial incentives, iv) advocacy coalitions, v) institutional arrangements, vi) multilevel governance and vii) land tenure which could have supporting or impeding impact in terms of substance depending on the national context (Humphreys, 2004: 19). 2.3. National Forest Programmes and Policy Change As described above, NFP constitutes a participatory planning instrument which promotes new mode of governance of natural resources departing from the traditional command-and-control and top-down models of decision making dominated solely by the government institutions. Indeed, it strives for empowerment of other non-governmental actors to take part in the policy process and seeks to coordinate the conflicting interests (Glück & Humphreys, 2002: 253). Thus, the formulation and implementation of a NFP process at national level call for policy change towards SFM (Glück 1999: 47). Further research has already shown that the interaction between NFPs as planning instrument and the rule of law as legal basis for implementation of any democratic choice increases at the moment when NFPs are to bring substantive policy change affecting institutional, strategic or instrumental aspects, and thus imply legal amendments. In such cases, the legal norms could theoretically accommodate the formal and material elements of NFPs, however disharmony betwen these two policy instruments is more likely to occur in practise (Zimmermann 2004: 152-153). Finally, empirical results show that it is possible to launch and develop a NFP or similar regional planning processes without any legal basis. In turn, the very same participatory processes could stimulate and lead to legal changes at later stages as the Finish case shows (Saastamoinen 2004, Ollonqvist 2004). However, the scientific knowledge to date refers to the fact that the success of NFPs depends heavily on the political culture in a given country. For instance where there is a power asymmetry between participating actors and policy legacies NFP will not develop at all as this the case is in Greece (Papageorgiou & Vakrou 2004) and France (Buttoud 2004), or it will be of purely symbolic nature because of neo-corporatist policy making style with limited access to outsiders and no readiness for any change by the dominant insiders of the policy subsystem actors like in Austria (Voitleithner 2002). On the other hand, recent studies (Glück et al. 2005: 59) consider internal to the process aspects such as political commitment by the decision-makers and external one such as legally binding embodiment for institutionalisation of a continuous iterative process to be the general supporting factors for NFPs. Despite the above-mentioned plenty of theoretical and empirical findings on NFPs in European context, little knowledge exists to date, however, whether a substantial  NFP is a sufficient for substantial  or major   policy change towards SFM. Thus, the present study may be considered as an attempt to give some meaningful answers to “[…] the questions of whether and how policy networks are capable of including and facilitating policy choices across a range of stakeholders with diverse interests, and whether and how substantial change can take place in the face of strongly opposed values and interests.” (Glück et al. 2005: 54) Indeed, a recent relevant study based on qualitative social research revealed that the Bulgarian process of formulating of NFP was basically developed in accordance with the MCPFE
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