Early-stage transformation of coastal marine governance in Vietnam?
This paper examines an apparent 'early stage' governance transformation in the Tam Giang Lagoon, Vietnam. In this context, the role of key policy windows for innovative governance practice is assessed (e.g., changes to Land and Fisheries Laws). Also examined is the emergence of recent initiatives to catalyze a wider shift in governance practice in the region, including the formation of co-management institutional networks that contribute to trust building and learning, and the allocation of collective territorial use rights for fisheries. While these changes are consistent with experiences in other coastal marine contexts, the paper shows that place-based and longitudinal research is necessary to explain and predict the conditions and incentives that catalyze governance shifts. Differences between a governance change and more fundamental transformation are difficult to discern using point-in-time analysis. Moreover, the results show that current declines in ecological conditions in the lagoon may not be reversed by changes to access rights or the emergence of co-management. Rather, these governance changes may simply help to stabilize the situation and buy time until other livelihood opportunities arise. Assessments of governance transformation thus need to be linked to ecological outcomes (i.e., reversing degradation of coastal marine systems, avoiding biophysical tipping points) which may not be easily identified in the short-term. Despite uncertainty, the emergence of policy windows, evidence of institutional innovation, and small-scale rights allocation experiments, all suggest important shifts in the trajectory of governance are underway in the Tam Giang Lagoon.
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