How the Commons Was Lost and The Tools We Need to Revive It

Anon E. Moose Consciousness, Rapid Developments

The UN is planning to unveil their new “global Agenda” in September:

Accepted by all… universal, and perfect in every way:

“5. This is an Agenda of unprecedented scope and significance. It is accepted by all countries and is applicable to all, taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities. These are universal goals and targets which involve the entire world, developed and developing countries alike. They are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development.”

Goals Everyone can get behind:

18. We are announcing today 17 Sustainable Development Goals with 169 associated targets which are integrated and indivisible.”

Extensive Consultations with… “stakeholders”:

According to the document, the UN has conducted “intensive public consultation and engagement with civil society and other stakeholders around the world”.

This is by no means a scientific argument, but if you have to say your plan is integrated and indivisible more than three times in your manifesto, it probably isn’t. Sustainable Development was mentioned 94 times, without once bothering to define the term. I also counted “universal” 29 times, “stakeholders” showed up 13 times, while “local communities” came up only twice.

Want to know what sustainable development actually looks like? Elinor Ostrom identified eight “design principles” of a stable local common pool resource management system, and suggests that “polycentric governance” of complex ecological systems is a better way to enable thriving communities:

Nobel Prize 2009-Press Conference KVA-30.jpgElinor Ostrom
Nobel Laureates (Economics)

  1. Clearly defined boundaries (clear definition of the contents of the common pool resource and effective exclusion of external un-entitled parties);
  2. Rules regarding the appropriation and provision of common resources that are adapted to local conditions;
  3. Collective-choice arrangements that allow most resource appropriators to participate in the decision-making process;
  4. Effective monitoring by monitors who are part of or accountable to the appropriators;
  5. A scale of graduated sanctions for resource appropriators who violate community rules;
  6. Mechanisms of conflict resolution that are cheap and of easy access;
  7. Self-determination of the community recognized by higher-level authorities; and
  8. In the case of larger common-pool resources, organization in the form of multiple layers of nested enterprises, with small local CPRs at the base level.

Front Cover

Governing the Commons, Ostrom

“These principles have since been slightly modified and expanded to include a number of additional variables believed to affect the success of self-organized governance systems, including effective communication, internal trust and reciprocity, and the nature of the resource system as a whole.

Ostrom cautioned against single governmental units at global level to solve the collective action problem of coordinating work against environmental destruction. Partly, this is due to their complexity, and partly to the diversity of actors involved. Her proposal was that of a polycentric approach, where key management decisions should be made as close to the scene of events and the actors involved as possible.”