Working Group
“Governance and Institutions”

This working group is focussing on the cooperation and coordination of actors addressing environmental problems. The current use of landscapes impacts on key challenges in the field of the environment, like preserving biological diversity, sustainable water management, the adequate and sustainable provisioning of energy resources, and sustainable urban development, are critically influenced by how landscapes are used. This use is, in turn, determined by a large number of actors from government, private business and civil society. Such actors may include for instance regional and traffic planners, water supply companies, private households, farmers and foresters, citizens' action groups and environmental associations or non-governmental groups. Increasingly, decisions on the societal relationship to nature are not imposed directly by the state but reached through negotiation processes between these actors.

These negotiation processes − often discussed under the title of “governance” − pose new challenges to the development of policy instruments. Hence, it is the objective of the “Governance and Institutions” working group to analyse the interaction between the various actors and their societal context in order to derive policy recommendations for an efficient and fair use of resources.

The working group focuses on environmental problems at the regional level as they are particularly relevant for questions of land use. However, since decision making takes place in a multi-level system, studies also include the relevant actors at the local, national and international levels.

The researchers at the UFZ bring together theoretical concepts from different social science fields, and work closely with natural scientists. They use concepts from institutional economics, sociology and policy research as well as legal analyses. This approach makes it possible to research both the specific requirements of individual resource systems, like biodiversity or water management, and to carry out comparative studies of cross-cutting issues such as citizen and stakeholder involvement in environmental management.

The group is characterised by comparative research in European projects, integration in international networks and close cooperation with the actors involved in the described processes.