Governance systems are collections of rights, rules, and decisionmaking procedures that give rise to social practices, assign roles to the participants in these practices, and guide the behavior of the occupants of these roles. Such systems may be more or less formalized and more or less extensively administered.
Definitions of various features of governance systemsConstitutive Basis of governance systems: The constitutive basis for formal and legal arrangements resides in laws, constitutions, treaties, and so forth. Traditional arrangements feature informal social practices.
Bottom-up systems develop spontaneously or in a self-generating manner. The implementation of such systems does not require conscious effort on the part of public agencies. Top-down systems are designed, established, and administered by social agents (e.g. prime ministers or presidents) assigned to this role.
Vertical/Horizontal/Functional/Spatial Integration: Governance systems may be more or less integrated both horizontally and vertically, and may also be integrated across levels of social organization. The term multi-level governance refers to a sort of vertical integration.
Participation and Decision-Making: Many governance systems in the Arctic are unique in the degree of power-sharing and participatory decision-making involved, particularly with regard to local and indigenous communities. Examples include co-management regimes and indigenous self-government. Governance systems vary in the extent to which they provide opportunities for indigenous groups and local communities to participate either in the formulation of rules and regulations or in the implementation of the resultant arrangements. There are also recognized non-government stakeholders (e.g. ENGOs, industry groups, researchers, recreational users) who play a significant role in certain governance systems.