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Network governance in national Swiss forest policy: Balancing effectiveness and legitimacy

Schulz, Tobias, Lieberherr, Eva, Zabel, Astrid
Forest policy and economics 2018 v.89 pp. 42-53
forest industries, forest policy, forests, governance, interviews, nongovernmental organizations, politics, social networks, stakeholders, surveys, Switzerland
Network governance may strike a balance between democratic participation (input-legitimacy) and efficiency and effectiveness (output-legitimacy) of policy processes and thus can enhance the acceptance of policy reforms. This article aims at an appraisal of network governance in Swiss forest policy by uncovering its current structure and by describing the experiences in terms of legitimacy and concerning how this is perceived by the actors involved. Although network governance is common in Switzerland, as an early coordination of stakeholders is required due to strong veto points later in the political process, more progressive participatory procedures have recently been introduced to these networks. Based on expert interviews and a social network analysis derived from an online survey, we confirm that the core of the Swiss forest policy network includes only a handful of actors. These actors are relatively satisfied with the current approach and some of them decline a further strengthening of participatory elements. Particularly the forest economic as well as the actors representing the sub-national jurisdictions (cantons) are well connected with other actors from forest industry, but still they perceive their influence as not being adequate. The environmental NGOs, in contrast, judge their influence more positively, albeit they coordinate mostly with each other and with the national administration. Although the networks do not engage legislative actors very closely at the time of analysis, probably because forest policy reform has already settled the more fundamental questions, the forest policy network nonetheless seems well embedded in the democratic process.