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266 One of the most sobering realities about contemporary natural resource management and environmental protection is how difficult it is to translate environmental goals into effective action. The result is what might be called an “implementation gap.” This implementation gap refers to inconsistencies between policy goals conceived at one level or branch of government and the translation of those goals into specific resource management activities at another level or by other agencies.1 It also refers to the gap between management actions at all levels of government and actual improvement in environmental conditions. These implementation gaps are not a new concern, but they have not figured prominently in international deliberations on environmental management . At the major international conferences on the environment—Stockholm in 1972, Rio in 1992, and Johannesburg in 2002—the emphasis was on raising awareness of global environmental issues and mobilizing governments to take action to reduce poverty, change unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, protect the natural resource base, and improve environmental conditions. The list of laudable goals in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation is impressive, but the report offers little guidance about creating the institutional structures to achieve these goals. Local governments, in particular , receive scant attention save this mention toward the end of the 48-page plan: Designing Decentralized Coastal Management Programs kem lowry 15 10491-15_Ch15.qxd 5/3/07 3:02 PM Page 266 designing decentralized coastal management programs 267 Enhance the role and capacity of local authorities as well as stakeholders in implementing Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the Summit and in strengthening the continuing support for local Agenda 21 programmes and associated initiatives and partnerships, and encourage, in particular, partnerships among and between local authorities and other levels of government and stakeholders to advance sustainable development.2 One of the practical political and administrative realities is that successful implementation of natural resource and environmental management programs requires coordinated actions among a number of agencies, both at the same and at different levels of government. Hence intergovernmental relations are a core consideration in addressing the implementation gap. Although national governments can undertake some environmental management efforts, the practical reality of multitier governmental systems is that effective management requires mechanisms for shared governance responsibility. Designing intergovernmental systems requires allocating responsibility, creating understanding and agreement about management roles and responsibilities, ensuring adequate resources for management at all levels, creating required skills and capacities among implementing officials, and creating systems for monitoring agency performance and ensuring accountability. Many of the tasks associated with designing intergovernmental systems of environmental management have to do with allocating some authority and responsibility to central government agencies and some to provincial and local agencies. “Decentralization” has become a convenient way of characterizing this process. It has also come to be regarded as a key governmental reform. According to a recent World Bank study, “Out of 75 developing and transitional countries with populations greater than 5 million, all but 12 claim to have embarked on some form of transfer of power to local units of government.”3 A careful examination of the decentralization experiences in these seventy-five countries would show that decentralization has multiple meanings and practices and is undertaken for a wide variety of motives.4 Attempts to decentralize may be comprehensive, involving a wide range of services or activities narrowly focused on a specific governmental activity. Relationships between central government and local authorities may range from coercive to cooperative. Authority and responsibility may also be distributed in a variety of ways. Availability of resources for management, technical assistance, and administrative support can vary enormously in different decentralized relationships. Moreover, there is a dynamic quality to efforts to decentralize that is often not reflected in textbook treatments of the process. Central government agencies (or officials) may decide to recapture authority transferred to subordinate units, such that over time authority may ebb and flow among agencies and between levels of government. 10491-15_Ch15.qxd 5/3/07 3:02 PM Page 267 This paper addresses some of the conceptual and practical issues associated with decentralization generally and efforts to decentralize coastal management, in particular. “Coastal management” refers broadly to the governance of human uses and activities affecting coastal resources. It includes everything from decisions about the conditions under which coastal hotels, homes, power and sewage disposal plants (and other infrastructure), off-shore drilling for oil, and other activities can be located and operated in relatively narrowly defined coastal zones in some countries. It also refers to activities intended to...


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