Who should do what in environmental management? Twelve principles for allocating responsibilities

Erik Mostert*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


In environmental management there is often discussion on the allocation of responsibilities. Such discussions can continue for a long time and can form an obstacle for effective action. In this article twelve normative principles for the allocation of responsibilities are identified, coming from three different sources: the arguments used in discussions on responsibilities, Dutch and European law, and the environmental management literature. The principles are (1) capacity, (2) lowest social costs, (3) causation, (4) interest, (5) scale, (6) subsidiarity, (7) structural integration, (8) separation, (9) solidarity, (10) transparency, (11) stability (but not standstill), and (12) acquired rights. These principles point to fundamental tensions in environmental management and sometimes conflict with each other. At the same time they may help to resolve conflicts by providing common points of reference that are independent from the often conflicting interests of the discussants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-131
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Decentralization
  • Institutions
  • Integration
  • Polycentric governance
  • The Netherlands
  • Water


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