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Why public participation is needed in ICZM

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Full participation of all stakeholders, including the general public, is considered to be a cornerstone of ICZM

One of the most successful measures to include a broad stakeholder involvement is the establishment of fora or partnerships. For most of the large estuaries in the UK -- the Thames, Severn, and Mersey -- as well as Morecambe Bay and the Dorset Coast, partnerships have been set up which are largely responsible, despite being non-statutory, for ICZM measures. These partnerships act by providing a neutral forum for local authorities, national agencies, industry, voluntary bodies and local communities to work together for the good of the coastline. In general, these partnerships provide a framework for the management of the estuary by co-ordinating a programme of projects and facilitating new projects. They provide the means for joint working, organisation of regular events and workshops and seeking to further the interests of local communities, local economies and the environment. When local communities are faced with national government decisions in which they have had no say, lack of understanding can quickly lead to distrust and feelings of resentment. A successful ICZM programme need not necessarily have the best technical content, but it does require public approval whilst meeting the needs of a large number of stakeholders. Those who depend upon the coastal zone are often the ones most aware of its value although they may still prefer short-term exploitation.

Ultimately it is the public’s attitude that determines society’s response to management decisions. Efforts to protect and develop an area in a sustainable way can only succeed if all those who work and live in the area are committed to this objective. When it does not ‘’buy into’’ the decisions taken by being actively engaged in the decision-making process, the public can often substantially delay, or even prevent, ICZM initiatives. Creating public awareness and fostering public participation may mean that more time is required for decisions to be taken, but experience shows that such an approach is ultimately more cost-effective. The absence of public awareness and the loss of confidence in management decisions and the regulatory process can create enormous constraints to ICZM implementation. Spatial development planning without the support of the local community may be a doomed exercise, yet there is still a widespread lack of public participation in coastal management worldwide.

See also

The main author of this article is Kreiken, Wouter
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.