Inderscience Publishers

Towards an ecosystem approach to policy process: insights from the sustainable livelihoods and ecosystem health approaches

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Reductionism in rural development policy making can have serious practical ramifications for human life and well-being. Ecosystem health and sustainable livelihoods (SL) are two approaches that have been assisting development practitioners to avoid reductionism and to take complexity seriously. Both of these approaches have primarily been applied at relatively small scales, and the application of SL at policy level has been largely in terms of the substance of policy – considering the impacts of policy on livelihoods. Nevertheless, we argue that they offer insights for policy processes, as well. Drawing on these insights, we outline factors that should be considered in an ecosystem approach to policy process. This is an approach that would be characterised by a set of nested deliberation and decision-making processes, by a method of problem definition, analysis and solution seeking that is iterative and based on negotiation among multiple stakeholders, and by careful attention to the cross-scale aspects of decision-making processes and the flow of information.

Keywords: adaptive methodology, ecosystems sustainability, ecosystems health, AMESH, complexity, nested deliberation, sustainable livelihoods, rural development policy, decision making, information flow

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