|Ocean governance: Sustainable development of the Seas (UNU, 1994, 369 pages)|
|Part II: Ocean governance: National level|
|New structures for decision-making in integrated ocean policy|
In the majority of countries the framework within which marine policy and management decisions are made is organized under a ministerial system of government, with two separate levels: ministries and agencies. The former are primarily responsible for outlining national policies within their particular spheres of competence while the latter - under the responsibility of the ministries - are responsible for the implementation of sectoral, single-purpose national goals drawn up by the ministries and the representative bodies. A third very important component, is the central planning body or equivalent institution, which is usually located at the ministerial level and is responsible for coordinating the formulation and implementation of national economic and social policy across sectors and has a strong influence on the allocation of budgetary funds among all governmental institutions (Vallejo 1988).
Beyond the governmental actors, non-governmental institutions particularly those associated with the academic, industry, banking, and research - play an important role in the complex agenda of ocean development. It is within this broad framework that the major institutional problems, confronted by both developed and developing countries, will be examined. These problems are both of a structural and a functional nature.
Institutional problems of a structural nature
The structural problems fall into two broad categories:
- the location of ocean affairs within the governmental bureaucratic hierarchy; and
- the formal structure of organizations vis-à-vis the effectiveness of their work.
Both problems have enormous political/administrative implications since, among other things, there is a direct relationship between the level of ocean involvement among governmental agencies and the political stature of ocean affairs.
Since in the majority of countries ocean affairs do not represent a central concern but are a matter subsidiary to other activities having higher priority, their political stature is generally low. This is immediately translated, among other things, into the location of the activity being at a low level within the governmental hierarchy, into administrative linkages with more powerful agencies whose authority/functions are not traditionally associated with marine affairs (for example, fisheries under the Ministry of Agriculture), as well as into certain patterns of resource allocation (limited personnel and low levels of funding), situations that mirror the limited political power exercised by agencies having marine-related responsibilities. These types of problems were extensively documented in Colombia (Knecht et al. 1984) as well as in other countries.
The status and position of ocean affairs might move to prominence within the governmental structure when one marine activity acquires unusual relevance, as for example, in the case of Peru in 1970, when the separation of the Ministry of Fisheries from Agriculture was a response to the importance of the fisheries at that time in the national economy. (Marriot 1990)
In terms of the implications of the formal structure of organizations vis-à-vis the effectiveness of their work and their relationship with other agencies, two other issues arise:
- sectoral and functional differentiations; and
- geographic and activity subdivisions.
Sectoral differentiation refers to governmental specialization or divisions generally associated with a variety of ocean and coastal uses (such as, fisheries, tourism, ports and harbours). In this sense, in the majority of countries ocean-related matters may easily fall within 15 to 25 sectoral divisions, thus preparing the ground for fragmentation of governmental responsibility and duplication of efforts.
These hierarchical and sectoral differentiations are further complicated by functional divisions which may also create separate agencies or bureaus, increasing even further the potential for fragmentation. To correct this situation, some administrative systems make use of semi-autonomous organizations, particularly in the fields of fisheries, port administration, and hydrocarbon development.
Finally, the geographic subdivision of sectoral functions further complicates the governing system due to the fact that current institutional arrangements do not span the land-sea interface. This translates not only into a lack of continuity in jurisdiction but also into multiple jurisdictions and laws that apply to various geographic limits. This, added to the division of authority among different governmental levels, creates difficulties in decision-making, thereby widening institutional gaps, encouraging overlaps, and allowing duplication of efforts.
Institutional problems of a functional nature
Institutional problems of a functional nature are associated with the basic functions that should be performed by marine institutions, namely, policy formulation, planning, and implementation. The most salient problem in policy formulation is the absence, in the majority of countries, of an overall ocean policy framework. Policy-making takes place at the sectoral level, is primarily reactive and is, therefore, formulated on a piecemeal basis without interagency consultation. As a result, marine-related policies have conflicting (or at best unrelated) objectives, resulting in environmental damage or simply ineffective implementation. (Vallejo 1991)
As a consequence, decision-making procedures are highly fragmented, suffer from internal duplication and overlap, and reflect competition between agencies. At the resource allocation and budget level, traditional economic sectors with long-standing support compete for funding, resources, and authority while marine-related activities, already dispersed at various levels of the governmental structure, become further diluted, fragmented, and compartmentalized.
Within the national planning process, the marine component is either one of the least developed or simply non-existent. This is due to the absence of clear policy goals, of designated priorities, and to the fact that the majority of countries lack experience in coastal and ocean planning. Coastal/ocean related inputs to national development planning are generally received only from a few and more traditional sectors, they are evaluated on a project-by-project basis, without an examination of cross-sectoral and cross-resources implications, and therefore are not structured within an overall perspective of marine development priorities. (Vallejo 1988) Concomitantly, there are no opportunities for making comparisons among sectors that are crucial for making rational investment choices and for establishing development priorities among various sectors. (Knecht et al. 1984)
At the implementation level, the major problem is the absence of coordination between the planning and the operational levels. From the top down, the absence of clear policy goals and of designated development priorities, coupled with the sometimes limited roles assigned to regional and local governmental agencies in the planning process, intensifies the limitations of the system. Moreover, enforcement mechanisms used in the application of norms and rules that regulate resources and uses are inadequate. All these problems touch upon issues concerning decentralization and autonomy in executing projects and activities, and the delegation of decision-making power to lower levels, coupled with feedback to higher levels than those engaged in the implementation process.