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Social-Ecological Systems Meta-Analysis Database: Variables

Variable TypeOrdinal
Variable Component TypeGovernance System
Variable KindComponent
ThemeInstitutions (learn about themes)
ProjectsSESMAD, Fiji fisheries
QuestionIs this governance system highly centralized or highly decentralized?
Select Options1 Highly decentralized, 2 Somewhat decentralized, 3 Somewhat centralized, 4 Highly centralized
ImportanceThe extent to which a governance system is centralized or not has large effects on how decisions are made and thus how the commons is managed and what outcomes are achieved.

A centralized governance system has few actors/actor groups that hold a disproportionate amount of authority of over actors or parts of a commons. More decentralized governance systems have flatter hierarchies.

Highly decentralized: The decision-making authority with respect to a commons lies primarily within individual users.

Somewhat decentralized: The decision-making authority with respect to a commons lies primarily within communities of users.

Somewhat centralized:  The decision-making authority with respect to a commons lies primarily within some form of regional governance unit (a district, municipality, province/state, special district)

Highly centralized: The decision-making authority with respect to a commons lies primarily within a national government or centralized bureaucracy.



Theory Usages

TheoryValue Used
Failure of centralized controlHighly centralized
Polycentric comanagementSomewhat decentralized
Centralized conservationHighly centralized
Critique of fortress conservationHighly centralized
Decentralization and leakageHighly decentralized
Political decentralization and fitValue of variable moves from more to less centralized
Community-based natural resource management (CBNRM)Somewhat decentralized
Centralization and corruptionHighly centralized
Decentralization and elite captureHighly decentralized
Decentralization and local capacityHighly to somewhat decentralized

Associated Studies

Study Citation

Andersson, Krister P, and Elinor Ostrom. 2008. "Analyzing decentralized resource regimes from a polycentric perspective."  Policy sciences 41 (1):71-93.

