Decentralized Governance of Natural Resources

Decentralized Governance of Natural Resources
Photo: UNDP

In most parts of the world's drylands, especially in rural areas, a large fraction of the population depends directly upon natural resources for their livelihoods. However, their efforts to improve living conditions and build up assets are often thwarted by degradation of these resources. The degradation more often than not takes place at an alarming rate as a result of a complex interplay of natural factors (e.g. climate variability and change) and human-induced factors (e.g. unsustainable land use driven by geographic pressure and insecure land tenure system). Furthermore, lack of alternative livelihood opportunities triggers conflicts over control of and access to scarce resources.

To reverse this downward spiral, UNDP-DDC has been assisting a number of programme countries undergoing decentralization reforms in Africa and Arab States in their process of integrating and mainstreaming drylands natural resources governance into local development planning and implementation.

Decentralized governance of natural resources (DGNR) concerns the ownership and control of, access to and use of resources. This involves decision making and the exercise of the powers over others. DGNR is considered one of the key strategies for promoting sustainable management, equitable decision-making, promoting efficiency, participatory governance and equitable sharing of benefits accrued from exploitation of natural resources at the local levels. It entails the process of transferring some of the decision-making powers and responsibilities (fiscal, administrative, legal and technical) to sub-national institutions at the provincial, district, city, town and village levels.

With financial support from the European Union, Finland and other donors, the component focuses on the following main areas of interventions:

  • Strengthening capacities of local authorities, institutions and communities to ensure equitable access and sustainable use of natural resources, particularly where gender inequalities in accessing resources exist
  • Promotion of participatory systems for natural resources management at local as well as sub-regional levels;
  • Identification and promotion of innovative and sustainable local resource management approaches and development options for improving livelihoods; and
  • Improvement of knowledge on local governance for natural resource management through documentation and dissemination of successful approaches and best practices for policy dialogue and advocacy.

Drought Risk Management Projects at a Glance

Under the IDDP I, the project in Mali focused on awareness creation and sensitization at both national and local levels on DGNR; training of elected officials, technical government experts and NGOs at local level in participatory diagnosis of dryland environmental problems and community-driven resource management planning; and the development and implementation of a communications strategy, etc.

Under the IDDP II, support is now being provided to build capacity of communities in two pilot sites in Gao and Timbuktu in NRM. The two communities will establish a multi-purpose community cooperative. The aim is to institutionalize the mechanisms for conflict resolution and mitigation over local resources, empower women and enhance their participation in resource use decision-making, identify local development options and promote sustainable livelihoods opportunities for the rural poor. Experiences and lessons learnt from the pilot activities will be documented and shared with other communities in Mali and beyond so as to encourage the up-scaling of the cooperative approach at  a broader scale. 

The Niger project has contributed to the strengthening of capacities of different stakeholders in local governance and management of natural resources. Inter alia, the project enhanced capacities of Conseils Régionaux de l'Environnement pour un Développement Durable (CREDD) in matters of environmental and natural resources management. It also supported the development and validation of a National Environmental Education Strategy and the development of a Communications Strategy, now under implementation.  

In Yemen, UNDP-DDC in partnership with the National Water Resource Authority supported the implementation of a project entitled “Decentralized Governance of Water Resources”. The project piloted an institutional model for decentralized water governance in the Amran Basin through the creation of a water basin committee, the strengthening of a National Water Resource Authority (NWRA) and building the capacity of local councils on integrated water management. Considerable results were achieved by the decentralized water governance in the Amran Basin project. These include:

  1. the establishment of a Water Basin Committee as a consultative mechanism for water management in the basin. The committee includes representatives of all government institutions involved in water management in the basin in addition to representatives of local councils, community water user groups and active development projects;
  2. building the capacity of the relatively new local councils on comprehensive water management and their roles and responsibilities under the relevant laws including the Water Law;
  3. Support to the National Water Resource Authority to better serve its technical role in water management in Amran;
  4. Actual steps towards joint planning of the use of the water resource in the basin by the various stakeholders; and
  5. increased awareness on the problem and the need for action; 6) actual implementation of agreed measures by the local councils including for example control of well drilling, prohibition on the sale of water to other basins, etc.

At the Arab States regional level, the UNDP-DDC's DGNR support was instrumental in putting the sustainable management of water resources – a key priority for National Action Programmes for UNCCD in all partner countries. A joint UNDP/Arab Water Council study assessed the status of integrated water resources management in the Arab region and contributed to the formulation/implementation of a Preparatory Assistance Project, funded by the Government of Japan, to develop a major Water Governance Programme (WGP) for the region.

Under the IDDP II, DGNR support focuses on the strengthening of water governance institutions and gender mainstreaming in water management in two countries namely Jordan and Tunisia (i.e. two countries where both the Programme and WGP operate).