Naftali Manddy Onchere
What is Policy?
Policy can be defined as rules of procedure. It is a statement of intent to achieve a desired outcome. It is inherently a normative expression of a people's socio-economic, political, and environmental and community aspirations and values. What people understand about their lives, their political economic and socio-cultural activities, ultimately has a bearing on the direction of policy. Policies can be determined at different levels of decision making, ranging from the local to the international level, through the national level. The central government, intergovernmental organizations, institutions and individuals can therefore make policies. Unless policy is translated into tangible actions and implemented, it remains a mere opinion.
The history of environmental policy development in Kenya
In the years preceding Kenya's independence, the colonial government enacted several sectoral environmental policies aimed at conserving the environment and accelerating "development." Nationally, this led to such policies as the Native Ordinance and Restrictions Act, the Land Act, the Agriculture Act, the Forestry Act, the Water Act as well as the infamous Chief's Act. These were implemented through orders; civil society and local interest groups being assumed incapable of environmental conservation and steering the "development" process.
Successive post-independent governments inherited these policies and for decades made only superficial and cosmetic changes to them. These environmental policies represented the views of those who had the power and resources to contribute to the policy development. While the powerful and the influential have driven the environmental policy development process, civil society organizations and local interest groups have been the main ones to be affected by the implementation of these policies and are also the ones who influence the outcome.
Many of these environmental policies were contradictory and tended to respond to physical threats to the environment as perceived by those in positions of power and influence. They were concerned with the use of resources for the benefit of certain influential groups without providing for cultural, social and spiritual relationship between people and the environment. Indigenous knowledge systems and local environmental practices tended to be excluded from policy-making processes. The policies tended to emphasize planning and control. The individual was perceived as being in control of his or her own destiny. Individuals were considered as being separate from the environment they lived in.
This reductionism and the emerging individualism created many tensions between those that govern and regulate policy implementation on the one hand, and civil society and local interest groups on the other. The result has been one of growing public disrespect for institutions whose very legitimacy rests on their claims to be in control and to evolve policies that are responsive to the needs of the people.
In view of the above, it is necessary to briefly review the various stages of the development discourse and the recent internationalism in order to gain an appreciation of the complexity of the policy making process and the power of external factors in Kenya. Such a review can also demonstrate the interdependence between the various global economic, political, environmental and social elements in environmental policy making.
Modernization Phase, 1955-65
This period was characterized by the notion of development for and not by the people and emphasis on central government. It focused on moving the "uncivilized" into civilization. Central planning and large projects such as dams, agriculture and forest plantations were seen as the panacea for development. Unfortunately, capital and technical assistance did not transform the Kenyan economy because the intended beneficiaries did not participate in the conception, design and implementation of the projects.
Dependency Phase, 1965-75
This period witnessed a shift from economics to sociology as an explanation for underdevelopment. The focus was primarily on poverty issues. Like the modernization phase, there remained a strong dependency on aid flows and government monopoly over development continued.
Popular Participation Phase, 1975-85
A shift to a participatory approach to development and a focus on institutions outside government as service agents or intermediaries occurred. Greater emphasis was placed on the policy framework rather than on projects alone to promote development. Of significance is the fact that the period witnessed the glorification of the notion of meeting peoples' basic needs.
The early development discourse was very much about government, central planning and control and that civil society was not a key stakeholder. Although the discourse later embraced popular participation as an approach to development, there was little or no expertise or capacity to actually implement participatory methodologies. The donors and multilateral institutions were very influential and reinforced some of the early emphasis on large capital projects, as a quick fix solution for much needed economic development in Kenya. Policy was the privilege of the center and access to information was not a right.
Responsiveness Phase, 1985-95
The past ten to fifteen years have witnessed the emergence of a diversity of questions and difficulties for policy making. It is becoming increasingly difficult to evolve policies that are credible and socially democratic without addressing questions of access to information, individualism, governance, globalization, and the new environmentalism. Further, developments over the past decade or so, especially popular access to information, have changed inter and inter-community and nation-state relationships. The relationship between people and the Kenyan government has changed including peoples' expectations of their government and of public officials. One of the greatest changes that has affected the policy sphere is that the Kenyan government and civil society increasingly share a single information environment. New policies come under increasing pressure and scrutiny and the scope of what is unacceptable widens.
These diverse and yet reinforcing issues combine in a manner that has resulted in Kenyan environmental policy-making becoming increasingly complex and difficult. Further, it demands new thinking and an approach to environmental policy-making that is beyond the capacity of many existing institutions and skills found in Kenya.
The influence of donors and multilateral institutions led to the enactment of the Kenya Forestry Master Plan and the National Environmental Action Programme (NEAP). Sectoral environmental policies, some from the pre-independence period, still remained. A home grown policy on District Focus for Rural Development was hatched as a new environmental policy approach that would involve local stakeholders in decision making more than before.
Integration and Globalization Phase, 1995-Present
This phase started towards the end of the Responsiveness phase when the effects of global and international treaties on the environment and trade started to take effect. Notable among these treaties and agreements were the Lome Convention, the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements, Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), the European Union Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and the European AARHUS Convention. Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) and Country Assistance Strategies (CAS) as perpetuated by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also spurred this phase on.
The post-Rio de Janeiro United Nations' Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED) treaties further complicated the Kenyan national environmental policy making process. These included the United Nations' Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD), Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The United Nations Conventions on Biological Diversity (CBD), Climate Change (FCCC) and Desertification (CCD) are aimed at sustainable use of biological resources, decreasing the causes of climate change and combating desertification and mitigating the effects of drought respectively. Previous conventions such as the Ramsar convention (dealing with wetland ecosystems) or the CITES (dealing with trade in endangered species) had illustrated that inter-governmental agreements potentially provided a good instrument for concerted national and international legislation and policy. These policies and legislation are directed towards the protection and sustainable use of natural resources and the environment.
