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5.2.1 Management

Contents
5.2.1.1 Management within multiple time frames
5.2.1.2 Management of trust, constancy and learning
5.2.1.3 Management decision making in the presence of large uncertainties
5.2.1.4 Identification of possible stewardship organizations

5.2.1.1 Management within multiple time frames

Some management studies on the topic of stewardship propose separating ‘nearer term’ and ‘longer term’ challenges as a pragmatic way of developing a comprehensible and affordable long term stewardship programme. However, expressions such as nearer term (or short term) and longer term (or long term, etc.) can be and are given a wide spectrum of usages. It may be helpful to distinguish between different strategic planning horizons on the basis of the actors involved (viz. present versus future generations) and on the basis of hypotheses about system stability and change.

Regarding the actors involved, it is useful to follow the sustainability literature, where it is now commonplace to distinguish between present and future generations. This distinction is not associated with a specific period (is a generation 15, 25 or 35 years?), rather it is based on a question of agency: of actions by some people, on behalf of or for others. In reality, it is the responsibility of the present generation of policy makers and stakeholders to determine the ways in which the interests of future generations (and, by extension, of other species and ecosystems) are to be provided for.

Provision for the needs of future generations can be assured only through principled choices of resource use (investment and protection decisions) whose stewardship intent is to maintain and enhance the opportunities and security of future generations. Stewardship actions must be viable and acceptable to the present day stakeholders, at the same time as being motivated with respect to future generations.

Regarding system durability, there are important time horizons related to the stability and finiteness of stewardship strategies. This applies to institutional matters and also to engineering solutions. Institutional arrangements, including financial conditions, workforce and legal frameworks, can change quite quickly (on a scale of a few years) even when clear and ‘binding’ agreements have been made. The prevailing frameworks of government and of governance can also change rapidly (the rise and fall of political regimes) but in a deeper sense change more slowly (the rise and fall of civilizations). Therefore, the durability of stewardship for the longer term will depend on rooting the stewardship function in cultural values, purposes and understanding. This may be referred to as the archaeological time frame.

Technological solutions (such as near surface containment), when put in place with attention to environmental and geological conditions and with a view to durability, can be proposed reliably for time horizons ranging from decades to hundreds of years. The longer the time horizon, the greater the extent to which performance is associated with the properties of natural systems and is, therefore, dependent on these. Therefore, in the longer term, a scientific characterization of natural processes is the determinant, and there is inevitably an element of indeterminacy associated with the long term evolution of natural processes. This may be referred to as the geological time frame.

These various considerations lead to the recognition of three time frames as being complementary for stewardship functions:

  • One generation (approximately 30 years);
  • Archaeological spans (of the order of 100 – 1000+ years);
  • Geological spans (e.g., 1000 – 10 000+ years).

The main challenges for stewardship relate to the transitions in the planning horizon between one generation (the present period of activity) and the archaeological and geological horizons.

The ‘nearer term’ stewardship challenges are more likely to gain support from stakeholders, because they will probably be based upon existing and proven methodologies. These challenges may be economic (discussed further in Section 5.2.10), technical or institutional ones, or may involve ownership or measurability of success. While there is always the likelihood that technology will advance over time, there will be less confidence in institutional or financial stability, as the recent past shows only too well.

Convincing stakeholders to accept a stewardship programme when the longer term issues are less developed will be a challenge in itself. The way in which the longer term challenges (responsibilities and obligations, etc.) are framed may have a substantial bearing on the acceptance, or non-acceptance, of the immediate ‘steps’ (or nearer term solutions). The mechanisms of involving stakeholders are very country and culture specific (e.g., see [IAEA-2002] and references therein).

It will, therefore, be important to incorporate within the longer term process a mechanism that will allow a reappraisal of the control measures and financial provision on a regular basis (this may be a 25 or 50 year period, for example).

For the longer term issues, although very real and significant, satisfactory answers may not be attainable. The pursuit of those answers will probably be very expensive, and demonstrating progress on an annual basis might be difficult. A lack of demonstrable progress for the resources expended can undermine a programme’s credibility in general. Therefore, it was suggested to pursue the longer term issues by a different means. The very act of continuing nearer term activities is likely to clarify actual longer term needs. It must be noted, however, that with this approach, while circumventing the possible paralysing effect of having to design for millennia, there may be no guarantee that the nearer term activities are continued for any length of time beyond, say, one generation. Such a separation allows, at least, a definition of stewardship to be made from the bottom or from an implementation viewpoint. The danger in defining stewardship from the top down and building a stewardship programme in this way is that the definition and resultant programme to fulfil the responsibilities of a top-down definition must be excessively broad and all-encompassing to be capable of handling every conceivable eventuality. While there may be no direct solutions to maintaining the ability to manage long term stewardship for thousands of years, focusing on shorter term (100 years or so) solutions will keep people involved at the site, which will allow for evaluation of the changes required over time. If too much energy is spent on trying to solve the problems of 2234 with today’s knowledge, opportunities may be lost to take the best decisions for the short term and unreasonable or unrealistic solutions may be recommended for the long term.

