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Community governance, the better alternative

How might community governance be a better alternative to state intervention?
Lin, however, discovered that people were able to manage common resources on their own without the need for external intervention.

She demonstrated through Nobel prize-winning field work that when people were left to their own devices, it did not necessarily result in the destruction of common resources. Instead, local resource users form their own communal arrangements to govern the use of common resources in which they develop and enforce their own rules. Lin found dozens of examples of these arrangements in the real world, such as: the management of commonly owned pastures in the Swiss Alps, the regulation of grazing and logging on commonly held meadows and forests in Japan, the sustainable management of inshore fisheries by cooperatives in the eastern United States, and the supervision of complex irrigation systems in the Valencia region of Spain.

Compared to externally imposed policies, community governance works better. After studying several hundred irrigation systems in Nepal, Lin found that locally managed irrigation systems were more effective in delivering water, higher in productivity and lower cost than irrigation systems built with external aid from organisations such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, USAID, etc. Furthermore, privatisation and government control of common resources have often led to disastrous results. In parts of Africa, where basic norms emphasising the protection of individual property rights do not exist, attempts to privatise natural resources resulted in rampant corruption and cronyism as ruling elites sought resources for themselves and their political and tribal allies. Government management schemes such as the European Common Fisheries Policy have also produced dismal results.

© Adam Smith Center, Singapore
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Environmental Management: A Bottom-Up Approach to Policy Implementation

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