Consultation on Maritime Policy: the issue of Capacity Building

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We are witnessing the creation of an all-embracing European Maritime Policy as well as a European Marine Strategy. Both of them emerge as a result of the importance attributed to the European maritime dimension in the coming years. The vision is that of a Europe with a dynamic maritime economy, responsive to sustainable principles and in harmony with the marine environment.

This is an ambitious and forward-looking vision. In this context, the development of technical, human, and institutional capacities at the local, regional, national and trans-national levels, as a foundation for effective policy implementation, is essential. Capacity Building efforts will be required, among others, for critical aspects of marine policy making, ICZM, and in particular, for the implementation of an ecosystem-based spatial planning approach and of an integrated management approach, both of which cut across traditional sectoral policies. Needless to say, these innovative strategies being considered in the new maritime policy and strategy will place a heavy burden on the existing educational and training institutions and resources.

This challenge becomes even more apparent when looking at the Green Paper’s set of general principles for maritime policy making, namely: (i) procedures to ensure the integration of the best technical and scientific advice available; (ii) consultation of, preferably, all relevant stakeholders; (iii) identification of institutional competences and means for cooperation, collaboration, coordination, and integration; (iv) promotion of sea related issues in EU policies paying particular attention to the coherence among objectives; and (v) inclusion of targets against which to assess implementation performance. Nevertheless, the document does not contemplate the fact that, in order to deal with the difficulties of introducing this set of principles into traditional sectorial frameworks, a new generation of policymakers, planners and managers and/or the reorientation of existing ones will be paramount.

Furthermore, and despite the planning and management challenges that the development and implementation of such an ambitious policy might entail, the document does not reflect on the need to assess the capacity building needs of the policy-makers, planners and managers that will be preparing and pushing the process at different levels (from policy training, for high level decision-makers, to technical training and basic skill development geared to operational personnel, see Assessment of training needs.

Two points need to be highlighted before entering into the core of the discussion.

First, it is important to recall that ICZM is recognised as an essential tool to achieve the sustainable development of coastal areas by most international organizations (e.g. The World Bank, UNEP) and has been adopted as a leading concept in key international conventions (e.g. Biodiversity, Climate Change). Furthermore, according to the Commission of the European Communities,the comprehensive, goal-oriented and problem led character of ICZM, within the context of a comprehensive maritime policy for the EU, offers a distinct added-value compared to some of the traditional, rigid planning and management systems. Moreover, ICZM would contribute to ensure coherence between policies, plans and programmes at different scales of intervention. Working at different scales and across administrative and sectoral boundaries remains a formidable challenge, but is central to achieving integration. The overall result should be greater clarity, certainty and predictability of policy and decision-making. This will facilitate the sustainable development of maritime economies and enhance the livelihoods of coastal communities[1].

ICZM has shown that it could become the instrument to link terrestrial to marine legislation, especially on a regional sea level

Evaluation of ICZM in Europe –Final Report Rupprecht Consult & International Ocean Institute 2006, p.10

During the last decades, a considerable amount of experience has been gathered on capacity building through ICZM initiatives which can be of great value when implementing the future maritime policy. This is especially the case if we recognize that the full implementation of responsibilities embodied in the new maritime policy requires capacity building approaches and strategies to increase regional and local governance capacity for coastal and ocean resource management, including technical capacity and financial resources. International experience in capacity building for ICZM may help considerably in this task. However, a word of caution is necessary: known cases and lessons learned indicate that the process of capacity building could be rather long.

Second, current trends in capacity building points out the benefits of promoting a policy that would support the necessary human and institutional development, putting greater emphasis on the capacity development process itself, on local ownership of its process and on equal partnership in its support[2]. In this task, existing experience in the creation of institutional arrangements for integrated coastal management as well as for ocean management initiatives in Europe should also be considered, as successful examples exist in integrating diverse sectors and interests as well as the local community, in the planning and implementation process. For instance, there are excellent examples within NW Europe of coastal partnership with the creation of coordination mechanisms and consultative approaches that cut across traditional sectoral boundaries (e.g. Severn Estuary Partnership in the UK –see Box 1).

Box 1: Severn Estuary Partnership

Set up in 1995, the Severn Estuary Partnership is an independent, estuary -wide initiative led by local authorities and statutory agencies, and working with all those involved in the management of the estuary, from planners to port authorities, fishermen to farmers and many more.

