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The Ecosystem Approach Advanced User Guide

1. Introduction

Different sectors of society view ecosystems in terms of their own economic, cultural and societal needs. Indigenous peoples and other local communities living on the land are important stakeholders and their rights and interests should be recognized. Both cultural and biological diversity are central components of the ecosystem approach, and management should take this into account.  Societal choices should be expressed as clearly as possible. Ecosystems should be managed for their intrinsic values and for the tangible or intangible benefits for humans, in a fair and equitable way.

Guidelines for meeting this task
Involve all stakeholders (interested parties) (including indigenous and local communities) in:
clearly articulating, defining and agreeing upon the goals of management
defining problems
making choices (see Task 12).

There need to be clearly defined boundaries (in time and space, see Task 7) for the area being managed so that those involved are fully aware of the range/limitation of the management processes. 

Ensure that those stakeholders that cannot directly represent themselves (e.g. future generations, the natural world) are adequately represented by someone else. 

Ensure that all stakeholders have an equitable capacity to be effectively involved, including equitable access to information, ability to participate in the processes, etc.  

Ensure that the decision-making process compensates for any inequities of power in society, so that those who are normally marginalized (e.g. women, the poor, indigenous people) are not excluded or stifled in their participation. 

Make sure all actions are transparent to everyone concerned. This includes identifying who the decision-makers are for each decision, how the decisions will be taken (what process will be used), and what are the limits on the discretion of the decision-maker (e.g. what are the criteria for the decision in law, and where applicable what is the overall policy guidance within which the decision must fit).  

Ensure that the recognition of stakeholder interests occurs within the full range of decisions over time and space and across the different levels (eg local and national government). In doing so, however, ensure that “stakeholder fatigue” does not develop, by incorporating known stakeholder views into future decisions, and allowing efficient stakeholder input.  

Where possible, use existing societal mechanisms (eg existing local groups), or build new mechanisms that are compatible with existing or desired societal conditions. Ensure that decision-makers are accountable to the appropriate communities of interest. 

Develop within the project team the capacity to broker negotiations and trade-offs, and manage conflicts among relevant stakeholder groups in reaching decisions about management, use and conservation of biological resources.

There need to be mechanisms in place to ensure that, once an appropriate societal choice has been made, the decision can be implemented over the long term, (eg policy, legislative and control structures need to be in place).

Tools that can be used to ensure all members of society are involved in decisions associated with the management of land, water and living resources include:
Workshop based methods
Community based methods
Methods for stakeholder consultation
Local community approaches
Social analysis
Conflict management methods

Further explanation
The objectives for managing land, water, and living resources are a matter of societal choice, determined through negotiations and trade-offs among stakeholders who have different perceptions, interests, and intentions.  In this regard it should be noted that:

Human society is diverse in the kind and manner of relationships that different groups have with the natural world, each viewing the world around them in different ways and emphasizing their own economic, cultural, and societal interests and needs. All relevant sectors of society need to have their interests equitably treated, which may involve providing for different outcomes in separate locations or at different times. It is also necessary to ensure that the needs of future generations and the natural world are adequately represented. Given this diversity, good decision-making processes that provide for negotiations and trade-offs are necessary to establish broadly acceptable objectives for the management of particular areas and their living resources.

Good decision-making processes incorporate the following characteristics:
All interested parties (particularly including indigenous and local communities) should be involved in the process,
It needs to be clear how decisions are reached and who the decision-maker(s) is (are),
The decision-makers should be accountable to the appropriate communities of interest,
The criteria for decisions should be appropriate and transparent, and
Decisions should be based on, and contribute to, inter-sectoral communication and co-ordination.
Good decisions depend on those involved having access to accurate and timely information and the capacity to apply this knowledge.

Most problems of biological-diversity management are complex, with many interactions, side-effects and implications, and therefore should involve the necessary expertise and stakeholders at the local, national, regional and international level, as appropriate.

Guidelines for answering this question
The integrated management of land, water and living resources requires increased communication and cooperation, (i) between sectors, (ii) at various levels of government (national, provincial, local), and (iii) among governments, civil society and private sector stakeholders. Increased communication among international and regional organisations is also needed. 

The incorporation of the ecosystem approach principles as an integral part of planning in, among others, the agriculture, fisheries, forestry and other natural resources management sectors potentially affecting biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, should be encouraged, following the example, for instance, of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, Sustainable Forest Management or others.   Sectors other than the primary production sectors may also have major effects but are often less recognized in this respect.   These include sectors such as the judicial sector, which affects governance, as well as those such as energy and transport, which are managing or affecting resources either directly or indirectly. 

Procedures and mechanisms should be established to ensure effective participation of all relevant stakeholders and actors during the consultation processes, decision making on management goals and actions, and, where appropriate, in implementing the ecosystem approach.  

The effective implementation of the ecosystem approach may require involving multidisciplinary professional and scientific expertise, including such disciplines as economic, social and natural sciences.  

When assessing the costs and benefits of conserving, maintaining, using and restoring ecosystems, the interests of all relevant sectors should be taken into account for equitable sharing of the benefits according to national law.

Public participation methods
Modeling methods
Inter-disciplinary research and communication

Further explanation
The complexity of managing an ecosystem for sustained use and conservation requires integrating the activities and actions of many different stakeholders. In this regard it should be noted that:
The activities of all sectors affect biological diversity, and can contribute to, or detract from, the achievement of the objectives of the CBD.
The management of biodiversity, because of its complexity, and the significance of human impacts, requires a wide range of scientific and management skills, including those located in sectors that have not traditionally been involved in biodiversity conservation or management.
For these reasons adopting the principles of the ecosystem approach provides a framework for fostering greater involvement of all relevant stakeholders and technical expertise in planning and carrying out coordinated activities, sharing management of resources, or simply exchanging information.