What are the current conditions of Institutional Frameworks?
In early 2000 regional NRM bodies were designated by the State and the Australian Governments to undertake strategic natural resource management planning, deliver effective programmes and to engage the regional communities in NRM Plan development and implementation.
Regional scale NRM Plans are designed to contribute to sustainable regional and rural development. These plans if implemented are capable of aligning economic, social and environmental policies to on-ground works. The on-ground works are prioritised using the scientifically informed, and regionally negotiated targets and priorities, including reportable resource condition targets and associated management action targets outlined in the plans.
The institutional framework sections in which regional NRM bodies operate, are structured to establish NRM practices at property and landscape levels so that sub-catchment, local government, Landcare and landholder-based delivery systems can achieve complex project management and on ground outcomes.
The institutional frameworks adopted by regional NRM bodies reflect how the regions manage assets such as soils, water, floodplains, wetlands, biodiversity, community capital and threats to those assets, e.g. salinity, land-use conflicts, weed and pest management, climate change and variability. For example, in the Queensland Murray-Darling Basin, QMDC staff work with service delivery partners to provide the technical and extension services to landholders on sustainable NRM. QMDC has therefore one of a number of key sources of NRM knowledge, advice, funding and support for landholders.
The current NRM institutional frameworks, although they have served NRM bodies well, are being impacted upon by government policy and changing priorities, especially the reduction or specific focus of funding. This has led to a reduction of staff and funded programmes, and more competition amongst stakeholders for NRM funds. Despite a recognition of the importance at a global level of NRM, the sector is under increasing competition for funding and recognition from other more social based sectors. Due to these altered priorities and resultant loss of staff, the region has experienced a loss of sector knowledge across government departments and the not-for-profit sectors. Practitioners have observed that information sharing through extension is limited or non-existent, policy advocacy is increasingly unsuccessful at influencing decision makers, and communication across the region is more difficult with less NRM trained and employed staff.
What are the findings from key research being undertaken?
Research has led to important insights into how to improve governance systems and institutional frameworks. Strategic plans, international treaties and cross-sectoral agreements, for example, are deemed most effective when they:
- state precise goals, criteria and benchmarks for assessing progress,
- are designed to be flexible and adaptable to changes in the problem and context,
- have formal procedures to ensure new scientific information is taken up quickly, and
- systematically collect information about the effectiveness of the plan, treaty or agreement and review this information regularly (IPCC et al. 2014).
Climate change poses risks for human and natural systems. In the Working Group II contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC et al. 2014) Fifth Assessment Report (WGII AR5), the assessment of impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability evaluates how patterns of risks and potential benefits are shifting due to climate change. It considers how impacts and risks related to climate change can be reduced and managed through adaptation and mitigation. The report assesses needs, options, opportunities, constraints, resilience, limits, and other aspects associated with adaptation (IPCC et al. 2014).
According to this report, major future rural impacts worldwide are expected through “impacts on water availability and supply, food security, and agricultural incomes, including shifts in production areas of food and non-food crops across the world (high confidence)”.
More severe and/or frequent extreme weather events and/or hazard types are projected to increase losses and loss variability and challenge insurance systems to offer affordable coverage while raising more risk-based capital. Large-scale public-private risk reduction initiatives and economic diversification are examples of adaptation actions (IPCC et al. 2014).
Strategies and actions that are pursued now will move towards climate resilient pathways for sustainable development, while at the same time help to improve livelihoods, social and economic well-being, and responsible environmental management. Transformations to sustainability are considered to benefit from iterative learning or adaptive management, deliberative processes, and innovation (IPCC et al. 2014).
What are the current tools to measure the conditions of NRM Institutional frameworks and trends?
- Organisational performance reviews
- Annual reports
- Audited accounts
- Strategic and operational plans
- Board and staff resumes
- Staff work plans
- Sustainability and environmental management policies and procedures
- Legislation and government policy, strategy and planning mechanisms
- NRM Plan progress reports
What are the identified gaps?
In addition to reviewing existing NRM plans and the structure of institutional frameworks in relation to climate change issues, there are new matters which these frameworks may need to consider.
The development and deployment of technologies such as nanotechnology, synthetic biology and genetic engineering and other emerging communication technologies may provide benefits to a region, but may also pose major risks for sustainable development and NRM. The use of these technologies therefore needs an institutional framework that can be applied on an international, national and regional scale.
This framework will need to: facilitate the forecasting, and information-sharing on new technologies; provide transparency and accountability mechanisms with regards to risks and benefits; help to develop technical standards; clarify the applicability of existing legal agreements; promote public discussion and input; and engage multiple stakeholders in policy dialogues. Such frameworks must ensure that environmental and social considerations are fully respected.
Water governance has also been identified as an area requiring a stronger and more coherent multifaceted framework.
Global, national and regional food governance must be strengthened as well. Regulatory challenges here include national and regional management of food security, safety and nutrition, the coordination of climate change adaptation in food systems, limits on commodity speculation, and standards to guide certification and labelling schemes.
Energy governance also requires strong oversight by regional bodies, especially around community energy aspirations.