Lecture 1 9
Introduction to natural resources stewardship
Introduction to natural resources stewardship and collective action
In this course, we define natural resources as materials that occur in nature with inherent value based on their use in sustaining individual livelihoods, community life, and economic activities. The health and availability of these natural resources depends on the actions of human beings.
Natural and human systems are intertwined; for example, actions upstream may affect greatly the quality and availability of water that may be required for industrial use in an economic zone, and in turn actions occurring at this economic zone will also influence the quality of air and water that is available for urban purposes. Figure 1 shows this interconnectedness of human development within a geographical region. Understanding these interconnections is vital for responsible decision-making.
Natural resources are essential assets for social and economic development. However, unsustainable economic and population growth, coupled with inadequate management systems, have led to an increase of threats to natural resources, which in turn has caused an increase in negative effects to communities, governments and businesses. These threats can influence catchments, cities, economic zones and impact green economic development.
In this course, we define natural resources threats as any element that has a potential to destroy or deplete natural resources. Natural resources threats affect natural resources in such a way that they can lead to risks to future growth for businesses, communities and governments. Figure 2 below shows examples of threats to natural resources.
These threats pose risks to all stakeholders. Risks are defined as an organization’s degree of exposure to a threat, its vulnerability to it, and its capacity to address the threat. This course defines natural resources risks as elements that jeopardize the sustaining of individual livelihoods, community life or economic activities. One natural resources threat may affect sectors (private, public, civil society) differently, hence posing different risks to each one. Within Natural Resources Stewardship various risks are considered, such as water and soil pollution due to waste or wastewater, water scarcity due to extensive use or climate change, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, climate related climate hazards (floods, droughts).
For example, the public sector faces risks such as challenges to ensure service delivery. The private sector faces risks including higher costs from resource scarcity, regulatory action, and pressure from communities, and civil society faces risks including loss of income due to over-use of natural resources.
What is Natural Resources Stewardship?
NatuReS defines natural resources stewardship as a concept where all users of natural resources take responsibility for their impacts on shared resources and work together to ensure these resources are managed sustainably. This concept of stewardship is based on the understanding that these resource challenges cannot be resolved by individual organizations, but must be addressed using concerted, collaborative action.
The Natural Resources Stewardship approach has been applied by the GIZ Natural Resources Stewardship Programme (NatuReS). NatuReS uses its proven expertise, tools and approaches to support all stakeholder groups – public, private, civil society and international – to collaborate more effectively in addressing risks related to natural resources, such as water, soil, forests, in turn paving the way for economic growth that is more socially and environmentally sustainable while simultaneously strengthening participatory governance. Ultimately, stewardship enables the use and treatment of natural resources in ways that are socially equitable, environmentally sustainable, and economically beneficial.
Natural Resources Stewardship multi-sector partnerships is a collective action approach built on the understanding that those benefiting from the same natural resources can benefit even more if all actors work together to protect these shared resources. Natural Resources Stewardship is based on the premise that all actors play a vital role in the sustainable use and management of natural resources, as businesses, governments nor civil society can effectively address complex, shared environmental threats on their own.
Natural Resources Stewardship initiatives or partnerships are coordinated engagements among interested parties to address specific shared natural resources challenges; they typically involve structured collective action, joint decision-making and joint implementation.
Collective action is understood as joint action in order to achieve a common objective. Different sector actors may influence the scale of natural resources threats, sometimes without being aware of it. Stewardship partnerships offer the possibility for these different actors to work together in understanding and mitigating their common threats.
To successfully mitigate threats related to natural resources, stewardship partnerships aim to mobilize the capacities and mandates from the different actors, allowing for measures to be much more efficient and effective.
Stewardship partnerships must not only focus on outlining their natural resources objective but also take the time to outline their governance structure, principles and processes to ensure that every stakeholder’s issues and interests is represented. Stewardship partnerships should include the participation of all sectors – public, private, and civil society – to achieve fair and sustainable impact.
When do stewardship partnerships make sense?
Key enabling conditions for Natural Resources Stewardship partnerships include:
- Political will: the concern of public authorities for the environmental situation and their motivation to act.
- Public awareness: concern of civil society for the environmental situation and their motivation to act.
- Civil society capacity: knowledge and resources to engage. Capacities of sectors vary, sometimes civil society in these partnerships may be disadvantaged as they don’t possess all the information, knowledge and resources to contribute.
- Private sector interest: A key private company, or companies, understands the environmental threats and the benefits of collective action.
Also consider whether there are successful precedents of public-private partnerships in the region, even in a very different sector.