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Chapter 6: Institutional aspects

It would clearly be a waste of time and effort to create systems and programmes if they cannot be efficiently implemented. Applying a mixture of a systems approach, and experience in many countries over a long period, the following institutional components appear to be necessary at the three most common levels of land use planning.

(i) National level:

National resource planning committee. A permanent inter-ministerial, inter-departmental technical committee should be convened, chaired by a senior civil servant. Its functions are to identify priorities and requirements, allocate resources, approve plans and monitor implementation. Decisions of the committee should be in the form of recommendations to the cabinet, governing council or other ultimate decision-making body of the country. In this way it should possess the three necessary qualities - technical knowledge, access to resources, and authority.

Natural resources conservation board or commission. A legally independent body should be charged with enforcement of laws and policies designed to conserve or properly manage national resources, to propose new laws and policies where needed, and to monitor environmental conditions, including atmospheric pollution, pollution of water bodies, vegetation and animal resources, and land resources.

Ministries and departments. Their basic functions are to provide information, to recommend, and to implement. The proliferation of specialized and semi-autonomous bodies or institutes is undesirable. The overlapping or poorly-defined responsibilities of different government and parastatal agencies are major causes of inefficiency, and of inept use and management of scarce resources.

The institutional priorities at national level differ between countries. Three groups of countries can be distinguished (SADC/SACCAR, 1994).

• countries where the institutional set-up is in its infancy: newly-independent countries or countries recuperating from major civil strife where re-settlement and land titling issues dominate land use policy;

• countries where land use planning responsibilities are at present divided among many different units with overlapping or competing tasks, needing institutional linkages or coordination and clear definition of responsibilities; and

• countries where land use decisions are undertaken by one specialized government department, needing effective cooperation from other institutions - on data gathering, data processing, land evaluation, land use planning extension - as well as the development of appropriate platforms for negotiations between all stakeholders ("creation of an enabling environment for decision-making and adherence to the execution of a land use plan once agreed").

(ii) Regional or district level:

Provincial or district land use planning or development groups. The basic functions of these groups are to identify priorities, allocate resources, make or approve sub-national plans, monitor implementation, and make bye-laws. They should also be responsible for the establishment of long-term development plans and zoning systems for their areas. Membership may be drawn partly from the community and partly from government. Expertise can be provided by a cadre of directly employed staff, or through subject-matter specialists who are members of government departments, delegated to assist the local land use planning group and operationally under its control.

(iii) Village or community level:

It would be counterproductive to impose any form of standardization on the innumerable social linkages and special interest groups which exist or can form at grass roots community level for different purposes, with different types of organization, priorities and objectives. It is essential to bear in mind that at this level freedom to organize, to debate, and to contribute are essential prerequisites.

At the level of the village, ward, or population as a whole it is necessary to create the capacity to coordinate activities and decide on priorities. This is in order to deal with the overall and long-term interests of the community as a whole, with problems or natural systems that extend over comparatively large areas, such as river basins, and with the necessary coordination and collaboration with neighbouring communities.

At village or ward level the level of power, resources and necessary expertise needed is commensurate with the size and importance of the area and population. At this level the required resources and expertise will probably be provided partly by the community and partly by the government on an ad hoc basis.

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