The Severn Estuary Strategy was launched in 2001 after several years of work developing consensus and agreement. It now provides a strategic management framework.

The Partnership brings people together to resolve problems and realise opportunities. They currently:

  • Provide mechanisms to improve communication
  • Encourage a partnership approach
  • Are a focal point for research
  • Highlight examples of good practice
  • Source funding for new projects

The Partnership provides secretariat services for a number of groups, including the Joint Estuary Groups Initiative.

Source: Severn Estuary Partnership

Organization of the present contribution

The following is a brief overview of the Green Paper from the capacity building viewpoint, focusing on how the document deals with the human and institutional development issues that such a maritime policy will face. Bearing in mind that the Green Paper dovetails with the Lisbon Strategy, a future maritime policy might consider to incorporate a capacity building component that provides the framework for developing a thriving maritime economy, in an environmentally sustainable manner[3].

In order to substantiate the above recommendation, and based on the previous discussion on how the Green Paper deals with the three major elements of capacity development, namely, Human Development, Institutional development and Awareness Building, this paper will discuss the following topics:

  • Capacity Building for a successful implementation of a truly ‘integrated’ Maritime Policy: this section of the paper will discuss specific requirements for effective capacity building in view of the new vision embodied in the Green Paper, taking into consideration existing capabilities en Europe, together with a few examples of success stories. Special attention is given to key issues that merit special consideration in order to initiate a capacity building process that may provide effective support to the implementation of the Maritime Policy.
  • Recommendations: this part of the paper summarizes the previous discussion and highlights the most relevant elements for the future.

Capacity Building for a successful implementation of a truly 'integrated' Maritime Policy

When considering the human and institutional challenges embodied in the new Maritime Policy, the importance of Capacity Building comes to the fore. This new vision will not be feasible without new perspectives in the development of personnel (e.g. training of planners, managers, policy-makers and decision-makers), as well as a fundamental reforms/adaptations of the institutions, especially those responsible for territorial planning, that are to be articulated with the new proposed marine spatial planning system (as suggested in the Green Paper) (Suárez de Vivero, J.L., personal communication).

The Evaluation Report on the implementation of ICZM in Europe[4] provides some recommendations regarding human capacity building that are worth mentioning here (Marchand, M., personal communication). The report highlights the fact that a crucial issue in the implementation of ICZM is the understanding and ownership of stakeholders regarding the approach for sustainable development. The promotion of awareness, guidance, training and education are considered as important means to foster such ownership.

It is generally accepted that capacity building starts with awareness. Within Europe, there are many local ICZM projects which play an important role in promoting awareness raising of coastal issues (e.g. Morecambe Bay Strategy and its Bay Watch newsletter). Also, in the UK context, the BBC television series Coast is very popular, raising general public awareness and is now into its third series (Ballinger, R., personal communication).

Another good example of an awareness campaign in the Netherlands is the Week of the Sea, which is held every year and includes many activities that attract attention of local people and tourist alike (Marchand, M, personal communication)

In the medium term, an excellent example is provided by the International Wadden Sea School (IWSS) -a cross-border educational project for school classes from the Wadden Sea countries Denmark, Germany and The Netherlands. Initiated by the “Trilateral Cooperation for the Protection of the Wadden Sea”, the aim of the IWSS is to enhance the awareness of the Wadden Sea as a shared natural heritage and to create an understanding among young people for the need to protect and sustainably manage the Wadden Sea region as a whole[5].

Despite these encouraging examples, according to the Evaluation Report, the challenges are considerable: sectoral thinking has to be overcome, knowledge of basic economic, ecological, and social processes has to be 'translated', and the ability to cooperate across spatial boundaries and scales has to be trained, taking collective decisions on a complex topic such as coastal development (p.231).

Key Issues under consideration

The following is a summary of the most important issues (or limitations) in the present capacity development arrangements in Europe. Each of the bullet points includes a short explanation to facilitate the understanding of the relevance of each issue and its interrelationship with other issues, if pertinent.

