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Processus de gouvernance dans les territoires ruraux

Government versus Governance: structure versus process

Introduction au dossier sur la Gouvernance Rurale
Christopher Bryant
Traduction(s) :
Gouvernement versus Gouvernance : structure versus processus []

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1It should be noted straight away that Governance is not Government, although government at any level can potentially become part of a governance process.

2Governance essentially is a multi-stakeholder process (e.g. the article by David Douglas); it can be focused on a whole territory or on particular themes or orientations of importance to a territory and different actors and citizens; however, it frequently becomes necessary to take a more holistic approach since it is more often than not the case that different actions and initiatives taken in the context of a particular orientation will frequently have an impact on what is happening in other orientations.

3Governance is also a process because the actors or stakeholders involved are not automatically identified and integrated at the same time. Partly this is because not everyone knows or understands all the different legitimate segments of interest in a given territory. This has often been the case with young children and teenagers, partly undoubtedly because many people think that young children and teenagers are not really concerned with what is happening in their territory (community), when in point of fact, many teenagers certainly are more than interested in what happens in their community and territory. In some territories, teenagers have been mobilized, have participated in discussions concerning strategic development of their territory, and have also taken initiatives and mobilized resources needed to implement the initiatives (e.g. Bryant, 1999 (Haliburton County)).

4Thus, over time, as people become more aware of what different segments of the population think of what has been happening in their territory it has become not unusual in some rural contexts (e.g. Haliburton County in Eastern Ontario, Canada) for teenagers to become directly involved in discussing what is happening and what they would like to see be dealt with in their territory. We can therefore see that such shifting values should become part of the process of governance and be recognized by the other actors and the population in general. This, of course, depends upon the culture of the territory and its population and whether innovative approaches are acceptable to the other actors involved in the governance process. Furthermore, once a ‘new’ legitimate segment of interest has been identified in a territory, it becomes important to know how to communicate with people in the newly recognized legitimate segment of interest, how to find representatives of this legitimate segment of interest and how to communicate and mobilize them (Allie and Bryant, 1999).

5There are many forces that can lead to significant modifications and emerging issues in a given rural territory and these in turn can require responses from government at all levels and communities, as well as the whole set of actors involved in a governance process. Forces underlying change in rural territories include globalization, competition from other territories and countries, changing values in the population (e.g. increasing concerns regarding environmental quality, concerns regarding the health and recognition of different segments of the population, concerns about alternative types of economic development and how they may impact positively or negatively the residents of the rural territory concerned, and technological change and its integration into local economies, e.g. computer technology and on-line communication). Some of these forces can also be frequently related to migration of residents from the cities into rural areas adjacent to the cities and urban agglomerations. There are forces of course that are specific to a particular type of territory, the activities present and the cultures of the populations (e.g. indigenous populations). All of these have to be recognized and dealt with appropriately through the governance process. However, if some cultures are not recognized as being important by key actors in a governance process, then the way is clearly being set up for major conflicts to arise (e.g. the article by David Leroy, Alvarro Martin Gutiérrez Malaxechebaria, Jean-Marc Antoine, and Alexandra Angéliaume-Deschamps). When such obstacles can be identified, they should be tackled as soon as possible, otherwise major unrest may occur leading to real blockages in constructive development.

6Clearly, there are many different types of rural territories. Some rural territories are far from major cities and metropolitan agglomerations and are based essentially on certain types of resources and their exploitation, such as mining for different resources and forestry (e.g. the article by Laura Ryser, Greg Halseth and Sean Markey) (Halseth et al., 2010). Some of these remote territories can also be Mountainous regions (e.g. the article by Laurence Barthe and Corinne Eychenne) and Coastal zones. However, some of these same economic bases can also be found in rural territories close to major cities and metropolitan agglomerations, including resource exploitation and also fishing activities in coastal zones. Furthermore, there are agricultural activities in Rural territories close to cities (these territories used to be called peri-urban areas or urban fringe areas, but interestingly enough some recent publications have merged all these territories (urban, peri-urban or urban fringe) into simply ‘urban’ territories (e.g. Lohrberg et al., 2016) as well as in Rural territories at the edges of the spheres of influence of urban and metropolitan agglomerations. In certain developing countries and in relation to agriculture in particular, there is a world of difference between customary land access (traditional land governance) and the modern land market phenomenon (e.g. the articles by: Jérôme Aloko-Nguessan, Marthe Adjoba Koffi-Didia and Hamed Tiécoura Coulibaly; Laurence Barthe and Corinne Eychenne; and by Joachim Koffi Kotchi, Yagnama, Rokia Ouattara-Coulibaly and Guillaume Kouassi N’Guessan). The territories close to urban areas clearly often experience substantial pressures, relating to expansion of the urban area, the diffusion of residential development throughout the territory and the accompanying migration of ‘new’ populations into these territories, often bringing with it conflicts between the new populations and those who have remained in these areas for a long time.

7Rural governance is generally very much associated with bottom-up approaches, when initiatives and actions are discussed and taken by citizens, business owners and other types of organizations. There are often major challenges that appear when government (particularly central governments) take on a major lead role because the whole process can quickly become a top-down process leading frequently to negative consequences. This is particularly the case when a government in the context, say, of a community development program attempts to parachute strategies and approaches that have worked well with some local governments and their communities, but do not function well in other local government areas and their communities, simply because there are frequently huge differences between rural communities in the same state or province and country in terms of issues, cultures and opportunities.

