Polycentric to monocentric governance: Power dynamics in Lake Victoria's fisheries

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© 2020 ERP Environment and John Wiley & Sons Ltd In theory, polycentric governance arrangements are better able to respond to complex, uncertain, and multiscale challenges. Research on polycentric governance challenges these normative assumptions to find that the functionality of polycentric systems is constrained because different kinds of power influence not only the emergence and design of polycentric systems, but also decisions about policy choices and outcomes. This study uses a polycentric power typology to provide insights into the power dynamics underpinning the polycentric fisheries system of Lake Victoria through qualitative case study methods. The study reveals that power by design creates a polycentric structure that could potentially provide opportunities for power-sharing between higher and lower decision centers. However, pragmatic and framing power erode power away from lower-level authorities by either taking over or dismantling lower-level decision centers and institutions. Without a genuine intent to share power among decision centers, cross-level linkages are deliberately nonfunctional or have high transaction costs, creating and intensifying conflicts and competitions between the state and local governments. In the absence of functional cross-linkages, information-sharing, accountability, and conflict-resolution mechanisms are hampered as is the inclusion of lower-level actors in management. Higher-level actors justify taking over functions of lower-level actors by deploying frames of the lower-level's “lack of capacity.” In combination, these factors concentrate power at the center, resulting in maladaptive outcomes in Lake Victoria's fisheries. The findings suggest that improving understanding of contextual conditions that are more suited to polycentric governance is important for refining theory and improving governance.

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Environmental Policy and Governance



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