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Shifting and sharing roles and responsibilities

The creative interaction of individuals and small units often provides efficient solutions to managing complicated and variable situations. Local responsiveness and adaptability are important. This approach can be applied at a variety of scales and has important implications for environmental management, suggesting the need to distribute roles and responsibilities in new ways.

The transfer of certain responsibilities through subsidiarity and decentralization is emerging as an effective way to ensure more timely policy development and implementation. Responsibility for many aspects of environmental and social health and safety lies at the local or municipal level, where action is crucial for poverty reduction, improving local environments and providing early warning on issues with current or potential national and international prominence. The effectiveness of devolving power to this level depends on the nature of participatory management systems of environmental governance, identifying all stakeholders and ensuring that they are at the policy table'. Particularly in developing countries, providing for more meaningful participation in environment and resource use decision-making, and giving all stakeholders the confidence that they can make a difference, will decrease mutual suspicion and enable major groups to participate in managing the shared environment on an equal footing.

Suggestions for Action
Participatory management
  • Develop strategic partnerships between governments, communities, the private sector and NGOs, particularly for advisory, implementation and funding activities, with clearly defined responsibilities assigned to the members
  • Provide encouragement and opportunities to industry and the private sector to contribute further to developing and implementing sustainable development programmes
  • Give civil society a more central role in environmental management by removing systemic barriers to participation, especially by women, indigenous peoples and youth, and give due attention to indigenous knowledge and coping strategies
  • Improve institutional mechanisms for participation for stakeholders from civil society and the private sector
  • Provide institutional legitimacy to community-based resource management practices by making communities part of the national legal and regulatory framework
  • Give people a clear stake in the environment through legal and regulatory measures that define and recognize individual or community property and tenure rights
  • Assign common but differentiated responsibilities to all involved