  • Lack of integrated and strategic consideration of Capacity Building (CB) as an essential component of any action, both at the planning and management levels
  • Lack or limited funding, specifically earmarked for CB

The lack of strategic consideration given to capacity building is a concern. An integrated strategy to incorporate CB is a vital part of the process for achieving sustainable human development. This means having a commitment to methodically build human and institutional capacity. Today, when examining the public information/documentation provided on ICZM projects, it is quite difficult to find information on their capacity component, which still appears more as an ad-hoc element rather than part and parcel of a project or an ICZM initiative. If this situation is accompanied with limited funding or the available resources are not specifically earmarked for human or institutional development, the capacity component remains weak or is not clearly defined, instead of being an integral part of a project or initiative. The capacity component should go hand-in-hand with the overall planning and management aims of a project, otherwise its effectiveness will suffer.

  • Need to develop wider recognition of the role of training and education in ICZM, particularly in view of the forthcoming implementation of major European marine and coastal related strategies and plans as well as the EU's encouragement for the development of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM)

There is an urgent need to develop wider recognition of the role of training and education in ICZM. This should be accompanied with a broad range of CB products to meet the needs of forthcoming projects and programmes. The training and education strategy should include technical training, developing curriculum at all levels of education (primary, secondary and tertiary) and building awareness among all interested stakeholders including elected officials and the general public, in an effort to create a wide public-based constituency of support regarding the importance of ICZM. Technical training should be task-oriented with the outputs feeding into the management process.

  • Difficulties for gathering dispersed information and knowledge regarding existing resources for CB

Despite the richness of European CB resources available, at the moment, there are many difficulties for gathering dispersed information and knowledge regarding existing resources for capacity building. Initiatives such as ENCORA in surveying existing resources and developing a European database comparative analysis of education and training programmes and corresponding materials will greatly assist in this matter. It would be excellent to also gather information on skill development opportunities (training courses) at the project level and existing public awareness initiatives.

  • Lack of effective mechanisms for capacity needs assessment, both for addressing human as well as institutional capacity priorities and enable an effective and realistic planning and management of CB programmes at the regional and local levels
  • Need to adhere to more rigorously capacity assessment techniques and prevent duplication of efforts while at the same time make more effective use of existing resources

Capacity needs assessment is a prerequisite before any successful action is undertaken. There is a need to know both what is available and what is lacking, in order to have a realistic view of capacity needs. Without the knowledge of existing capabilities and gaps as well as needs at the institutional and individual levels, no realistic CB strategy (and associated plan of action) can be formulated. The benefits of this approach are multiple. By knowing what resources are available, all beneficiaries can make an effective use of them; by identifying what is needed, duplication of efforts is avoided and more cost effective, interventions can be made, thus avoiding ‘fragmentation’ and ‘isolated’ approaches that lack sustainability. This approach promotes an efficient use of available funding by centring the efforts only on priority needs (for more information see Needs assessment and Capacity Building Needs Associated to the ICZM Cycle).

  • In many cases, the CB framework in use seem to be unfit for the purpose of implementing ICZM and remote from the needs of local ICZM planners and managers

In the majority of countries the traditional framework for capacity building is used. This framework consists in using short-term approaches – generally one time events and ad-hoc endeavours - mainly focussing on gathering technical knowledge about specific issues. It uses training and education as their main vehicles for action. Sometimes, however, they are unfit for the specific needs of ICZM or do not address planning and management requirements at the local level. The new CB framework involves a system perspective, that addresses various levels of capacities (i.e. capacities of institutions, and individual capacities, at various levels) and the use of a diversity of CB products simultaneously, as shown in the example of the Thames Estuary (see Box 2).

Box 2: The Thames Estuary Management Plan

The Thames Estuary Management Plan was produced using a consensual process through The Thames Estuary Partnership (TEP) which provides a neutral forum for local authorities, national agencies, industry, voluntary bodies and local communities to work together for the good of the Thames Estuary. The consensual approach was adopted in order to encourage understanding between user groups and to promote a sense of ownership among stakeholders. The education component of the project includes: a) Education leaflets; b) In the Know: Education Action Plan; c) the Thames Energy Education Pod; and d) Wish Fish.

The Thames Estuary Partnership has produced a small foldout leaflet which covers issues associated with the Thames Estuary in a fun, easy to follow way, suitable for age 12 upwards. Each topic is described in easy to understand words, descriptive pictures and diagrams.

In the Know: Education Action Plan is part of the larger Management Guidance for the Thames Estuary: Today’s Estuary for Tomorrow: Strategy. The aim is to increase awareness of the estuary as an important resource. Its principle is to promote public awareness, understanding, and enjoyment of the estuary, with an emphasis on safety and responsibility. The Partnership will promote this through education and awareness initiatives.

