Legal principles prescribe what should be contained within laws and their associated administrative and implementation arrangements. Legal principles can be inferred, inter alia, from international instruments, national legislation, judicial decisions or custom. Different legal instruments will contain different rules, worded differently; legal principles can be traced across instruments at different levels. A focus on principles can help the researcher avoid becoming mired in the details of particular legal instruments.
The framework evaluates implementation of the principle across four levels, comparing what is found in practice to what would be expected with full implementation. These levels are:
- (1) the translation of the principle into laws of the state;
- (2) the creation of necessary institutional and administrative arrangements;
- (3) appropriate behaviour by people and organisations; and
- (4) social and ecological outcomes.
The approach can be applied across a whole country, or regions within a country. It can be used to evaluate rules and institutions in many jurisdictions, to stimulate critical debate about the effectiveness and fairness of natural resources law. The most important outcome of evaluation is not a precise judgment about how effective (or not) is a legal arrangement. Of far greater importance is the usefulness of an objective evaluation to enable constructive dialogue about improving the outcomes of natural resources governance.