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= "Co-Governance - process of participatory management in which decisions are made at the lowest levels possible (ie. subsidiarity and decentralization), thereby recognizing the decision of each member equitably."


James Quilligan:

"Until the modern era of enclosure and commodification, communities had always made up their own rules for creating and maintaining local resources. Unlike the world’s public and private sectors, commoners have broad experience in the supervision and sustenance of living systems to ensure equitable ways of sharing their uses and benefits.

This knowledge — which is still held and practiced by many indigenous peoples and community groups — is now being rediscovered. People across the world are returning to the transparent stewardship of their local commons and becoming involved as providers as well as recipients of resources, goods and services. Now, however, the commons involves more than just the stewardship of natural and material resources:

- modern technologies have also created a new generation of cultural commons with unique forms of participation and social capital. Co-governance involves the principle of subsidiarity—taking decisions at the lowest possible level of authority and creating new checks and balances on the overall decision-making activities of the state.

The inclusion of people in the decisions that directly affect them formalizes the process of just governance and democratic oversight by closing the gap between resource users and resource managers, producers and providers. Co-governance thus entails the development of non-centralized rules and institutions pertaining to the major questions of access, control, use and distribution of the wealth generated on a commons.

These activities evolve out of the shared meaning and values of the stakeholders who depend upon a resource for their survival and well being.

The sharing of duties and decision-making over the use, protection and replenishment of a particular resource therefore requires personal and group qualities such as moral responsibility, reciprocity, trust, mutual aid, fellowship and cooperation.

The kinds of expertise and understanding that people have developed through the local management of resources must be scaled up to the global level. Incentives for sharing the global commons need to be built into multilateral rules and institutions. By the same token, local development needs an international support system that is generative in purpose—not technocratic, nationalistic or commercial. It’s really not global governance that is required, but global co-governance.

This mutual governance would involve independent states giving regulatory legitimacy and authority to global institutions through international standards for the management and protection of global common goods. Initially, these common goods could be created through a cooperative system for managing long-term risks, such as degradation of Earth’s living systems, global climate change, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, trade protectionism, security of global supplies, threats of fragile and failed states, and unequal representation of developing nations in global decision-making." (

More Information

  1. Commons Trusts