Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Resource Economics

Dissertation of Katja Arzt

Local Participation and Sustainable Resource Use. An institutional analysis of agri-environmental- forums

Start: 2001

End: 2008

How likely is it that people with different values, interests and knowledge can agree on sustainable solutions for their local environmental problems? This work deals with “local participation und sustainable resource use” and finds some answers to this question.
Many different environmental programs under the EU directive (No. 1257/1999) have been set up by environmental experts and policy makers in order to improve the sustainability of agriculture. However, those programs were insufficient. Some scientists argue agri-environmental programs would be better appreciated by farmers if locals themselves were integrated during decision-making processes, because their values, knowledge or doubts could be considered. Therefore this work aims to find out how participation processes function, e.g. whose interests will be recognised, which knowledge integrated, how will the group-process be influenced? This work concentrates on "institutions", i.e. sets of rules, which participants in a process establish and use in order to reach decisions together.
The work is based on different theories and assumptions: The “distributional-theory of institutional change” focuses on the power-asymmetries and how these influence the establishment of rules. The second theoretical approach uses the knowledge of the collective action theories of Elinor Ostrom and Fehr and Gächter. Design principles play a central role in those theories. The third approach is generalized from interactionalist approaches of group sociology and explains the connection between individual and group. The solutions of the participation process may as well be determined by the properties of the environmental good at stake. This correlation is discussed in the fourth theoretical approach used in this work.
The results of the work are based on empirical studies from two “agri-environmental-forums” which had been set up in North-East Germany by scientists. The established rules for co-operation and group-process are described in detail in this work. In order to explain interactions among participants of the “agri-environmental-forums” the author analysed and characterized the group`s environment and its members (e.g. history, social and cultural background, economical and legal situation). Furthermore the ecological characteristics of the environmental problems were examined.
The result shows that there are dynamic interactions between different influencing factors. The main influencing factors are unified in a framework for participation-processes of this kind. The institutional perspective of this work showed clearly that participants in agri-environmental forums must be able to set for themselves the rules governing the process, if the decisions they reach are to have a chance of being effective.
Advisor: Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Konrad Hagedorn