Component Usages

ComponentValue UsedExplanation
"New Order" Indonesian Forest Governance System, 1965-1998Highly centralized (4)The governance system centered in an individual dictator who centralized power around him and was supported by a very close group of extremely loyal allies. Important decisions were made by Suharto or by government agencies working under him (following his orders) and based in Jakarta, the capital city.
"Reformasi" Indonesian Forest Governance System, 1998-2012Somewhat decentralized (2)After the fall of Suharto, the government of Indonesia has undergone various changes related to decentralization, both political and administrative. Competitive legislative elections began in 1999, marking the beginning of a multi-party political system with a less powerful central presidency. In 2001, the government began a devolution of power to the regions through decentralization and regional autonomy. Pepinsy (2012) argues that since then, "Indonesian politics ceased to be “about” Reformasi (despite the continued ubiquity of the term in political speech) and started being “about” the division of political authority in the center versus the regions, in contrast to the steep hierarchy with Jakarta at the top and the regions at the bottom." Although this program was not complete, and was also partially rolled back after 2004, it nonetheless shifted significant powers from central to relatively more local actors (provinces and districts). In some cases, local communities with proof of ownership have obtained the rights of management, and in some regions such as East Kalimantan are permitting communities to manage small-scale forest areas in cooperatives. Moreover, in some national protected areas there have been pilot collaborative governance arrangements with communities. However, overall most communities still have very little say in forest management. On the other hand, the new, more independent court system has also been an important venue for channeling local claims over forest rights, although to date decisions have not favored decentralization. For instance, the Dayak used the court system to ask for the withdrawal of concessions in West Kalimantan and seek retributions from loss of timber benefits, and environmental and cultural damages from these concessions; many villagers have brought this type of challenge during the Reformasi (Potter, 2009). For more details on this partial decentralization, see e.g. Ardiansyah & Jotzo (2013), Arnold (2008), McCarthy (2004).
Wakatobi National Park 2008-currentSomewhat decentralized (2)Policy in Indonesia shifted to be more decentralized (in 1999), central government set budgets, but local governments able to decide how to spend, lots of NGO involvement
Macquarie Island Nature Reserve Management Plan Highly centralized (4)
Community D Governance SystemHighly decentralized (1)
Community A Governance SystemHighly decentralized (1)
Self.organized rules and norms for SCUBA divingHighly decentralized (1)
Marine Areas for Responsible Fishing (AMPRs) Costa RicaSomewhat decentralized (2)
Sasi in Tomolol, Misool  
ICCAT Governance SystemHighly centralized (4)ICCAT sets regulations that apply to all contracting parties (although they can opt out of regulations). Quotas and regulations are negotiated by contracting parties, but total and national quotas are set by the international body with little room for adjustment (unless they are more strict than required) by nation states and regions.
GMR governance system 1998-currentSomewhat decentralized (2)Many actor groups take part in management of the GMR, participatory management is a management principle of the GMR.
Montreal ProtocolHighly centralized (4)
Pre-Montreal Protocol Ozone GovernanceHighly decentralized (1)Any governance of ozone depleting substances was either highly idiosyncratic or non-existent, governed only by market forces. The US for instance banned the nonessential use of CFSs as aerosol propellants in 1978.
Rhine Chemicals ConventionSomewhat centralized (3)The ICPR Secretariat concentrates all administrative and operational decision making power; the ICPR Secretariat is however accountable and regularly steered by ICPR members
Rhine Action PlanSomewhat centralized (3)The ICPR Secretariat concentrates all administrative and operational decision making power; the ICPR Secretariat is however accountable and regularly steered by ICPR members
GBR Marine Park Act 1975-1999Highly centralized (4)This is a government act, highly centralized.
GBR Marine Park Act 2004-currentHighly centralized (4)This is a government act, highly centralized.
NWHI Monument Act 2006Highly centralized (4)the governance system is highly centralized because the co-trusteeship is composed of state and federal government bodies.
Magnuson-Stevens ActHighly centralized (4)
Raja Ampat Governance SystemSomewhat decentralized (2)Raja Ampat Regency - officially managed under the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, but management is shared between local communtiies and local governement with support from International NGOs (TNC + CI)
Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery Management PlanHighly centralized (4)Decisions are made by the national government
Joint Sanctuary Management Governance System Highly centralized (4)Federal government oversees and regulates the sanctuaries.
Community C Governance SystemHighly decentralized (1)
Community B Governance SystemHighly decentralized (1)
Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management PlanSomewhat centralized (3)The Pacific Council is regional (includes Oregon, Washington, California, and Idaho), while NMFS is regional-focused it is a federal agency, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is a state based agency.
Svalbard Environmental Protection ActHighly centralized (4)Regulations were instituted from the central government, and local people/users did not have direct input into the regulations.
Seaflower MPA Act 2005Highly decentralized (1)The passage of the congressional law in 1993 established the National Environment System (SINA) that decentralized environmental management in Colombia through the creation of 34 regional autonomous agencies (CARs). Each of them is responsible for managing the environment and natural resources within its jurisdiction.
Community G Governance SystemHighly decentralized (1)
Community H Governance SystemHighly decentralized (1)
Community E Governance SystemHighly decentralized (1)
Community F Governance SystemHighly decentralized (1)
Galapagos Governance System 1998-currentSomewhat centralized (3)Participatroy Management Board includes users (fisher and tourism) plus government. Final and over-riding decision with IMA, which is national governement, so coded as 'somewhat centralized'
Macquarie Island Marine Park Management PlanHighly centralized (4)Governance is controlled heavily by major state bodies, most notably, the Department of the Environment. As there is no resident population, the level of centralization is unsurprising.
GABMP (Commonwealth Waters) Plan of Management 2000 - 2005 and Management Plan 2005 - 2012Somewhat centralized (3)The Director of National Parks is responsible under the EPBC Act for the administration, management and control of Commonwealth reserves and conservation zones. The Director is assisted in performing this function by the staff of Parks Australia. A Steering Committee of Australian and South Australian government agencies guides the day-to-day management of the Great Australian Bight Marine Park. However, the Director retains direct control of the Great Australian Bight Marine Park (Commonwealth Waters). At the time of preparation of the 2005 - 2012 Management Plan, the committee consisted of representatives from the following agencies: -Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage -South Australian Department for Environment and Heritage -Primary Industries and Resources South Australia District Council of Ceduna -South Australian Tourism Commission -Australian Fisheries Management Authority At the time of preparation of the 2005 - 2012 Plan, a non-government Consultative Committee advised the Australian and South Australian governments about management of the Great Australian Bight Marine Park. The Consultative Committee represents general community interests, Indigenous interests, commercial interests and scientific interests in the Park and the State Park. It is intended to broaden the Consultative Committee to include representatives of the petroleum industry.
Heard and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve Management PlanHighly centralized (4)Governance is controlled almost entirely by major state bodies, especially the Department of the Environment.
Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery Management PlanHighly centralized (4)Decisions are ultimately made by AFMA (the national government).
Cenderwasih governance systemSomewhat decentralized (2)Policy in Indonesia shifted to be more decentralized (in 1999). In 2002, following a special autonomy law granted for Papua the right to resource management moved from national to local responsibility. In reality the park seems fairly centralised, with data and reports at central government level (from discussions with WWF)
The Falkland Islands Government (FIG) Fisheries Department’s Falklands Interim Conservation and Management Zone (FICZ)Highly centralized (4)The Fisheries Department is a government agency based primarily in Stanley and oversees the entire territory's fisheries. While they consult with local users, mostly up to the management body.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Market Squid Fishery Management PlanSomewhat centralized (3)State government makes the decisions, but federal government makes larger over arching fishery decisions (e.g. dictates larger policies).
New Zealand Quota Management SystemHighly centralized (4)New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is the agency currently responsible for management of fisheries. The Ministry’s role is to act as the Government’s principal adviser on New Zealand’s fisheries management and the impacts of fishing on the aquatic environment.
Caeté-Taperaçú Extractive Reserve (RESEX) in BrazilSomewhat decentralized (2)
Indonesian Department of Fisheries and AquacultureSomewhat decentralized (2)