Effectively evaluating the governance of natural resources is a precondition for its improvement in contexts of change. In order to do so, one can use methods for evaluating (1) the outcome of a governance process or (2) the governance process itself. Outcome-oriented and process-oriented approaches have different strengths and weaknesses. This paper explores the challenges associated with both options when applied to European biodiversity and water governance – namely the implementation of the Habitats Directive (Natura 2000 network) and the Water Framework Directive.
Current evaluation practice, concerned with governance processes for EU policy implementation, focuses mainly on outcomes. In this paper, we examine the methodology involved and argue that, for three reasons, it makes sense to combine the two approaches: a normative reason, relating to standards of good governance; a substantive reason, relating to the complexity of the system to be governed; and a third, instrumental, reason relating to the task of policy evaluation and implementation itself. Combining outcome- and process-oriented evaluation of governance processes is not without caveats, but it appears a promising approach in the light of current problems in European governance of natural resources. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.