International Institute for Innovation in Governance


coastal governance

Environmental governance theories: a review

This article synthesizes and compares environmental governance theories. For each theory we outline its main tenets, claims, origin, and supporting literature. We then group the theories into focused versus combinatory frameworks for comparison. The analysis resonates with many types of ecosystems; however, to make it more tangible, we focus on coastal systems. First, we characterize coastal governance challenges and then later link salient research questions arising from these challenges to the theories that may be useful in answering them. Our discussion emphasizes the usefulness of having a diverse theoretical toolbox, and we argue that if governance analysts are more broadly informed about the theories available, they may more easily engage in open-minded interdisciplinary collaboration. The eight theories examined are the following: polycentricity, network governance, multilevel governance, collective action, governmentality (power / knowledge), adaptive governance, interactive governance theory (IGT), and evolutionary governance theory (EGT). Polycentricity and network governance both help examine the links or connections in governance processes. Polycentricity emphasizes structural configurations at a broader level, and network governance highlights agency and information flow within and between individuals or organizations. Collective action theory is helpful for examining community level governance, and helps analyze variables hindering or enabling self-organization and shared resource outcomes. In contrast, multilevel governance helps understand governance integration processes between localities, regions, and states across administrative, policy, or legal dimensions. Governmentality is helpful for understanding the role of discourse, power, knowledge, and narratives in governance, such as who creates them and who becomes governed by them with what effect. Adaptive governance helps analyze the links between context, change, and resilience. IGT helps examine the interdependencies between the systems being governed and the governing systems. EGT is helpful for unpacking how coevolutionary processes shape governance and the options for change.

Partelow, S., A. Schlüter, D. Armitage, M. Bavinck, K. Carlisle, R. Gruby, A.-K. Hornidge, M. Le Tissier, J. Pittman, A. M. Song, L. P. Sousa, N. Văidianu, and K. Van Assche. 2020. Environmental governance theories: a review and application to coastal systems. Ecology and Society 25(4):19.

Governance and the coastal condition: Towards new modes of observation, adaptation and integration

The conceptual framework of evolutionary governance theory (EGT) is deployed and extended to rethink the idea of coastal governance and the possibilities of a coastal governance better adapted to challenges of climate change and intensified use of both land and sea. ‘The coastal condition’ is analyzed as a situation where particular modes of observation and coordination were possible and necessary, and those observations (and derived calculations of risk and opportunity) are valuable for the governance of both land and an argument is constructed for a separate arena for coastal governance, without erasing the internal logic of pre-existing governance for land and sea. This entails that coastal governance is destined to be a place of (productive) conflict, as much as of policy integration. Policy integration will be more difficult and more important in coastal governance, as this is an arena where the effects of many land based activities and activities at sea become visible and entangled. Policy integration in coastal governance does however require deep knowledge of the governance path and existing forms of integration there (e.g. in planning), and it exists in an uneasy tension with the requirements of adaptive governance. This tension further contributes to the complexity and complex-prone character of coastal governance. Neither complexity nor conflict can be avoided, and coastal governance as an image of balanced decision- making is (positively) presented as a productive fiction.

Van Assche, K., Hornidge, A. K., Schlüter, A., & Vaidianu, N. (2019). Governance and the coastal condition: Towards new modes of observation, adaptation and integrationMarine Policy.


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