Sustainable Local Development and Environmental Governance: A Strategic Planning Experience

Giuseppe Ioppolo, Stefano Cucurachi, Roberta Salomone, Giuseppe Saija, Lei Shi
2016 Sustainability  
The emphasis on learning and adaptation among different actors at various political administrative levels and on various geographic scales has become a precondition for the emergence of sustainable development. It is possible to find the essential form of collaborative management by using a Strategic Plan, designed to determine a local model of sustainable competitiveness in economic, social and environmental terms. The adoption of a Strategic Plan stimulates a process of shared knowledge,
more » ... red knowledge, through which it is possible to generate a new environmental governance (EG) that is truly representative of a local system. This paper presents, as a case study representative of the Italian context, the Strategic Plan of the Nebrodi area (SP), and assesses the structure of a new form of public and private environmental governance focused on sustainable concern. Finally, the SP could be considered a guideline for managing the local territorial and environmental system from a long-term perspective. quality of life, providing alternative income for populations, within a framework of sustainability at the local, national and EU level. Particularly, focusing on the territorial planning role of governance, this paper uses, as a key study, the experience of the Nebrodi Strategic Plan (SP) as a starting point for exploring and identifying the useful steps to be taken and the topics to be addressed in order to define an environmental governance (EG, from here on) model at a local level for the Italian system. The paper shows that, in order to adopt a successful EG, such a program has to be founded on the concepts of the participatory approach and in a shared SP [3] . Thus, EG, beyond the sole role of manager of natural resources, assumes the role of planner of environmental goals, defining the rules for reaching the established goals and, finally, producing tangible policy outcomes using these rules [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] . The Nebrodi SP is a successful participatory decision-making process for territorial planning and represents a unique and innovative experience in Italy. The process involved an area covering 40 Municipalities, three Provinces and the Nebrodi National Environmental Park, the so-called Nebrodi Region. The purpose of the program was to build a new EG model, at a sub-regional level, aimed at local development and at local natural resource management. The model developed has been further applied in practice and has resulted in an unprecedented success for a participatory plan in this local context (particularly in the Sicily region and south of Italy). As outlined in Benn et al. [9], the approach described in this paper can be considered an innovative practice in problem identification, decision-making and action planning, representing tried and tested strategies to be integrated into an evolving set of participative processes for decision-making in the sub-political arena. Moreover, by working on environmental topics, by sharing their importance, and by negotiating the ranking of each environmental aspect with the related problem in a participatory way, it is possible to establish a voluntary aggregation of local and external actors (e.g., policy makers, stakeholders, citizens). This proves to be a new form of EG that moves beyond the sole SP, and which uses the direct results of an SP strategy to create a new cohesive and strong subject representing local interests. The paper presents the process of development of a new form of consensus and highlights several essential principles, which constitute a supra-regional SP, focusing on the description of the process that led to the set-up and start of the Nebrodi SP. This process-methodology shows that a voluntary action improved the territorial system cultural, and SP definitely represents a support decision tool that introduced the principles and method of dialogue in an area at the beginning divided and then joined. The remainder of the paper is organized as follows: Section 2 defines the meaning of EG adopted from the authors; Section 3 provides a summary of the SP structure (planning areas and activities), discussing, within the theories and principles that are fundamental to building EG in a local context, how the SP supports the process of EG definition. In Section 4, we present the new institutional EG subject, highlighting the role and capacity of the local integrated system and expanding the results obtained in the Nebrodi region to potentially any other similar context in the European panorama. Section 5 closes the paper and discusses the strategic factors needed to ensure durability of the framework in a stable pattern of social relations and touches upon several critical aspects. The future application and implementation of the methodology in the field are underlined. Scientific Background Over the last two decades, the concept of governance has become one of the key models in political science, political geography and public administration [10] [11] [12] . In these contexts, the search for a compromise through stakeholder participation and negotiation is strongly advocated in order to facilitate the integration of shared interests, knowledge and values. Governance may be defined as a stable pattern of social relations between actors, who deliberately interact and attempt to structuralize these interactions with organizations and rules [13, 14] . Governance, however, also acts as an unplanned model, which is the result of coincidental interactions and strategies and previously created rules [15, 16] . In its broadest interpretation, governance also concerns the many ways in which public and private actors from the state, the market and civil society, govern public issues on multiple levels, autonomously or in mutual Sustainability 2016, 8, 180 3 of 16 interaction [17] . In the European context, according to the "White Paper on Governance", participation is, indeed, one of the five principles of good governance, together with openness, accountability, effectiveness and coherence [18] [19] [20] . Moreover, it is participation through multi-stakeholder knowledge that significantly contributes to improved understanding and increased transparency in the decision-making process [21] . Furthermore, governance could also be considered an ethical operational method of adaptive management [22, 23] , which investigates how flexible public and private structures and institutions may be fostered [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] . In this sense, governance is the result of a collaborative management process [30, 31] , which also needs to broaden the abovementioned ideas from the level of single interventions to that of entire social-ecological systems [32] . Hence, governance should also aim to deal with environmental problems, increasing the resilience of ecological systems in the face of an uncertain future characterized by disturbances and uncertain non-linear change [33] [34] [35] . In this paper, governance, enriched with explicit environmental goals, overcomes the mounting complexity and multilayered nature of environmental problems that are not adequately addressed by local and national governments [36, 37] . Thus, we refer here to the broader and encompassing connotation of EG. Keeping in mind the necessity to incorporate all the above concepts in the definition of EG, this paper aims to present a direct example of how to realize a model of governance in the Italian local context that achieves a compromise between different positions, and that is able to define a common strategy for territorial development. The experience of SP represents a valid tool that put in practice way how build a new form of governance, environmental oriented.
doi:10.3390/su8020180 fatcat:b6o6y6vnafh2xb6pduekovl3zy