Collaborative Environmental Governance and Indigenous Governance: A Synthesis
von der Porten, Suzanne
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This study addresses a conceptual gap in collaborative environmental governance pertaining to the role of Indigenous peoples. Conventional collaborative approaches to environmental governance include input and resource-pooling by two or more stakeholders. This approach becomes conceptually problematic when the stakeholder view is extended to Indigenous peoples. While experiences vary widely around the world, it is common for Indigenous peoples to assert themselves as existing within self-determining nations within their traditional homelands – rather than as stakeholders or interest groups. This perspective is reflected in the Indigenous governance literature, which provides a window into how Indigenous peoples view themselves. The purpose of this doctoral research was to critically evaluate the extent to which principles and practices of collaborative environmental governance are compatible with the main tenets and advances in Indigenous governance related to self-determination. This was done through an extensive literature review and empirical study in the context of British Columbia, Canada. Through a multi-case study analysis of three regional scale cases, complemented by analysis of a single case at the provincial scale, this research analyzed assumptions and perspectives existing at the intersection of Indigenous governance and collaborative environmental governance. The regional, multi-case study concentrated on the practice of collaboration around governance for water, while the provincial case examined a water policy reform process. The key findings of this research were that non-Indigenous entities and personnel initiating or practicing collaborative environmental governance and engaged in water policy reform tended to hold a stakeholder-view of Indigenous peoples. In contrast, Indigenous peoples and leaders tended to view themselves as existing within self-determining Indigenous nations. These conflicting assumptions led to dissatisfaction for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples with regard to collaboration for water governance and water reform, in terms of both processes and outcomes. This research makes contributions to both scholarship and practice. Conceptually, the research identifies how the assumptions and approaches to collaboration within mainstream collaborative environmental governance scholarship should shift fundamentally in ways that incorporate concepts related to Indigenous governance. This conceptual shift could be applied to the breadth of empirical contexts that are discussed in existing collaborative environmental governance scholarship. The empirical findings of this research provide a robust rationale for the importance of a conceptual bridge between the collaborative environmental governance and Indigenous governance literatures. This bridge would involve creation of a body of collaborative scholarship that addresses self-determination and nationhood when theorizing on collaboration with Indigenous peoples. Additionally, it makes a practical contribution by highlighting ways in which those engaged in collaborative environmental governance and water policy reform can draw on some of the tenets of Indigenous governance scholarship. These recommendations include the following: (1) approach or involve Indigenous peoples as self-determining nations rather than one of many collaborative stakeholders or participants; (2) Identify and clarify any existing or intended (a) environmental governance processes and (b) assertions to self-determination by the Indigenous nation; (3) Create opportunities for relationship building between Indigenous peoples and policy or governance practitioners; (4) Choose venues and processes of decision making that reflect Indigenous rather than Eurocentric venues and processes; and (5) Provide resources to Indigenous nations to level the playing field in terms of capacity for collaboration or for policy reform decision making. Finally, this research suggests that positive outcomes are possible where water governance is carried out in ways that meaningfully recognize and address the perspectives of Indigenous peoples.
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