Can Decentralization Save Bolivia's Forests? An Institutional Analysis of Municipal Forest Governance

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"Decentralization has become a common policy strategy to address governance failures associated with natural resource management. Several international treaties, for example, point to the advantages of a decentralized government structure for addressing environmental problems. Yet, the scientific understanding of the institutional and environmental effects of decentralization reform remains quite limited in most developing countries. This study raises concerns about the prevalence of a decentralization panacea as it obscures a realistic assessment of the specific institutional arrangements that underpin decentralized governance structures. The institutional analysis carried out in this study finds that several institutional and socioeconomic factors are critical determinants of the success of a decentralized governance regime. Drawing on survey data from a representative sample of 50 municipalities as well as in depth case studies from six forest-dwelling communities in the Bolivian Lowlands, the empirically grounded analysis assesses the influence of each of the hypothesized drivers of successful decentralized governance. The empirical research concludes that the prospects of successful decentralized forest governance in Bolivia rest to a great extent on how the decentralized regime's actors manage to develop institutional arrangements that can effectively overcome motivational and informational problems of collective action. Finally, by applying the particular approach and methods of institutional analysis used in this study, monitoring programs can be developed to detect changes, and derive the causes of such changes, in the institutional conditions for decentralized governance. The information generated by such a monitoring program would be useful for the readjustment and fine-tuning of existing policy instruments, if the policy makers who receive the information are motivated to take this information into account when they make the decisions."



decentralization, forests, natural resources, resource management