5.2.1.2 Management of trust, constancy and learning

Three management challenges for long term stewardship are recognized and are:

  • Obtaining and maintaining public trust;
  • Achieving institutional constancy or ensuring continuity of long term stewardship activities over many generations;
  • Learning from past and ongoing experience as technological and management means for implementing long term stewardship are developed.

Further, there is also some relevant experience in the operation of high reliability organizations as well as in the management of natural resources. Organizational tasks requiring high reliability, such as air traffic control, require high levels of trust, both within the operating organization and in its social environment. A central finding of studies of organizations that need to demonstrate high reliability is that public confidence in them reflects the way in which the operations of the organization are carried out. Not only is the substance of long term stewardship affected by choices made in the clean-up process but so also is the social setting in which long term stewardship will be conducted. That setting is critically important to the ability of stewards to discharge their responsibilities. By several organizations it has been recognized the importance of trust, constancy and learning in long term stewardship as indicated in a recent report [USNRC-2003], which contains advice about means for maintaining and enhancing public trust, characteristics associated with institutional constancy and recommendations on institutional learning.

5.2.1.3 Management decision making in the presence of large uncertainties

There are several management questions arising specifically from the long term character of stewardship. These include, on the one hand, the presence of large uncertainties about physical system stability and change and, on the other hand, the impossibility of resolving in advance the socio-economic and institutional dimensions, such as identification of stakeholders, funding mechanisms, communication, and retention and management of records, over very long time periods.

The conclusions for decisions taken in the present are usually based on monitoring and/or observations. However, for the future, decisions are model based and bound to a range of uncertainties. The potential failures resulting from uncertainties may imply or result in a range of ‘active decisions’ by the steward.

Two main types of uncertainty can be distinguished according to the time frame:

  • Uncertainties about the result of the assessment after remediation under normal conditions, leading to the decision in the present (e.g., data gaps in the inventory, insufficient site characterization or insufficient engineering quality).
  • Uncertainties about the future. These cover both the nature and the range of natural phenomena/‘events’ in the future and the influence of the passage of time on the internal evolution of the designed structures/processes.

All models are back-calibrated to observations made of phenomena during the past few centuries or even just decades, which is a limited period of time compared with the long term for which predictions are to be made. This problem has become obvious in recent years when, for example, predictions of 200 or 1000 year flood events in Central Europe naturally failed because the underlying database only spans 150 years at most.

Some of these uncertainties in our knowledge of a site’s properties and behaviour are discussed in more detail.

5.2.1.4 Identification of possible stewardship organizations

A stewardship organization must be a long-lived entity. This increases the probability that the steward will exist long enough to perform the stewardship responsibilities during the mandated institutional control period. On the basis of this premise, a corporate entity may not be an appropriate long term steward because site integrity could be jeopardized by profit driven decisions to transfer title and responsibility for a site, or by dissolution of the corporation.

In general, the majority of projects on establishing stewardship programmes tacitly assume that national governments continues to exist indefinitely as an entity. Therefore, in the case of failure of institutional control, it is assumed that there is always a higher level organization that is capable of taking corrective action. Thus, stewardship is reduced to providing for the necessary mechanism of making these ‘higher’ authorities aware of any violation. If the past is an indication of future development, this might be a correct assumption for the next two hundred years or so. However, many places in the world have seen substantial changes in governance since the late 1700s and such assumptions may not be valid at all. It is for these types of concern that designs that minimize the need for long term stewardship and that are likely to function whether governmental structures are available or not are preferred.

A number of institutions have survived a considerable length of time and are still functioning more or less in the same way. Examples include the papacy/Vatican (around 2000 years), Mecca (close to 1400 years), the Royal Society of United Kingdom and Académie Française (about 350 years) and the British Museum (270 years). In addition, there are various monuments and other examples of civil engineering that are know to have been in operation (or are still in operation) for hundreds of years, including Roman public baths and water supply systems, the Forbidden City in Beijing (about 600 years) and the Taj Mahal (about 350 years). Some states have survived for remarkable periods of time, if not in territorial integrity, at least as a concept, including the Kingdom of Egypt, the Chinese Empire, the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire and some modern states in Europe such as Spain, France and The Netherlands.

At some stage, museums were claimed to be candidate institutions, but they must be active and ‘living’ museums, such as the British Museum. However, the second world war and recent events in, for example Iraq, show that museums are by no means safe. It may be worthwhile to review the properties that made these institutions survive 200+ years. Retaining momentum in public interest appears to be one of the properties required, and is particularly associated with religious institutions. There must be a sustained interest in the services of or values represented by an institution. Thus, longevity is linked to cultural or spiritual values. Conversely, there are many institutions or civil engineering structures that were intended for eternity but that have not survived or which do not fulfil their function any more, for example, the Egyptian pyramids, where the societal context ceased to exist. Some civil engineering structures, on the other hand, seem to have attained a new spiritual value, for example certain megalithic structures, that ensures their continued preservation.

In essence, the longevity of institutions appears to be linked to the relationship built between them and the society, or succession of societies, to which they belong. Similarly, the fact that certain human-made structures have survived in a well preserved and maintained state appears to be linked to society maintaining an active interest in these.

It should be noted that such interest can be both positive and negative, that it can be something that is sought after or something that is to be avoided.