event 31 ago. 2018 time 09:00

Session at RGS 2018 // Who is Responsible for Integration? Responsibility in WEEF Nexus Governance

Integration is a both a goal and a challenge for nexus governance. Recent research on the implementation of policy instruments governing land use in Scotland returns us to the ongoing debate about who has the mandate, authority, legitimacy and resources to govern the nexus. These questions arise in research related to taking an Ecosystems Approach; managing natural capital, enabling transformation and/or transitions; sustainable land use or integrated catchment management. Unsurprisingly, these questions also arise when seeking to govern the water-energy- environment-food nexus.

category Sessions, Panels and Side Events tag Ecosystems tag Governance (of the Nexus)
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Vertical policy integration is required to support horizontal intersections between the management of water and land for food or energy production. Therefore, we focus on the hierarchy of legislation, policy, instrument and operational delivery. We use empirical data on the origin and implementation of 10 instruments that act to protect soil, water or biodiversity whilst enabling sustainable land use in Scotland, to explore how coordination or integration between these instruments is, or could be, governed.

Our findings suggest that further coordination is supported, however, questions around how this will be achieved remain. It is unclear both what instruments could be used, and the networks of actors that should influence and be influenced by these. Our analysis of policy instruments suggests that responsibility for taking action is often projected onto other under-resourced actors such as local authorities or individual land managers. This has consequences for uptake, accountability, delivery and outcomes, but these issues are rarely reported, monitored or evaluated. We suggest that more explicit attention is needed as to how responsibility is shifted around polycentric and multi-level governance networks. Evaluating and appraising the governance of the WEEF nexus in terms of responsibility will help to identify and implement future actions that will help improve the sustainability of socio-ecological systems.


  • Kerry Waylen (James Hutton Institute, UK)
  • Kirsty Blackstock (James Hutton Institute, UK)
  • Katrin Prager (James Hutton Institute / University of Aberdeen, UK)
  • Alba Juarez-Bourke (James Hutton Institute, UK)
  • Jessica Maxwell (James Hutton Institute, UK)
  • Sophie Tindale (James Hutton Institute / Durham University, UK)

Chair: Kirsty Blackstock, James Hutton Institute, UK

About this Session

The concept of the food-energy-water-environment nexus has been in vogue since being identified as part of the ‘perfect storm’ of drivers on society by the UN in 2011. It has become a narrative to try to capture and explain the systemic nature of global wicked problems; and also to provide innovative solution to these wicked problems. For some, it is an invitation to grapple with the persistence of complex socio-ecological challenges and offer a site for transformation in our relationship to the material landscapes. For others, it remains a technical challenge to be resolved through optimisation of resource use in any given landscape. As social scientists, we are interested in how institutions, governance and management lie at the heart of either approach to the nexus in specific places and spaces.

The session "Adaptive management and governance of the food-energy-water-environment Nexus (1): Speed Talks" at the Annual Conference 2018 of the Royal Geographical Society involves contributions from those involved in Water-Energy-Food nexus research or those trying to manage or govern the nexus in practice, asking them to reflect on the following questions:

  • To what extent can the nexus be managed or governed?
  • To what extent does adopting a nexus perspective improve the governance of social-ecological systems?
  • Has the narrative of the nexus simulated innovative approaches or do the same fundamental governance and management challenges apply?
  • Are there new actors or sites for action emerging from taking a nexus lens?
  • Are new methodologies emerging from taking a nexus lens?
  • What can we learn from other governance and management domains; and what can nexus scholarship offer to others?

This session will consist of grouped speed talks followed by small group discussions with the presenters. The sister session Adaptive management and governance of the food-energy-water-environment Nexus (2) will involve a workshop based around a rapid synthesis of the main points.

Where and when

Part of Session "Adaptive management and governance of the food-energy-water-environment Nexus (1): Speed Talks"

31 Aug 2018

Glamorgan Building
Seminar Room -1.80

More information


Cecilia Vey


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