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|Desertification Indicator System for Mediterranean Europe|
Institutional organisation to combat desertification
Lead authors: Giovanni Quaranta, Rosanna Salvia, Monica Caggiano <email@example.com>
With contributions from: Maria José Roxo and Pedro Cortesao Casimiro <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Leopoldo Rojo Serrano <email@example.com>
What institutional organisation is necessary
to combat desertification?
New ideas of what institutions are and how they function have been developed. Basically institutions can be identified as the formal and informal mechanisms which include the systems of rules governing all kinds of policy-relevant societal decision-making processes. The concept of institutions can be considered at different levels, from the micro level of individual decision-making to the macro level of national politics and international regimes. Starting from this perspective two functions can be considered as specific for institutional organization to combat desertification: to facilitate, at community and individual level, decision-making processes directed towards a more sustainable use of resources; and to facilitate the implementation of political decisions directed to combat desertification. These functions can be improved by local community involvement in the definition of the institutional framework, using a participatory approach that engages stakeholders in identifying priorities and creating programmes and actions to combat desertification. This approach is strongly recommended by the Convention to Combat Desertification that calls for the participation of all stakeholders including local communities. All the program actions have to be developed in consultation with stakeholders in order to improve decision-making, provide the foundation for ensuring sustainability of actors, to identify the priorities, to undertake urgent actions, to release creative energies, to ensure a sense of strong ownership among all stakeholders, and to maximize the impact of actions, through consensus-building on priorities and related programmes.
Due to the fact that the policy actions
to combat desertification do not always have an equal impact in all situations,
it is not only policy constraints and facilitations that require assessing,
but also the institutional framework that determine the actual impacts
and interactions that occur. This leads to the need to incorporate the
community's views and knowledge, not only in the decision-making processes,
but also in the assessment of the measures implemented.
Lower Inner Alentejo, Portugal
Different institutions have influence on the area of the municipality of Mértola affected by desertification, in direct or indirect ways acting at different levels. Simply put, there are three levels of governmental "power" over the territory plus the institutions that have appeared through the initiative of civil society. The directives of the government or central power, emanating from the Ministries (Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests; Environment and Territory Ordainment; Cities; Local Administration; Housing and Regional Development), constitute the first level. The separation between Agriculture, Environment, Territory Ordainment and Regional Development seriously jeopardises some of the approaches and solutions for territory issues and questions, especially in the specific case of implementation of measures and actions to combat desertification.
The intermediate level corresponds to the Coordination and Development Commissions of regional character, whose actions have been closely connected to the execution of structural programmes from the European Union. Also at this level, and with a direct connection to the central power, is the Guadiana Valley Natural Park created in 1995 under the Nature Conservation Institute. This is a regional initiative, where integration of the agricultural activity and protection of several habitats in the area have been planned and undertaken. The guidelines and orientation of the park should be integrated in municipal plans.
The last level corresponds to local or municipal power. The competence of municipal power is quite evident, deriving from proximity to the population, the purpose of the Municipal Plans in defining and restricting land uses for the territory, and also because strategic development guidelines for the territory are established.
In terms of the participation of the civil society, there are several non-governmental organizations present, which have had a fundamental role in the area. However, the Mértola Patrimony Defence Association (ADPM) stands out in terms of the amount of work it has contributed. This NGO was constituted in 1980 and since then has worked in cooperation with the Mértola Archaeological Camp, the Municipality, and Universidade Nova de Lisboa. The main objective of ADPM has always been to outline a project of integrated development with the following features: to allow the participation of the various stakeholders; to take an interdisciplinary perspective; to base ideas on the local resources; to consider natural and cultural order; to promote economic and social development; and to enhance the importance of all activities, traditions and local knowledge. The main beneficiary of this project is the local population, in an attempt to implement the concept of sustainability.
Spain is a strongly decentralized
State, as a result of the creation of the Autonomous Communities  that
began with the approval of the 1978 Constitution, and subsequent decentralization
of competencies. In addition Spain joined the European Union in 1986.
Nowadays an open debate is in progress about the redefinition of the role
and functions of the Local Corporations (Municipalities), which could
mean a second decentralization. Such a situation is reflected in every
legal and institutional analysis made about desertification as well as
in the subsequent distribution of competencies. And though the three processes
(EU institutional development, the consolidation of the autonomous process
and the role and functions of the Local Corporations) are positive, conflicts
and overlapping may appear.
However, nowadays, there exists a
large institutional support for coordination activities in the Public
Administration actions in the various sector policies. This includes the
implementation of the policies of sustainable development and integration
of the environment, particularly desertification control. In this sense
the Spanish Forest Act says that "it is the duty of the Environmental
Ministry to create and approve the National Action Programme to combat
Desertification (NAP) in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture,
Fishery and Food and the Autonomous Communities". The implementation
and monitoring of the Programme will also be implemented jointly by the
three institutions. Therefore the NAP development and implementation is
not exclusively a duty of the Environmental Ministry, but also implicates
other ministerial departments and particularly the Autonomous Communities
which, according to the State competence structure, will be responsible
for the putting into practice of most of the considered measures.
