Task 5.2.1 Improving Estuary Governance - Comparison of the governance of the Elbe, Scheldt and Humber regarding estuary management
The motivation for IMMERSE Partner Hamburg Port Authority was to compare governmental and decision making structures and processes of the three estuaries and analyse what valuable lessons can be learned from estuaries with comparable physical, economical and societal characteristics (and hence comparable challenges and tensions between actors and their interests) although if different governance structures and cultures may exist.
Key messages from the report based on comparison of the Scheldt, Elbe and Humber estuaries:
1. Differences in mutual dependencies between actors and cultural differences affect governance modes.
An explanation for the high (perceived) mutual dependency at the Scheldt is the fact that strict European ecological requirements “forced” Flanders and the Netherlands into a mode of collaboration. The lower (perceived) interdependency at the Elbe can be explained by the strong policy compartmentalisation and associated fragmentation which prevent that the federal states experience that mutual dependencies are relevant for resolving conflicts.
2. Effective stakeholder participation is a chicken-egg problem.
At the Scheldt stakeholders experienced a positive impact of the collaboration that took some years. For the Elbe this ‘proof’ of positive impact is not yet available. The question is whether decision-making through collaboration in such complex situation can be improved when there is no trust yet that the collaboration is favourable for the stakeholders and governmental actors.
3. A joint knowledge base promotes conflict resolution and collaboration.
Having a knowledge base that is based on joint fact-finding was very effective at the Scheldt in reducing and/or preventing conflicts. As actors agree on the knowledge that is used for decision-making; possible conflicts about these decisions are better understood amongst actors and therefore also less pronounced. Joint development of knowledge helps understand different interests better and hence enhances collaboration between actors.
4. Long-term visions can contribute to the integration of policy issues.
The long-term vision of the Scheldt shows that it is a powerful intervention to create conditions for good governance as it facilitates the integration of issues and creates a basis for actors for a common understanding about conflicting issues such as sediment management or nature development.
Further recommendations to achieve higher levels of collaboration, specific to the Elbe estuary, are also provided.