4. Public policies affecting natural resources and the environment.
A Publ. of the Development Strategies for Fragile Lands (DESFIL), 3,
Washington D.C., USA, 1990, pp. 6-7
In recent years, national governments in developing countries and development assistance agencies have adopted new policies to protect limited or fragile natural resources. In many instances, these policies are failing. This paper explores reasons for these policy failures.
Limited or fragile natural resources should not necessarily be left undeveloped in their natural state. When development does occur, however, natural resources that are affected should be protected from needless damage and degradation. This approach, in turn, may hinder future economic growth.
The case studies describe what happened when attempts were made to protect natural resources associated with large development projects on the Eastern Carribean islands of St. Kitts, St. Lucia, and Barbados. In each case, a benign resource use supported by environmental policies or legislation competed with a more destructive use of the same resource.
In each case, the more destructive resource use was adopted. The research differentiates between organized interest groups and stakeholders - that is, unorganized groups that stand to gain or lose in common ways because of the way resources are allocated. Those parties who are included or who are left out of development decisions are described, as is the working of interest group politics - how decisions are made and who is represented or is not - on the three islands.
The research supports the thesis that the relationship between interest groups within a country and a policy-making process that excludes key stakeholders causes decisions to be made that override environmental policies. The failure of environmental policies can be explained by examining the way interest groups use their relationships with political leaders to exert control over the development process.
National political leaders want to maintain their power. They do this by supporting large development projects that are environmentally destructive but highly visible to voters. Civil servants seek to enforce policies that protect fragile natural resources but depend on politicians for their jobs. This dependency prevents them from enforcing environmental policies. Major stakeholding groups, including resource users (farmers, herders, fishermen, and charcoal producers) and local nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) are generally excluded from the decision-making process. This relationship hinders the implementation of environmental policy.
New public policies, often required by donor agencies as conditions of development assistance, fail because they do not take account of political, cultural, and economic conditions at the local level.
A more open system of policy making also has to consider the relationship between local cultural norms and politics and the culture of decision making. Culture and political decision making are inseparable. Politics in many developing countries are intensely personal; they are affected by a history of dependency, insularity, and distrust of outsiders. Innovation in policy making requires that politicians and civil servants take risks, which is difficult to do without upsetting political leaders. The important role of opposition politics is often not understood by outsiders.
In addition to the obstacles created by national politics and the culture of decision making, there are other reasons why public policy initiatives, such as environmental policies, fail. The research concludes that donors need to undertake specific efforts to improve the implementation of environmental policy by increasing their understanding of four key factors: politics within host countries, politics within donor agencies, the culture of decision making, and the reliance on short-term development strategies.
1135 92 - 5/111
Review, sustainability, developing countries, human development, agricultural sector, training, economy theory, systems approach, holistic thinking
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