Decentralized governance of natural resources (DGNR) is considered one of the key strategies for enhancing efficiency, equity and justice in the management and use of natural resources. DGNR is a complex and multifaceted process, which requires simultaneous reform of legislative, policy, institutional and fiscal frameworks in parallel with awareness raising and capacity building of local institutions to effectively take on new responsibilities relating to resource planning, management and development. When adequately implemented, and accompanied by strong political will, financial commitment and technical backstopping, DGNR serves as a vehicle to strengthen democratization. It will ensure the genuine participa­tion and representa­tive­ness of end users of local resources, both men and women, in development planning and practices and foster the local ownership and sustainable use of natural resources.

In large parts of the world's drylands, especially in rural areas, a large fraction of the population depends directly upon natural resources for their livelihoods. However, their efforts to improve living conditions and build up assets are often thwarted by degradation of these resources. The degradation more often than not takes place at an alarming rate as a result of a complex interplay of natural factors (e.g. climate variability and change) and human-induced factors (e.g. unsustainable land use driven by demographic pressure and insecure land tenure system). Furthermore, lack of alternative livelihood opportunities triggers conflicts over control of and access to scarce resources, which in turn hinders people's participation in decision-making in the absence of strong civil society and other mediating bodies, and often leads to further degradation.

The Programme assists its partner  countries in enhancing local governance of natural resources through interventions in the follwoing areas:    

  1. Strengthening capacities of local authorities, institutions and communities to ensure equitable access to and sustainable use of natural (land and water) resources;
  2. Promotion of participatory systems for natural resources management at local and regional/sub-national levels;
  3. Identification and promotion of innovative and sustainable local resource management approaches and development options for improving livelihoods; and
  4. Improvement of knowledge on local governance for natural resource management through documentation and dissemination of successful approaches and best practices for policy dialogue and advocacy.

To date, the Programme was instrumental in putting the sustainable management of water resources – a key NAP priority in all partner countries - high on the agenda of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States (RBAS). It supported a joint UNDP/Arab Water Council study on the status of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in the Arab region and contributed to the formulation/implementation of a Regional Water Governance Programme (WGP). Recently, Programme support to the WGP focused on strengthening water governance institutions and gender mainstreaming in water management in two countries:

At the global level, DDC commissioned a study to identify, analyze and document experiences and best practices on mainstreaming governance of natural resources into decentralization processes in 12 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. The study findings were shared, discussed and debated effectively in a Drylands E-forum that brought together 78 participants around the world. Decentralized Governance of Natural Resources was published in 2006 as the final outputs of the study. Part I of this publication serves as a manual and guidelines for policy-makers and practitioners, while Part II provides the experiences, best practices and lessons learnt in drylands/non-drylands DGNR from around the world.

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