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The design-parameters of governance structures at the local level for the implementation of ecological networks

Research project OA/18 (Research action OA)


Persons :

  • Dr.  VINCKE Jan - Resource Analysis BV (RA)
    Coordinator of the project
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2003-31/12/2006
  • Prof. dr.  MAHY Grégory - Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech (GxABT)
    Not-financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2003-31/12/2006
  • Prof. dr.  HERMY Martin - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven)
    Not-financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2003-31/12/2006
  • Prof. dr.  VAN HOOTEGEM Geert - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven)
    Not-financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2003-31/12/2006
  • M.  TYTECA Daniel - Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL)
    Not-financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2003-31/12/2006
  • Dr.  VERHEYEN Kris - Universiteit Gent (RUG)
    Not-financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2003-31/12/2006

Description :

In this report with the title ‘Design parameters of management structures on a local level for the implementation of ecological networks’ the possibilities and restrictions of new management (cooperation) structures to cope with environmental problems on a local level will be investigated. More specifically, management (cooperation) structures for the restoration of ecological networks and the implementation of nature conservation measures on a local level are the subject of investigation. The object is to map the possibilities, restrictions and the specific design of different management structures for the implementation of ecological networks on a local level.

The report gives an overview of existing literature concerning possible (theoretical) models and practical examples of management and organisational structures on a local level, with a focus on the design parameters of the management structure. Five cases were investigated to complete and to test the literature by practical experience. The object of the cases is to map the origin, the context and the functioning of a number of existing cooperation structures. Focus groups were organised to validate and optimize the design parameters with the stakeholders.

Political decision-making in contemporary society is only one way of regulation. Besides existing political institutions new regulating mechanisms arise in the form of institutions, which undertake part of this regulation either complementary or replacement wise.

These new forms of organisation, coordination en collaboration or in other words new cooperation structures, can be identified by a number of characteristics.
In general we can say that new forms of cooperation structures are (more or less) voluntary forms of collaboration between different market parties, which does not mean that they are noncommittal or unstructured. New cooperation structures are independent and are institutionalised in the way that structures and rules are agreed between the different partners and the different partners play different roles, possibly merely for a certain period of time. New cooperation structures in other words manage to create a common regulation frame for the different parties.

Throughout the search process for new forms of management strategies and forms of collaboration for nature management, many local initiatives were found, but the diversity in organisation and form turns out quite limited. In this summary an overview of actors, rules and contextual elements is given, which are of importance for the identification and functioning of new forms of collaboration for the restoration of ecological networks and the implementation of nature conservation measures on a local level.

In reality, different actors are/can be involved in the start up of cooperation structures. The government, companies, landowners, interest groups (of which the most important in this context are the nature associations), trade organizations as well as private citizens are involved in the cooperation structure.

In Flanders the government is a constant partner in the establishment of cooperation agreements. Despite the fact that the government as a partner is not obliged to take initiative or even to be involved, it seems in reality they are always present. The role of the government in cooperation structures is however controversial. On the one hand government involvement is wanted by other parties (more specific the government as financial partner and regulator), on the other, the government is often experienced as interfering (more specific as a controlling and regulating authority). The presence of the government has in most cases a positive effect on reaching nature objectives. Legislation is often the big stick. Companies are important for cooperation structures as possible (co) financers and to provide sites for nature management. Nature associations, and more in general interest groups, are an important actor for the creation of cooperation structures. These associations are often involved in concluded cooperation structures. Nature associations often possess the necessary know-how and the required potential for the performance of management works. The importance of the involvement of individual citizens depends on their position. Landowners are of great importance and possess great power because they own the resource for nature management: sites. Finally, next to local users, trade organizations as for instance ‘de boerenbond’ (farmers’ cooperation) can be of importance as possible actors for nature conservation. Trade organisations can influence their members and they can play a key role in the participation of these groups in cooperation structures.

Trust between the different parties is essential for a good collaboration. The establishment of trust is very important for concluding cooperation structures and for the functioning of a cooperation structure. One of the reasons why little examples of new forms of cooperation structures are found in practice is probably the lack of trust between the different partners.

Another important, but difficult element to map, is the balance of power between the different partners. This is often very implicit and can change profoundly during the process. Nevertheless, it is very important for the identification of cooperation structures. Power is in many cases related to the possession of (financial or legal) means.

Rules are essential for a well-functioning cooperation structure. Managing to establish a common regulation frame, where norms and guidelines are defined and the compliance of the rules is articulated, is an essential, and possibly even the most important feature of a cooperation structure. Establishing rules means that decisions aren’t only taken on the basics of the existing power balance, but that objective and permanent agreements are made and that those agreements are respected. Yet it seems that the formalisation and the registration of rules are not desired by the different parties involved in the cooperation structure.

The context of a cooperation structure is determined by the nature of the subject. Also the existing policy context, the involved parties, their background and the nature of the cooperation structure are contributory to the cooperation structure.
- The subject of cooperation is the management of nature on a local level. The nature of the subject is among others determined by the type of area and the type of nature.
- The nature of the cooperation structure partly depends on the causes for its creation. Cooperation can arise out of necessity of one or more parties, because of circumstances or because of an existing legal framework. When different parties agree with each other to the extent that they want to collaborate, we can speak of a cooperation structure on voluntary basis.
- Apart from the different causes there can also be different motives for concluding a cooperation agreement for nature management. Financial benefits are maybe the most important motive for market parties to engage in a cooperation structure. Apart from financial motives, culture historical motives, personal convictions and ideological motivations can be distinguished. These are based on customs and habits, which are not directly related to financial benefits.
- Because nature is a common good and nature management contributes to the improvement of the living environment en quality of life, nature management and the realisation of an ecological network is socially of great importance. The private interest of nature management is however for most parties not very high, as the benefits of nature management can hardly be appropriated. There is a lot of existing legislation with reference to nature. As a result, nature objectives and the way they should be reached are determined and described in detail. This impedes the arising of creative forms of cooperation, which are situated outside existing frames. Socially not all parties are convinced of the need or necessity to cooperate. The will to cooperate is however a basic necessity to conclude cooperation agreements concerning nature management.


Documentation :

Ontwerpparameters van bestuursstructuren op lokaal niveau voor de implementatie van ecologische netwerken : eindrapport  Nulens, Greet - Verheyen, Wouter - Vincke, Jan  Brussel : Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid, 2007 (SP1801)
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