Managing Complex Commons

John Powell and Chris Short from the CCRI have travelled to Japan for the 14th Global Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons.

In this Blog post, John details presentations and discussion regarding the management of complex commons…

Commons theory developed by Elinor Ostrom and others suggests a ‘nested hierarchy’ of institutional organisations is the desired optimum approach to managing complex commons, whereby problems of scale and trans-boundary conflict can be handled by successive levels of institutional arrangements that operate from the local to national, regional or even global levels. 

A panel on the ‘Governance of Complex Systems at Multiple Scales’ Chaired by John Powell at the 14th IASC International Commons conference on the Kita Fuji Commons in Japan suggests the issues are not quite so straightforward.  Ngeta Kabiri opened the session by describing problems of managing wildlife (large mammals) in a trans-boundary region (between Kenya and Tanzania) where different legal and management regimes are operating in each country.  Hunting of large mammals is allowed in one country but not in the other, leading to a lack of any incentives to conserve either animals or habitat in the area where benefits of hunting are not available. 

Alayne Delaney and John Powell in separate presentations then addressed issues of managing complex marine resource systems within the EU institutional context.  Alayne looked at barriers and drivers of EU maritime commons and John examined implementation at the fishing vessel level.  It was interesting to note that a fundamental ecosystem management measure – ‘quota controls’ was being used to limit the take or catch of elephants in Africa and Cod in the North Sea, and in both cases failing because of poor quality data, and failure to account for fundamental human behaviour responses of key stakeholders.

Blake Ratner provided the final presentation on resilience in complex aquatic resource systems demonstrating that a participatory approach that involved all stakeholders was an essential first step to managing complex systems at multiple scales.