Complementing sector policy with integrated territorial and landscape approaches

In a side event that kicked off the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, an impressive group of partners all echoed one key message: holistic, place-based policy approaches are possible, necessary, and overdue.

“People do live in places, they live in spaces, they live in territories. They do not live in sectors.” So Stefan Schmitz, Deputy Director-General and Commissioner “One World – No Hunger” Initiative – German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), opened the discussion on “Territorial Development – Managing Landscapes for the Rural Future” at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn on Saturday, December 1st.

The call to develop development policies and plans at the territorial level – “place-based” strategies – is not new. What is new is the blending of more than three decades of lessons from integrated development programs around the world with the improvement of data availability, tools and education for landscape management, the spread of devolution as a political reality worldwide, and the inspirational power of the Sustainable Development Goals. These factors and more were highlighted by the panelists in this side event organized by BMZ, CIRAD, FAO, OECD, and the European Commission.


Bridging, not breaking, silos

The management of landscapes is an integral part of territorial development going beyond administrative boundaries and building on the potentials of a territory and its inhabitants. This is not about tearing down sectoral silos. Specialization and sector expertise is quite valuable. As Patrick Herlant, Policy Officer Rural Development, Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture at the European Commission, said “All this is also linked to a way of working of course. Another big challenge is of course as we have been working in the past mainly through sectoral approaches, we would like to consolidate and even strengthen those sectoral resources, sectoral achievements. It’s not about changing things, but just adding and complementing, strengthening.”

Spatial data and foresight processes inform more effective sectorial policies

Thanks to improvements in data collection and management, both technologically and politically, around the world, it is now more possible than ever to use data-driven approaches to planning at the territorial and landscape levels. How to make this feasible for multi-stakeholder partnerships is the goal of CIRAD’s work on Foresight, and a critical component of the success of integrated territorial approaches to the SDGs going forward. “Territorial perspective is the way to have a more integrated approach to have more effective sectorial policies,” says Jean-Michel Sourisseau, a researcher at CIRAD. “To think of the future, anticipation, foresight, for us is very important. Especially when the situation with the stakeholders is very tense. If we imagine what’s going to happen in the future, it is much easier to speak with the people, and the conversation is much smarter.”

An answer to failures of technocratic and top-down approaches

Jordan Treakle, Territorial Development Programme Manager at FAO, noted that the territorial development approach within that organization emerged in direct response to the “common failures of traditional top-down technocratic approaches to policy formulation and program implementation.” As he said, it was clear that there was a need to put marginalized stakeholders at the center of development processes, “as the actual drivers of development in their local communities and landscapes.” This kind of approach strengthens the social cohesion of territories, which in turn strengthens the long-term lasting impact of development policies.

Both Treakle and Sourisseau emphasized the need for analysis of the current situation to identify the stakeholders that need to be involved in development policy planning, and especially to assess their assets and needs in order to enable everyone to participate on equal footing. Of course, due to conflicting interests among stakeholders at local level, strong leadership and good governance and capable local authorities are necessary to mediate power asymmetries and inequalities among resource users.

How to support ongoing capacity development for territorial approaches

Territorial development and landscape management involve a multitude of stakeholders, all with different capacities, training, and influence. Institutions and individuals have to be equipped with the right mindset, tools, skills, and networks in order to participate in and manage development and cross-sector, multi-scale processes on the landscape and territorial levels. Sara Scherr, President of EcoAgriculture Partners, highlighted four major means of specifically supporting these kinds of capacities: intentional landscape leadership training (mindset); inclusive, participatory tools for implementing territorial and landscape approaches in planning and management (tools); regional dialogues for peer-to-peer learning and sharing (skills); and regional learning networks (networks).

If we wish to avoid the technocratic, top-down pitfalls of earlier pushes for integrated development, we must focus on truly empowering local leaders to drive these processes, and on shifting the mindsets of leaders at all levels through intentional integrated landscape leadership training.

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