Governance of the Commons
Common resources include land, water, energy, food and the host of ecosystem services that nature makes available to humankind every day, which are ultimately the precondition for development. Can we imagine new and better ways to manage these resources sustainably and achieve more efficient and equitable results? In 2009, Elinor Ostrom won the Nobel Prize in Economics for her work on the governance of the commons. Trained as a political scientist, she believed that privatization and commodification, on the one hand, or top-down regulation, on the other hand, were not the only ways in which human beings could govern their common resources. She demonstrated that bottom-up systems of collective action, in which citizens build shared institutions and collective cooperative mechanisms, can also achieve governance results that are resilient, balanced and long-lasting. In order to sustainably govern common resources, we therefore need innovative governance arrangements with new constellations of actors. These arrangements may include small-scale farmers and local resource users but also other civil society actors, the private sector, as well as government. Only by incorporating networks of different actors and areas of society which span multiple levels of governance as well as administrative jurisdictions, will governance arrangements be created that are capable of coping with complex natural resource systems. This research area includes our work in land and water governance, agriculture, food security and food sovereignty, as well as our research about environmental governance and more equitable investment models.