8Relatively remote rural territories are frequently based on mining, forestry and certain types of agricultural production (e.g. article by Joachim Koffi Kotchi, Yagnama Rokia Ouattara-Coulibaly and Guillaume Kouassi N’Guessan). All of these activities have also experienced technological change frequently leading to an increase in the size of the businesses involved and concomitantly often leading to a decline of population. This can lead to major issues in terms of maintaining services to the remaining population. Solutions can involve new activities including the development of new tourist activities, which can have positive impacts on services and employment (e.g. the article by Emmanuel Véron). However, tourism activities must also be capable of being integrated effectively into the existing communities and not become regarded just as a source of revenue

9How to move ahead when it becomes apparent that there are significant segments of the population or groups of actors who have no place recognized in the governance structure and process? This is where the notion of governance representing an on-going process becomes important; this suggests that as different issues emerge or different segments of legitimate interest are identified or appear, the question for governance is how to include these new issues and new actors or segments of interest into the governance process in the discussions, decisions and ultimately actions. Thus, this is why governance must be seen as an on-going process and not just a structure. As realities change or certain realities become recognized for the first time as being important, then these ‘new’ realities need to be integrated into the governance process.

10This essentially means that the relationships between actors involved in the governance process can change substantially over time. This has been quite common in territories close to urban agglomerations and even at the limits of the spheres of influence of urban and metropolitan agglomerations. In many of these territories, the relationships between agriculture and farming communities and farm families are frequently confronted with pressures coming from new non-farm residents. These can lead to conflicts but an appropriate governance process can improve the level of understanding between the farm and non-farm populations.

11Shifting values have become common in many rural territories, and in some cases, these shifting values can lead to conflicts (e.g. the articles by David LeRoy, Alvarro Martin Gutiérrez Malaxechebaria, Jean-Marc Antoine, and Alexandra Angéliaume-Deschamps; and David Douglas). Conflicts can be dealt with although not always easily. Conflicts for instance can arise as a result of increasing preoccupations by some segments of the population regarding environmental quality, including the quality of water resources (e.g. the article by Thierry Ruf, Mina Kleiche-Dray) that have often suffered from pollution close to cities and metropolitan centres. Where such urban and metropolitan agglomerations are also surrounded by agricultural lands and activities, it has not been uncommon for so-called modern agriculture (productivist agriculture) to be the source of significant water pollution. This has led in some cases to governance processes focused on specific issues such as water pollution from agriculture where the emphasis is not simply on regulations but rather on encouraging discussions between different actors and farmers in an effort to get farmers themselves to appropriate the issue and become involved in improved agricultural practices, i.e. an approach more in line with a governance approach.

12Other values that have changed over time include an increased attention paid to heritage conservation, especially of heritage landscapes, an interest that has developed as the public interest in history and its reflections in landscapes today, including historical buildings has increased. In many developed countries there are specific organizations that are involved in maintaining such heritage landscapes and which involve many other actors including citizens and their activities, e.g. the Association Patrimoniale de la Plaine de Versailles et du Plateau des Alluets. L'Association Patrimoniale de la Plaine de Versailles et du Plateau des Alluets is an organization oriented to the preservation of heritage landscapes in the Plaine de Versailles and the Plateau des Alluets. Among other activities, this Association organizes meetings and colloquia (e.g. on March 7, 2018, the Association organized a colloquium on: Agri urban territories, factors of attractivity of large metropolitan centres: Paris Ïle-de-France, Genèves, Milan, Montréal).

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Allie L., Bryant C.R., 1999. The dynamics of citizen mobilisation in an urban fringe community: Mont St. Hilaire. In Bowler, Bryant C.R., Firmino A. (dir.), Progress in Research on Sustainable Rural Systems. Lisbonne, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Centro de Estudos de Geografia e Planeamento Regional, Série Estudos, n° 2, p. 201-210.

Bryant C.R., 1999. Community-based strategic planning, mobilisation and action at the edge of the urban field: The case of Haliburton County. In Bowler, Bryant C.R., Firmino A. (dir.), Progress in Research on Sustainable Rural Systems. Lisbonne, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Centro de Estudos de Geografia e Planeamento Regional, Série Estudos, n° 2, p. 211-222.

Halseth G., Markey S., Bruce D. (eds.), 2010. The Next Rural Economies: Constructing Rural Place in Global Economies. Oxford, CABI Publishing, p. 297.

Lohrberg F., Lica L., Scazzosi L., Timpe A. (eds.), 2016. Urban Agriculture Europe. Jovis, 231 p.

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Christopher Bryant, « Government versus Governance: structure versus process »EchoGéo [En ligne], 43 | 2018, mis en ligne le 22 mars 2018, consulté le 06 décembre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Christopher Bryant

Christopher Bryant,, est Professeur associé à l’Université de Montréal, département de géographie. Il a publié récemment :
- Bryant C.R., Loudiyi S. (dir.), 2017. Des espaces agricoles dans le métropolisation. Perspectives franco-québécoises ? L’Harmattan, 328 p.
-  Bryant C. R., Akkari C., Bousbaine A. D, Delusca K., Daouda O., Sarr M. A., Azzeddine M., 2017. The Unintended Negative Consequences of Government Actions and Initiatives in Selected Environmental, Social and Economic Domains: Opportunities for Co-construction Approaches. Journal of Settlements and Spatial Planning, vol. 8, n° 2/2017, p. 79-88.
- Bryant C.R., Sarr M.A., Délusca K. (dir.), 2016. Agricultural Adaptation to Climate Change. Springer, 232 p.

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