Public lecture: Role of law in adaptive governance

26.9.2018 14:00–16:00
Castrén-sali (ls 11)
Yliopistonkatu 8
96300 Rovaniemi


The Adaptive Water Governance project examined how law, policy, and ecological  dynamics influence the governance of regional-scale water-based social-ecological  systems.

With the onset of the Anthropocene, global and regional changes in biophysical  inputs to these systems will challenge their capacity to respond while maintaining  functions of water supply, flood control, hydropower production, water quality, and  biodiversity in a time of aging infrastructure. At the heart of the capacity of these systems  to respond to these challenges is their governance. Governance of these complex and  dynamic social-environmental systems has moved beyond state-centric, legally bounded  control to a complex mix of public/private self-organization.  

This talk will focus on three challenges to adaptive water governance. The first is to  consider the role of law in removing barriers to adaptive governance by facilitating actions  that take advantage of windows of opportunity and institutionalize the results of  innovative solutions. The second challenge is to assure that in embracing these new  approaches to governance, the engagement of private and economic actors and the  increase in governmental flexibility do not destabilize nor come at the expense of  legitimacy, accountability, equity, and justice. Law in its role of establishing the structure  and process of government and in placing bounds on the interaction of governmental  entities with private actors is a key component in striking the balance between stability in  government and adaptability of governance. The third challenge is to identify whether and  when government must be authorized to facilitate and participate in adaptive governance. 

Meeting these challenges will increase the capacity of these social-ecological systems to  innovate, adapt, and learn their way into an uncertain future, by increasing participation in  adaptive governance in ways that are legitimate, transparent, and just.   

Prof. Barbara Cosens is a University Distinguished Professor with the University of Idaho College of Law, where  she has taught for the past fifteen years. Her LL.M. is from Lewis and Clark law school, J.D. from the University  of California, Hastings, M.S. in Geology from the University of Washington, and B.S. in Geology from the  University of California, Davis. Her teaching and research expertise is in water law, the law-science interface  and water dispute resolution. She is co-PI on the UI Water Resources IGERT focused on adaptation to climate  change. She co-chaired the Adaptive Water Governance project made possible through support from the NSF  funded National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, SESYNC, and spent spring 5 as the Goyder Institute  in Australia comparing water law reform in the western U.S. and Australia during drought. In her outreach and  engagement, she serves as an expert on the Columbia River Treaty and on the process of Native American and  federal water settlement. 

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