The FCCC, CBD and CCD provide for the preparation of action programmes as instruments for the implementation processes. The CBD and CCD call for at least the consultation of NGOs during the negotiation and implementation processes. In many countries CBD action programmes have been elaborated. The CCD goes further than the CBD, it identifies local communities affected by drought and desertification as major stakeholders to the CCD and refers many times to their genuine and active involvement in the elaboration of the National Action Programmes (NAPs). The CCD also acknowledges the crucial role played by women and poor pastoral communities and farmers in the drylands. The CCD calls for the involvement of civil society, CBOs and NGOs in the implementation of the CCD in all its stages.
At the national level, within Kenya, there have been many positive and tangible gains in laying the foundation for the implementation of the United Nations environmental conventions. Methodologically, in most cases, there exist umbrella documents that show which way forward for the implementation of these conventions. A number of consultative forums for the development of action programmes in Kenya, for the post-UNCED conventions have been undertaken. During these forums, the local communities have not been given any respite. Forces larger than the National Coordinating Bodies (NCBs) could handle have negated the spirit of Rio de Janeiro and the generally good intentions of the NCBs. The active and genuine participation of CBOs and civil society in the consultative forums has generally not happened. This has been the case despite invitations to several CBOs by the NCBs, usually by proxy and through government departments responsible for or associated with the registration or training of CBOs.
At the local national level, these international agreements and treaties as well as internal pressures have led to the enactment of an Environmental Bill that seeks to harmonize all Acts related to the environment and natural resources. At the same time, international trade agreements and treaties, have visited tragedy on the Kenyan nation and people in many ways. For example:
What Should Environmental Policy Achieve in Kenya for the Next Generation?
In the past, several environmental policies have been enacted in Kenya. Despite tangible gains for the environment of Kenya, these policies have generally been applied piecemeal and have often been prone to abuse. To be able to enact environmental policies that work for the people, the environment and natural resources we need three pillars working in tandem, as well as the development of a culture of integrity and transparency. The three pillars are: Politics, Implementation, and Institutions.
These three pillars need all to have a foundation of access to information that is accurate and timely. If any of the pillars is weak, we shall have inappropriate policies or policies that will not work. The politics pillar is important since policies evolve within a political context. The implementation or operational pillar represents programmes and actions arising out of policy. The institutions that make policies operational constitute the last pillar. The three pillars have to be compatible with each other and each pillar in turn has to be consistent in itself.
Policies that work link decisions to actions and consequences. Very often stakeholders are not involved in the implementation of policy and hence do not have an opportunity to participate in policy refinement through sharing experiences and information. Laws are tools for policy implementation and they generally need to reflect the intent of the policy otherwise resource-based conflicts continue unabated. Institutions in this regard include both formal and traditional ones. This pillar also encompasses the principles of governance, public rights, decentralisation, participation and partnerships. Government structures often represent divergent interests and hence different policy objectives. This can often mitigate against environmental management objectives. The challenge is to find suitable structures so as to coordinate policy development and implementation. All three pillars are necessary to arrive at workable policies for both people and the environment.
Policy development needs to consider the interests, needs and values of all affected parties. In this respect all stakeholders are legitimate users, providers, and managers of information. If information is to serve as a source of innovation and communication, it must be relevant, accessible, and credible. Further, it must recognize different forms of information and knowledge, including traditional knowledge. Stakeholders must have access to information in order to:
Effective policy development requires an information management strategy. There has to be an information management system to collect and provide accessible information to interested parties for use in policy formulation. These systems have to be maintained which implies a commitment by governments, NGOs and local institutions. The information needs of communities are not the same as those of legislators, nor government bureaucrats. Hence attention should be given to content, style and method used for transmitting information. Information can be transmitted in various ways: it can be written and produced as hard copy; it can also be passed on orally or electronically. Those responsible for data collection have to be aware of the different sources. Information also includes the sharing of experiences so that people become aware of the full range of possibilities. Access to information can be promoted through some of the following:
The success of any information access-distribution system is dependent on accepting the concept of "public trusteeship" over and above state "ownership." This places a responsibility on the state to promote and maintain the welfare of the people by adopting sound policies and programmes and ensuring equity. For this to happen, decision making has to be accountable, decisions should be disseminated and be based on sound and accurate information. Civil society has a role in monitoring the state and ensuring that policies do not undermine the well-being of the people. Any government has the responsibility to inform its people. We cannot advocate for people to be free and responsible but then treat them as passive objects of the state. People should accept that rights entail obligations, but that obligations need to be balanced by rights. In this regard, traditional institutions, like governments, have a responsibility to ensure equitable access to information at the local level.
Information should assist people and institutions transcend from being guardians of knowledge to being councillors and interpreters. It is only through such an approach that governments can foster innovation. Innovation is fostered by information gathered from new interactions, exchange of experiences with other disciplines and places, and from networks that are fluid, active and are without boundaries. Innovation arises where information is not just accumulated and stored, but created.
In order to maintain control there is a tendency to manage through uniformity, thereby stifling choice and ultimately responsibility. Governments by their nature want to be in control or at least to be perceived to be in control. In order to do this they will distort or twist information. For these reasons, civil society should have legal rights to information and environmental legislation should seek to limit the powers of government ministries to control and regulate information.
Also important is how the information is used to influence decisions and policy through advocacy. Decision making and accountability systems need to demonstrate how information has been used in reaching a particular decision. As a tool to influence a desired outcome or to convince others to accept a consensus position, advocacy is critical to both policy development and conflict management. Until very recently advocacy in many developing countries was considered anti-government, and yet many professional associations rely on it to further their objectives and hence the interests of their membership.
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