A key finding of Ostrom’s work is that effective rules are more likely to arise in situations where those who have an immediate stake in overcoming common-pool resource problems are actively involved in shaping and enforcing governance arrangements.
When communities make rules for themselves, they have strong incentives to make the rules work and to learn from their mistakes. When locally established rules and property rights are not respected by higher tiers of governance, and especially when higher authorities respond to the demands of external interest groups to allow access to a resource base, then common-pool resource systems may be highly fragile.
This has been a particular problem in many parts of the developing world, where local customary rights to use forests and other resources have often been overridden by national governments responding to the demands of either domestic or international business interests in resource-extraction industries.
Similarly, in contexts where central authorities assume responsibility for determining most of the rules that govern the use of resources, there will be a diminished incentive for those involved at the local level to find ways of devising their own governance arrangements.