The Thames Estuary Education Pod (TEEP) was developed with the aim of increasing understanding and raising awareness of offshore renewable energy issues in the outer Thames Estuary. The TEEP will challenge young people (8-15 years old) to think about the issues and key messages. The TEEP is a visually attractive display with a large map of the estuary that will make the concept of renewable energy more tangible to young people in a fun and informative way.

Wish Fish are designed to help the Thames Estuary Partnership assess the level of community understanding regarding water quality issues, biodiversity and recreational opportunities on the River Thames. Children are asked to colour in different species of fish, all of which can be found in the Thames. Children are then asked to make a wish regarding the future of the river.

Source: Thames estuary management plan

This approach puts greater emphasis on the capacity development process itself, on local ownership of its process and on equal partnership in its support. This new approach uses a much longer perspective and relies upon gains previously obtained via e.g. prior early training and awareness building activities. At the individual level, CB also refers to the process of changing attitudes and behaviours e.g. as exemplified in the case of the Thames Estuary initiative, while also imparting knowledge and developing skills and maximizing the benefits of participation, knowledge exchange and ownership.

  • The science-practice-policy divide

There is a strong need for capacity building in the area of research to underpin the proposed EU maritime policy. Specifically, there is a need for capacity building which will encourage a ‘paradigm shift’ among researchers, reconciling natural science and social science methodologies, leading to a more holistic approach to maritime research. This is an interesting challenge with the specific capacity building aimed at universities and other research institutes. However, this is not enough as the paradigm shift will be required in response to research undertaken to both drive AND inform EU maritime policy (AMRIE, personal communication). From this perspective, capacity building will be required to improve the understanding between researchers, practitioners and policy-makers (Ballinger, R., personal communication).

For instance, how the maritime policy is to be regulated and operationalised is not totally clear. Following recent examples of implementation of EU policy (e.g. the Water Framework Directive), it is obvious that there will be a need for capacity building for all those actors responsible for interpreting the policy and/or regulation and putting it into practice. In this regard, AMRIE (personal communication) feels that an over-arching structure would be required to ensure that all actors understand the needs and capabilities of each other. A major challenge will be to include trained professionals able to utilize research based knowledge within existing institutional structures and some lead will be needed from European institutions.

Box 3: ENCORA Coordination Action

In Europe, the capacity to generate knowledge for sustainable coastal development is spread over many hundreds of institutes and research groups. Many hundreds of institutions have responsibility for coastal policy-making and coastal management. Many similarities exist in the research and management tasks carried out by this large number of organisations. However, the links existing at present within and between the coastal science and practitioner communities are weak, as most of the existing research network and technology platforms are still sector-based. Europe is not yet capable to take advantage of its scale to efficiently tackle the challenges posed by the future of our coasts.

ENCORA aims to overcome existing fragmentation, to bridge the gap between science-practice-policy, and to take advantage of the EU-scale. The ENCORA Consortium is formed by the institutes coordinating National Networks and/or Thematic Networks. The National Coordination Offices primarily focus on the process of networking, while the TCO focus primarily on the content of networking. They coordinate the Thematic Networks, consisting of European survey studies and dissemination of knowledge, tools and practices in a WIKI Coastal Directory and the elaboration of European Action Plans.

ENCORA has developed several networking services. These services are freely offered to coastal professionals:

  • Contact database: a database with information on persons, institutes and projects related to ICZM in Europe.
  • Forum: a platform for discussion within ENCORA, the whole scientific community, policy makers, the industry and the public at large
  • Websearch: search the internet for Integrated Coastal Zone Management information
  • Search mechanism: ENCORA facilitates contact search for all coastal professionals working in the ENCORA partner countries on problems related to coastal management, policy or science
  • YPEP: Young Professionals Exchange Programme: young professionals can apply for financial support (travel grants) for participation in the programme

Source: ENCORA Portal

  • The science-local knowledge divide

A very important aspect is the strengthening of cooperation between regional and local initiatives with national and regional research organisations. Research activities are often done without much interaction with local communities. Thus local knowledge is often ignored and not used. The local communities on the other hand, often have insufficient access to knowledge and information. Working together can therefore have mutual benefits. Ecosystem management needs a sound understanding of the ecosystems, and at he same time, participation of stakeholders at a local level. Building long lasting alliances between research institutes and stakeholder groups could be a mechanism for improved management (Marchand, M, personal communication).

