Dissertation: Policy Networks and the Role of NGOs for Forestry Governance

Despite the recognition of the multiplicity of actors who play a role in the forests governance efforts, there is limited analysis about the role that NGOs play at the subnational level in the design and implementation of policy interventions promoting the sustainable use of forests. In the particular case of Latin America, we have witnessed in recent years and increased pressure over the forests due to a series of reported causes (ie land use changes towards permanent agriculture or animal husbandry, poverty, increased fires and weak land security, among others), leading to significant reported changes in forest coverage (48.9% as a proportion of total land area in 2000, 47% in 2010, and 46.2% in 2016 – World Bank Indicators). However, it is impossible to ignore that both international organizations and local NGOs have played a significant role in the local governance of forests in the Amazon region, sometimes by working collaboratively with subnational governments, other times by providing technical or financial assistance, or working alongside with local groups of interest. However, this relationship has often been affected by differences in ideologies and differences about the degree of intervention that NGOs should have in the policymaking processes for forests governance, and provision of programs and services for local communities. Several questions remain unanswered with respect to this governance dynamic in forested territories and in particular in the Amazon region. Does the role that NGOs play within this governance dynamic influence the forest governance effectiveness and propensity to conflict or cooperation among the different governance actors? Does the role that NGOs play in the implementation of subnational programs or provision of services, influence the communities (beneficiaries) behavior towards the sustainable use of the resources and their support for the government’s role regulating the forested territories. 

My dissertation project seeks to answer these questions using combined methods of study: household surveys using before-after – control-treatment units, framed field experiments and survey experiments.

Decentralization can Increase Cooperation Among Public Officials. Adriana Molina-Garzón, Tara Grillos, Alan Zarychta and Krister P. Andersson. American Journal of Political Science AJPS. Forthcoming.

Collective action among public officials is necessary for the effective delivery of many social services, but relatively little is known about how it can be fostered through policy reforms. In this paper, we compare cooperation among public officials within decentralized versus centrally-administered municipalities in Honduras. Leveraging a quasi-experiment in health-sector reform, coupled with behavioral games and social network surveys, we find that decentralization is associated with greater cooperation. When they are able to communicate, health-sector workers in decentralized municipalities contribute more to a public good than their centrally-administered counterparts. This increase in cooperative behavior results in part from the decentralization reform engendering greater numbers of interactions and stronger ties across different levels of government.  These findings indicate that institutional reforms like decentralization can favorably reconfigure patterns of social interactions across public organizations, which is an important component of administrative capacity in developing countries.

Voluntary Leadership and the Emergence of Institutions for self-governance. Krister Andersson, Kimberlee Change and Adriana Molina-Garzón. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Strong local institutions are important for the successful governance of common-pool resources (CPRs), but why do such institutions emerge in the first place and why do they sometimes not emerge at all? We argue that voluntary local leaders play an important role in the initiation of self-governance institutions because such leaders can directly affect local users’ perceived costs and benefits associated with self-rule. Drawing on recent work on leadership in organizational behavior, we propose that voluntary leaders can facilitate a cooperative process of local rule creation by exhibiting unselfish behavior and leading by example. We posit that such forms of leadership are particularly important when resource users are weakly motivated to act collectively, such as when confronted with “creeping” environmental problems. We test these ideas by using observations from a laboratory-in-the-field experiment with 128 users of forest commons in Bolivia and Uganda. We find that participants’ agreement to create new rules was significantly stronger in group rounds where voluntary, unselfish leaders were present. We show that unselfish leadership actions make the biggest difference for rule creation under high levels of uncertainty, such as when the resource is in subtle decline and intragroup communication sparse.

Framed Field Experiment on Resource Scarcity & Extraction: Path-dependent generosity within sequential water appropriation. Alexander Pfaff, Maria Alejandra Velez, Pablo Ramos and Adriana Molina. Ecological Economics

How one treats others is important within collective action. We ask if resource scarcity in the past, due to its effects upon past behaviors, influences current other-regarding behaviors. Contrasting theories and empirical findings on scarcity motivate our framed field experiment. Participants are rural Colombian farmers who have experienced scarcity of water within irrigation. We randomly assign participants to groups and places on group canals. Places order extraction decisions. Our treatments are sequences of scarcities: ‘from lower to higher resources’ involves four rounds each of 20, 60, then 100 units of water; ‘from higher to lower resources’ reverses the ordering. We find that upstream farmers extract more, but a lower share, when facing higher resources. Further they take a larger share of higher resources when they faced lower resources in earlier rounds (relative to when facing higher resources initially). That is inconsistent with leading models of responses to scarcity which focus upon one’s own gain. It is consistent with lowering one’s weight on others to, for instance, rationalize having left them little. Our results suggest that facing higher scarcity can erode the bases for collective actions. For establishing new institutions, timing relative to scarcity could affect the probability of success.