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Ecosystem-based management in Canada and Norway: The importance of political leadership and effective decision-making for implementation

Academic article
Year of publication
Ocean and Coastal Management
External websites
Involved from NIVA
Gunnar Sander
Gunnar Sander


A comparison of a Norwegian and two Canadian management plans reveals that most of the measures in the Norwegian plan were put into practice, whereas the Canadian plans did not result in the implementation of any new measures. This paper applies implementation theory to explain the different results. First, there is a striking difference in the leadership of the two governments and the way they organized for the planning. The Norwegian government led the process in a top-down manner and tried to apply a “whole-of-government” approach. The Canadian government delegated the entire task to the regional branches of one ministry alone. The different roles taken may be explained by different political and economic contexts that create different motivations for the governments to engage. Second, there were different ways of deciding when conflicts arose. The Norwegian coalition government negotiated internal compromises in the form of package deals. In Canada, the collaborative planning based on consensus concealed disagreements in high-level statements and pushed concrete solutions forward to later action planning that never occurred. These processes reflect different national policy styles and resulted in policy designs that created a very different impetus for implementation. The analysis demonstrate how theory-driven case-study methodology can lead to cumulative results.