An example is the initiative to develop a Waddensea Academy. This idea was raised a few years ago after a fierce discussion on whether or not to drill for gas in this intertidal natural area. Finally, the government decided to agree with the exploitation, but to use part of the revenues for a research institute fully dedicated to the Waddensea. Collaboration between existing universities and institutes as well as with local stakeholders would be essential for the success of such an institution. Although it is still too early to evaluate this initiative on its success, this could also be an example for other regional seas (Marchand, M., personal communication).

  • Lack of capabilities for implementing the ecosystem-based approach

AMRIE[6] feels very strongly that the capabilities in ecosystem management are very poor. There is a widespread misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the nature of the ecosystem based approach to management. This approach was developed and successfully applied in the fisheries areas. Its application to other areas, e.g. development projects and recently the general marine/maritime area, has not always been so successful. Additionally, even where the approach is understood, its operationalisation is not clearly defined. Key elements that need re-enforcement include: (i) a clear definition of the ecosystem based approach to management – European level; (ii) guidelines as to how this can be operationalised- national/regional level; (iii) relationship with existing ICZM, shoreline, estuary management, marine spatial plans etc. – national/regional level; and (iv) best practice – local level (AMRIE, personal communication).

Some recommendations

The following steps/actions are recommended to improve the Marine Policy approach to capacity building:

  • Ensure the consideration of capacity building as a necessary element in the implementation of the Maritime Policy (Suárez de Vivero, J.L., personal communication)
  • Reflect on how emerging EU Maritime Policy goals can be supported through a realistic, well planned capacity building strategy for Europe
  • Assess trans-national issues, since the EU would gain additional value (Van der Wegen, M., personal communication)
  • At the trans-national level, make compulsory an ICZM capacity training component in all EU projects, both in terms of individuals and institutes, based on trans-national issues related to the coastal and marine realms. (Van der Wegen, M., personal communication)
  • Undertake national self-assessment capacity building needs
  • Take stock of ongoing efforts to assist national capacity building
  • Ensure reinforcement of institutions for planning and management (e.g. foster leadership and catalyze multi-sectoral and multi-institutional collaboration to sustain capacity building efforts)
  • Ensure the development of a capacity building strategy and of specific actions plans at the national, regional and local levels, to provide enhanced and sustained support to institutions in the process of developing human, technical and institutional capacity
  • Call for capacity development initiatives that enhance as much the local capacity where coastal management takes place as well as the top echelons where policy and top investment priorities are designated.
  • Differentiate between capacities according to different levels -from policy training, for high level decision-makers, to technical training and basic skill development geared to operational personnel1-, and scales -focus on short courses for professionals (main issue for the EU) and leave graduate education to local initiatives (Van der Wegen, M., personal communication)


  1. Report to the European Parliament and the Council: An evaluation of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) in Europe; Communication from the Commission, COM(2007) 308 final, Brussels, 7.6.2007
  2. Lafontaine, A., Assessment of Capacity Development Efforts of Other Development Cooperation Agencies. Capacity Development Initiative, GEF-UNDP Strategic Partnership, July 2000
  3. European Commission strategic objectives for 2005-2009
  4. Rupprecht Consult & International Ocean Institute, 2006, Evaluation of Integrated Coastal Zone Management in Europe –Final Report. Cologne, Germany
  5. International Wadden Sea School(IWSS)
  6. AMRIE: The Alliance of Maritime Regional Interests in Europe: An initiative of Members of the European Parliament, that was active till 2010


The ENCORA Thematic Network on ‘Capacity Building, Education and Training for ICZM in Europe’ has coordinated the elaboration of the following reaction to the Green Paper for the future EU Maritime Policy, with the constructive comments and suggestions from the following relevant experts and organizations:

  • AMRIE (the Alliance of Maritime Regional Interests in Europe)
  • Rhoda Ballinger -School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Sciences, Cardiff University
  • Marcel Marchand -WL|Delft Hydraulics
  • Jose Luis Suárez de Vivero –Department of Human Geography, Seville University
  • Stella Maris Vallejo – UN (retired)
  • Mick Van der Wegen, UNESCO-IHE

Special thanks to Stella Maris Vallejo for her hard work and invaluable assistance

Iñigo J. Losada – Thematic Network Coordinator Instituto de Hidráulica Ambiental (IH Cantabria), Universidad de Cantabria

External links