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Step 1: Understand decision-making

Step 1: Understand decision-making

The Advisory Committee recommended case studies of past decision-making in the Bismarck Sea relating to large scale development. They identified four priorities: oil palm, Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs), bêche-de-mer fishery closures, and seabed mining. The aims of the case studies were to understand the statutory versus actual decision-making processes in the Bismarck Sea, identify key actors and their roles, assess their information and capacity-building needs, and provide an opportunity for enhancing networks and knowledge amongst decision-makers through the participatory process. The identification of key decision-makers, their power and influence, plus those who were dis-empowered, then informed the design of the Step 4 Pilot planning and Step 5 Tools training.

A full description of the methods and results are given in Meharg et al. (2016a, b). The case studies revealed six common issues which the program attempted to address in subsequent steps:

  • Decision-making is highly complex and dynamic
  • There are multiple understandings of decision-making processes
  • Coordination between influential actors is poor, and networks must be improved
  • Statutory approval processes involve substantial transactions costs for developers, creating incentives for illegal shortcuts
  • Community resource owners ultimately determine the viability and sustainability of development initiatives, but are not adequately involved in decision-making
  • Government agencies have differing levels of power and capacity, which affects their capacity to be involved in decision-making.

A decision-maker presenting her understanding of the decision-making process and stakeholders involved in oil palm development (Photo: Seona Meharg)