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Definition of Integrated Coastal Zone Management:
Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) is a process for the management of the coast using an integrated approach, regarding all aspects of the coastal zone, including geographical and political boundaries, in an attempt to achieve sustainability.

This concept was borne in 1992 during the Earth Summit of Rio de Janeiro. The policy regarding ICZM is set out in the proceedings of the summit within Agenda 21, Chapter 17.

The European Commission defines ICZM as “a dynamic, multidisciplinary and iterative process to promote sustainable management of coastal zones. It covers the full cycle of information collection, planning (in its broadest sense), decision making, management and monitoring of implementation. ICZM uses the informed participation and cooperation of all stakeholders to assess the societal goals in a given coastal area, and to take actions towards meeting these objectives. ICZM seeks, over the long-term, to balance environmental, economic, social, cultural and recreational objectives, all within the limits set by natural dynamics. 'Integrated' in ICZM refers to the integration of objectives and also to the integration of the many instruments needed to meet these objectives. It means integration of all relevant policy areas, sectors, and levels of administration. It means integration of the terrestrial and marine components of the target territory, in both time and space”[1].
This is the common definition for Integrated Coastal Zone Management, other definitions can be discussed in the article

The specific character of coastal zones

A well-informed science-based coastal zone management strategy embedded in an adequate social, institutional and legal framework, can prevent many future coastal problems. This is now usually called ICZM, Integrated Coastal Zone Management. As far as the technical aspects are concerned, experienced coastal authorities are capable to overview most of the coastal engineering issues associated with the future developments of the coastal zone. However, ICZM requires a broader view of coastal issues. ICZM is a governance process for the coastal zone, which differs from usual territorial governance processes due to its specific characteristics:

  1. The coastal zone has no fixed administrative boundary; it is defined by the environmental (physical, ecological) interaction processes between the land environment and the marine environment.
  2. The coastal zone has no dedicated government; coastal zone governance is an interplay of several local, regional and national institutions with different mandates and responsibilities.
  3. The coastal zone environment (the physical and ecological state) is highly dynamic due to the interaction processes between the land environment and the marine environment.
  4. Settlements in low-lying densely coastal zones are very vulnerable to extreme climatic events and to the impact climate change (sea level rise, in particular).

Because of these particular characteristics many studies and experiments have been carried out for defining a coherent ICZM governance process for coastal zones. Studies and experiments for developing and implementing ICZM are listed in the category Integrated Coastal Zone Management.

Why it is difficult to put ICZM in practice

The problems with which coastal zones are confronted often have an insidious character, think, for example, of urban or touristic development, decline of biodiversity or climate change and sea level rise. When problems are perceived as urgent the situation is already irreversibly deteriorated. Who feels responsible for a well-balanced future-proof development of the coastal zone? Different interests in the coastal zone are represented at the national level by different parties. Often the local government is the only body that is responsible for weighing and integrating different interests. But the means to do so are limited, because in general the situation is that:

  • local authorities can be overruled by sectoral bodies on a higher governance level (region, state);
  • local authorities have little or no staff with good knowledge of the complex interactions that take place in the coastal zone;
  • local authorities have limited financial resources for monitoring and assessment of the state of the coast and for restoration measures;
  • local authorities have limited (man)power to enforce regulations;
  • The local interests that local authorities represent are often short-term interests.

Public participation and civil organisations (NGOs) are therefore of crucial importance for implementing ICZM.

ICZM implementation

The natural and social characteristics of different parts of the coastal zone can be highly diverse. Coastal zone policy can therefore be determined only partly at the national level. The primary focus at national level is to establish a legal, institutional and administrative framework for integrated coastal zone management. Of crucial importance is the institutional embedding of the ICZM process. The institutional framework must provide the mandate and resources for the local implementation of ICZM. The coastal zone is constantly evolving through natural and socio-economic processes. ICZM should therefore not consist of a series of incidental actions, but should be shaped as a continuous process that goes through a fixed cycle according to the schedule:

Plan development => Implementation => Monitoring => Evaluation => Plan revision => Implementation => Monitoring => Evaluation, etc.

This cycle is implemented at both local and national level:

  • At local level, concrete plans are developed and carried out in consultation with all local stakeholders;
  • At national level, plans are endorsed and mandate and resources are allocated for implementation.

The cycle period should be adjusted to the rate at which developments take place in the coastal zone. A cycle of one year may be too short; a cycle of 5 years or 10 years can be more appropriate. The cycle period at the local level may be shorter than at the national level.

In small countries with a homogeneous coastal zone (natural and socio-economical), local and national level can coincide. This will not be the case for large countries with very diverse coastal zones. Both at local and national level, sufficient expertise must be available to implement the ICZM policy cycle. At the national level, a coordinating ministry must be designated that steers the policy cycle at the national level. This coordinating ministry must have internally sufficient general ICZM expertise to coordinate coast-related policies of other ministries and be capable to mobilise expertise of public and private organizations on specific topics. At the local level, a department of local government has a similar role. This local responsible department must have particular expertise in the fields of planning, organizing public participation, administrative and technical implementation aspects and cooperation with private parties.

See also

General introductions to theory, practive and tools for ICZM can be found in the articles:

Some definitions of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM)
The Integrated approach to Coastal Zone Management (ICZM)
Policy instruments for integrated coastal zone management
Shoreline management

Other Coastal Wiki articles related to Integrated Coastal Zone Management are listed under the category IZCM.

Further reading

There is a comprehensive bibliography on ICZM. A selection of useful documents is indicated below.

Website European Commission with information about EU strategy (EU recommendation on ICZM of 30 May 2002 (2002/413/EC)) and ICZM information platforms. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/iczm/rec_imp.htm

Report on the state of the environment in the coastal areas of Europe. https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/eea_report_2006_6

Assessment of European coastal erosion policies in relation to ICZM (Conscience project 2010). http://www.conscience-eu.net/documents/deliverable11-assessment.pdf

Cummins, V., O Mahony, C., & Connolly, N. 2004. Review Of Integrated Coastal Zone Management & Principles Of Best Practice. https://www.ucc.ie/research/crc/papers/ICZM_Report.pdf

US National Coastal Zone Management Program. https://coast.noaa.gov/czm/

IOC 2006. A handbook for measuring the progress and outcomes of integrated coastal and ocean management. Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, Manuals and Guides, 46; ICAM Dossier, 2. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000147313

Martí, X., Lescrauwaet, A-K., Borg, M. and Valls, M. 2007. Indicators Guidelines To adopt an indicators-based approach to evaluate coastal sustainable development. Deduce project, Department of the Environment and Housing, Government of Catalonia. http://www.im.gda.pl/images/ksiazki/2007_indicators_guidelines.pdf

DEFRA 2008. A strategy for promoting an integrated approach to the management of coastal areas in England. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. http://www.southerncoastalgroup.org.uk/pdfs/DEFRA%20ICZM%20Strategy.pdf

OURCOAST database (2011) with lessons learned from the coastal management experiences and practices in European countries. https://climate-adapt.eea.europa.eu/metadata/portals/ourcoast-the-european-portal-for-integrated-coastal-zone-management

Thia-Eng, C. 1993. Essential elements of integrated coastal zone management. Ocean and Coastal Management 21:81-108


  1. COM(2000) 547 final

The main author of this article is Job Dronkers
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Citation: Job Dronkers (2019): Testpage1. Available from http://www.coastalwiki.org/wiki/Testpage1 [accessed on 16-09-2019]