Environment | VOL. 16, ISSUE 96, May-June 2016

Community Solutions for Environmental Governance

Since the 1980s, there has been mounting evidence of unprecedented ecological decline in a range of scales, from local habitats to the global earth system (WHO, 2005; Rockström et al., 2009). Until the beginning of the 1990s, the dominant approach for dealing with ‘sustainable development’ was government-led (Dryzek, 2005). But with the growth of globalised, market-based economies and the weakening of governments, sustainable development has now taken on an increasingly market-led approach (Murat Arsel & Büscher, 2012). As we have seen in the economic crises since 2008, the market is essentially controlled by transnational corporations such as major banks, which are primarily accountable to their shareholders, and the intervention of international institutions, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, that are not directly accountable to a democratic electorate. What characterises both government-led and market-led approaches to sustainable development is that the process is mostly under the control of professional experts who generally propose generic solutions, and are never answerable for the impact of their decisions. This expert-led, top-down approach ignores the fact that communities may already have the appropriate knowledge and governance strategies for sustainable management of natural resources (Agrawal, 2003; Berkes, 2012). Recent studies on indigenous territories demonstrate that deforestation rates inside community-governed areas with strong legal recognition and government protection are significantly lower than in areas outside (Stevens et al., 2014)....

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