Adaptive accountability : dealing with uncertainty

  • Lyndal Kathleen Hasselman

    Student thesis: By Publication


    Accountability and adaptive management are both widely regarded as necessary for good environmental governance. However, the compatibility of these two practices has previously not been tested. Accountability is commonly regarded as holding true to promises, requiring government to adhere to past policy commitments. In stark contrast adaptive management requires policy to change as knowledge and experience shed light on policy issues. Can accountability be maintained while changing policy directions? This thesis by publication considers a case of water governance in the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia. This is a case of market-based governance and multilevel governance. The thesis commences with a critique of these governance arrangements. There are barriers to adaptive management and accountability resulting from marketized governance. The common interpretation of accountability is as a virtue, or value akin to honesty and integrity, rather than as a mechanism of one holding another to account through a deliberative process of question, response and sanction. This removes the democratic outcomes expected of accountability. The thesis then reviews the meaning of adaptive management, before determining how adaptive management is interpreted and socially created by policy makers. It finds that the social construction of adaptive management limits it to evaluation. The emphasis on effectiveness of policy in achieving its objectives produces a confirmation bias, and this further restrains adaptive management to addressing unpredictability – uncertainty that arises from incomplete and imperfect knowledge remains. In the case, neither adaptive management or accountability are implemented in earnest. The partial application of each enables some level of compatibility. However, environmental governance is left lacking. The thesis explores the relationship between accountability and adaptive management, before proposing improvements to each that can provide for the touted benefits of both adaptive management and accountability, culminating in a proposed Ombudsman for water governance. Finally, adaptive accountability, that is an accountability mechanism which incorporates all facets of uncertainty is conceived.
    Date of Award2018
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMark Evans (Supervisor), Gerry Stoker (Supervisor) & Leonie Pearson (Supervisor)

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