Author: Maria-Therese Gustafsson, April 2019

Story highlights:

  • Resource extraction can constitute an important vehicle for generating resources for development, but also places heavy pressure on natural resources and livelihoods in the regions where resources are extracted. Such impacts are particularly severe in regions that are exposed to both resource extraction and other environmental stressors, such as climate change. 
  • To avoid such adverse effects, integrated planning at the subnational level is needed.
  • The strengthening of integrated subnational planning is dependent on the following favourable conditions: strong incentives by the part of subnational governments, technical capacity, accountable representation and transfer of power from the central government. 
  • To have durable impacts on development, profound state reform to achieve sectoral integration and political decentralization is, however, also needed.

A new article by Gustafsson and Scurrah (2019) argues that integrated planning at the subnational level plays an important role in fostering sustainable and inclusive development in mining regions.

In recent decades, the rapid expansion of large-scale resource extraction in the global South has contributed to reducing poverty in some countries, but also placed heavy pressure on water resources and livelihood assets. Thus, resource extraction has produced local social conflicts and environmental contamination. To avoid such adverse effects, institutions that contribute to inclusive and sustainable development in the presence of mining need strengthening. A wide variety of institutional reforms have been proposed in these debates – ranging from new tax codes to reallocate benefits, transparency institutions such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), to participatory institutions such as free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).

However, in this study we argue that we need to pay more attention to integratedsubnational planning for reducing conflicts and ensuring sustainable development in the presence of mining. 

In mining regions, planning is typically conducted at the project level, which not only gives companies great influence over territorial development, but also makes it hard to assess the cumulative effects of different projects, economic activities and environmental stressors such as climate change. There is also often at lack of effective coordination between state agencies involved in decisions about land use. In this context, it is important to strengthen participatory land-use zoning and planning that aim at integrating different mechanisms granting rights over natural resources (e.g. miningconcessions, forest zoning and agro-ecological zoning). Such institutions allow for the involvement of a wide range ofsubnational actors in the technical assessment and political deliberations about different land-usealternatives and their cumulative effects. 

Based on an in-depth study in three Peruvian mining regions, we explore under what conditions integrated planning is likely to foster sustainable development. Peru is an important case for studying institutional development in the mining sector. Mining has expanded rapidly in recentdecades and become an important source of staterevenue, but has also, in a context of severe water scarcity, generated a proliferation of societal conflicts. The study finds that strengthening integrated planning requires subnational institutional and technical capacity, accountable representation, and decentralization. However, in Peru, as well as in many other resource-dependent countries, such conditions are largely missing. Subnational governments often have weak capacity and represent only a fraction of the voters who have few possibilities to hold them accountable. The central government is unwilling to transfer power to territorial governance to subnational actors and to address the profound sectoral fragmentation characterizing territorial governance in Peru. In recent years, powerful actors in central government have recentralized and depoliticized land-use zoning and planning.

In all, our findings suggest that the future of land-use zoning and planning as an institution depends not only on the creation of strong and representative subnational institutions, but also on profound state reforms of sectoral integration and political decentralization.