Rules, norms and the pursuit of sustainable livelihoods
The role of institutional arrangements in the pursuit of sustainable livelihoods
Findingsfrom the paper include:
- institutions can be positive and negative: they facilitate collective action so individuals can transcend the limits of acting in isolation, but in encouraging conformity, they can maintain and reproduce the status quo, often perpetuating adversity
- livelihoods approaches differ from subsistence approaches in that they enable individuals to increase security by accumulating and investing in various forms of capital. A central element is uncertainty, but social institutions help to reduce uncertainty about the actions of others
- CPR theory suggests that rules should be negotiated, monitored and enforced at the local level, i.e. the regulatory authority should be those with direct resource interests. However, self-government does not always mitigate problems associated with powerful rent seekers, external threats and institutional conflict. Assistance may be required from external moral allies
- an understanding of the nature of co-operation and conflict provides a framework for the study of institutions and SL. Sustainable and unsustainable resource management can be differentiated by rates of rent dissipation (i.e. the rate at which individuals extract benefits from the resource base). Rules encourage the pursuit of sustainable livelihoods only in so far as levels of rent dissipation remain low and distribution of benefits remains wide.
Lessons can be drawn for those working to build institutions for sustainable natural resource management. Institutions should facilitate collective action without reproduction of harmful norms.They should also encourage wide distribution of benefits to reduce conflict and high rent dissipation to promote sustainability.