Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ruhl and Craig on Governance Institutions for Estuaries and Coasts

J. B. Ruhl and Robin Kundis Craig (Florida State) have posted New Sustainable Governance Institutions for Estuaries and Coasts on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

The central point of inquiry in this chapter - how to design sustainable governance institutions for estuaries and coasts - lends itself to no straightforward answers. Sustainability, while practically a household term in environmental policy dialogue, has proven elusive at best when it comes to setting policy goals into concrete policy text. Governance institutions come in all variety of structures and arrangements, and what might work well to support sustainability in one context may prove entirely ineffective in others. Estuaries and coasts are the most productive and important, but also the most complex, of ecosystems on the planet. Hence the design of sustainable governance institutions for estuaries and coasts is an ambitious, perhaps even audacious, undertaking, for which we can hope only to touch the surface.

The present path of coastal and estuaries development is unsustainable under any definition. Sustainability must move from being an aspiration to supplying the metric by which policy initiatives and decisions are measured, yet the metrics of sustainability remain coarse and unproven. Coastal managers need governance institutions that are simultaneously stronger and more flexible than many used to date, but those institutions’ configurations are likely to be unfamiliar and controversial and much about them remains experimental and untested at this stage. Sustainable governance institutions for estuaries and coasts are, in other words, still largely at the drawing board.

This chapter nonetheless provides an overview of the progress that has been made and the challenges that surely lie ahead. Part I broadly frames the topic of sustainable governance, places it in the context of estuarine and coastal ecosystems, and reviews how the topic has been treated in the major international dialogues and agreements on sustainability. Part II identifies and assesses what are often held out as foundational principles of sustainable governance in general. Part III then reviews different institutional structures that have been used or proposed for arranging and focusing some or all of those principles toward the goal of sustainable governance for estuaries and coasts.

Ben Barros

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