Therefore through the General Directorate for Biodiversity, the Ministry of Environment is the competent body for the coordination of the combat against desertification at national level. Consequently with the signature of the State of the CCD, the Ministry of Environment must attend to some functional necessities that may be classified in three different frameworks.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fishery
and Food plays an important role, because of the socio-economic burden
of the combat and control of desertification that is so significant. Always
within the framework of the implementation of the Common Agricultural
Policy, the Agenda of the Ministry of Agriculture includes the implementation
of the EU regulations for rural development . This means a substantial
advance in combating desertification. Other related activities are the
development of tools such as the National Irrigation Plan, or even the
facilitation of the Agrarian I+D, that finances research projects about
desertification key issues through the National Institute of Agrarian
The Autonomous Communities are competent
to establish their own institutional models for the development and implementation
of the NAP within its territorial boundaries. In this context it can be
called the Andalusian Plan for desertification control (PACD) written
by the Andalusian Board.
The Spanish institutional coordination
and management for the implementation of the CCD and NAP, is channelled
through the existing forums for coordination and public participation
of Spanish environmental and agricultural policies. This relies on existing
forums for coordination responds to the principle of economy and efficiency
of ways and means and the concern about governance.
The above mentioned includes the Environmental
Sector Conference, an organization composed of representatives of the
Environmental Ministry and the Councils responsible for the environment
in the Autonomous Communities. It also supports various Working Groups
and Commissions of General Directions. One
of these is the National Commission for the Protection of the Environment
(presided over by the Director General for Biodiversity), created as an
organization for consultation and cooperation between the General State
Administration and the Autonomous Communities. They are responsible for
the following duties.
From a consultative standpoint, and
in order to fix the direct participation of society in the creation and
development of environmental policies, particularly for forest, the Ministry
of Environment has created the Advisory Environmental Council (CAMA) 
and the National Forest Council . Such organizations are suitable for
jointly attending to the consultancies over the development and implementation
of the NAP, without prejudice to the consultancy process in the wide debate
forums held during the NAP's creation phase.
On the other hand, the above mentioned
institutional coordination organizations (Environmental Sector Conference
and the National Commission for Protection of the Environment) are able
to refer to other collegiate bodies those specific questions considered
to need special treatment. To mention some examples, this is the case
for certain questions related to the agrarian sector, the management of
water resources or scientific research. Those sectors have their own coordination
organizations like the Agriculture Sector Conference, the National Water
Council or the Inter-ministerial Science and Technology Commission.
We can therefore conclude that there
is a competent and specific framework for the coordinated, plural and
participatory management of the several significant sectors involved in
combatting desertification. The Spanish institutional legal system has
granted the competencies to this framework and any efficient action within
the NAP must rely on it.
 The Autonomous Communities are
territorial entities within the constitutional management of the Spanish
State, but empowered with legal autonomy and executive competencies, as
well as the authority to administrate themselves.
The procedures established for combating desertification, in particular for implementing the NAP, call for the Regions and River Basin Authorities to implement operational plans and programmes in the context of their respective jurisdictions, within the coordination of the Ministry of the Environment and Territorial Protection.
In particular, the Agri Basin Authority have sketched its Basin Plan as a "cognitive, regulatory and technical instrument through which it plans and programmes actions and standards of use aimed at conserving, defending and improving the value of the soil and the proper utilisation of water, based on the physical and environmental characteristics of the area involved" with the Basilicata region guiding and managing the implementation of these measures.
The Basilicata region has also set up a Regional Committee to Combat Desertification charged with coordinating and planning measures in the Region.
At local level the National Park of Val d'Agri and Lagonegrese has recently been set up and many NGOs are also involved in the natural resource management of the Agri Basin.
of how the indicators inter-relate
As reported by the CRIC in the second reporting process on UNCCD Implementation (18-29 November 2002, first session), the Italian National Programme have made an assessment of desertification risk at the nationwide scale (1:1,250,000). In order to produce a "Preliminary national map of Italian areas prone to desertification", the working group co-ordinated by the Italian Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service utilized four different indexes that reflect specific processes related to desertification.
A final index of sensitivity to desertification was developed on the basis of the four indexes above. The index of sensitivity to desertification, displayed in map format, shows the spatial distribution of the phenomenon throughout the Italian territory. This is similar, but not quite the same as the Environmental Sensitivity Index described in DIS4ME.
Based on previous experiences with indicators and a careful examination of indicators proposed and utilised conducted by the National Environmental Protection Agency, the Regions have conducted a second identification of their vulnerable areas at a regional scale (1:250,000). The methods used to create the desertification vulnerability maps mainly took into account indicators relating to climate (aridity and drought), plant cover and soil. Social and economic indicators have not yet been adequately utilized even though their importance for describing desertification phenomena in Italy is widely recognized. The desertification indicators were included in the programmes of the various bodies under SINANET - National Environmental Information System.
National policy and strategy framework: In Italy there is no specific legislation aimed at combating drought and desertification; efforts and strategies in this area are included in the legislative framework developed to protect and valorise environmental resources. The following are especially important:
Other pieces of legislation associated with combating desertification currently in force in Italy include:
The objectives of Italy's environmental policy can basically be expressed in three categories: reorganization of the environmental disparity, promotion of sustainable development and implementation of innovative environmental policies. In the last few years an operation aimed at rationalizing the legislative framework was undertaken to compensate for its fragmentary nature and for the fact that it is behind schedule vis-à-vis European legislation (CRIC, 2002).
Local capacity for combating desertification and local use of best practices: Since desertification is clearly caused by human activity, and since one of the determining factors in the combat against the degradation of natural resources, the landscape and the environment is the widespread active involvement of all economic and social agents, (whether individually or through organisations and associations), the strategic objective has to be to increase public awareness about desertification. The local capacity for combating desertification unquestionably depends on existing knowledge and on the socio-economic characteristics of the context. This factor influences both the formulation and application of policy measures and the local use of best practices.