European Action Plan Theme ICZM Participation and Implementation

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Summary of content

This document is a brief outline of the development of the European Action Plan (EAP) of the ENCORA theme ICZM Participation and Implementation. The goal of the European Action Plans is briefly described in #Objectives of the Action Plans. This European Action Plan is the result of workshops held at the ENCORA conference, held on 5 to 7 December 2007 in Paris. The workshop started with a broad variety of ideas which were then condensed down to nine topics of interest. It is advisable to read these nine topics of interest for those interested in public participation and governance. The nine topics were then further condensed into the final ENCORA Coastal and Marine Action Plan. This Action Plan addresses major shortcomings in knowledge and technology that presently hamper the implementation of sustainable coastal and marine management. The appendix provides details on the individual contributions to the workshop and participants.

Theme rationale

In a recent report drawn up by the European Commission on socio-economic costs and benefits of ICM, it was stated that one of the most essential features of ICM is stakeholder consultation and commitment. There are many benefits to public participation in environmental decision making viz.

  • The public become more knowledgeable and aware of the different coastal issues
  • Their knowledge and experience can be harnessed to improve plans and policies
  • There is a tendency for improved understanding and support for the decisions that have to be made
  • The process leads to greater openness or transparency in the decision-making process
  • There is generally less polarisation of viewpoints leading to less misunderstandings and disagreements
  • there is an increased tendency to ‘own’ the decision taken and for the participants to work together to move the process forward
  • It prevents unnecessary delays and costly objection processes, and eliminates aggrieved parties taking their cases to the courtrooms

As a consequence of poor participatory methods, the design of most investment projects hardly captures the expectations of the public at large or does not benefit from opportunities brought by local knowledge. In other cases, poor support from the public has forced local and national authorities to withdraw projects including those that would have contributed to restore the long-term resilience of coastal areas.

It is equally important to follow the status and progress of implementation of ICZM. ICZM has been on the EU agenda for a number of years and progress has been made. However, much remains to be done. It is important (primarily for policy makers, but also for other stakeholders) to monitor the progress of this implementation process. Employing a harmonized methodology with the capacity to share in the collection, interpretation, transformation and dissemination of information will add value immeasurably to the efforts of individual localities, regions and countries and help promote a collective and mutually supportive approach to tackling the challenges posed by coastal and marine issues.

Role of the Coastal Wiki in the development of the European Action Plans

Within the ENCORA project it was decided to develop the Coastal Wiki to provide the most effective tool for networking and dissemination of the state of the art.

For ENCORA theme ICZM Participation and Implementation, the Coastal Wiki contributions are listed in the category:Participation and governance in coastal management.

Current status

Public participation

In Europe, participation most often occurs at the consultation level, generally seen as attitude surveys, neighbourhood meetings and public hearings. Whilst a valid step towards full participation, when it is not combined with higher levels of participation it is not enough. Consultation alone means that there is no guarantee that “citizen concerns and ideas will be taken into account”. It is important to recognise that consultation is not full participation.

Although existing EU legislation provides a common basis for public participation in the EU, there are large differences between countries in public participation methods and practices, see Current status of public participation in ICZM.

ICZM implementation

So far the results collated from around coastal, EU Europe using the ICZM Progress Indicator show that ICZM is showing good evolution. The Progress Indicator mainly covers aspects of coastal planning and management that are in place and completed in practically all of the countries, even though a sectoral approach is still pre-dominant. However, in many countries a clear framework for ICZM is in existence although both adequate funding and the development of a strategy present the greatest problems. Nonetheless, in general other actions are being implemented which have a greater tendency towards integration. Quite clearly, further progress in ICZM still needs to be seen.

Objectives of the Action Plans

  • To identify the key scientific and technical issues for advancing sustainable management of our coastal and marine zones.
  • To identify major unresolved issues set by climate change, development pressure, trends in environmental quality and extreme events.
  • To provide a reference base for future coastal and marine research investments in Europe.

It was the intention to focus the action plans for the theme ICZM Participation and Implementation more on practices than on a future European research agenda. Other ENCORA themes focus on science’s contribution to coastal issues and to ICZM. Although public participation can be a very valid research topic, the theme ICZM Participation and Implementation focuses on public participation in practice: ICZM projects in Europe.

Initial identification of knowledge gaps and results of the forum discussions

The workshop started with inputs from the workshop attendants. These inputs were usually specific, concrete ideas which focused on small issues. These inputs were then clustered into 9 larger topics. The 9 topics are less specific than the original inputs, but provide a good overview. These 9 topics were then further clustered into the final agreed 2 action plans.

Nine topics of interest

  • How is participation done in practice?

Research needed involving governments

  • What is and what is not participation in coastal issues?

Should result in guidelines Identify key issues/parameters/issues

  • Use knowledge of the public of people really working on the coast
  • Trying to understand the process of governance (participation is only part of this), focusing on process indicators
  • Role of the local authorities in coastal conflicts in coastal municipalities

Public opinion poll Make a survey on what the authorities are doing. End result: guidelines on how to do better: use local authorities as facilitators to implement ICZM

  • Conflict resolution guidelines to be used by local and regional authorities

or alternatively: analysis of what exists already and if it works or not

  • Better collaboration between scientists and managers/policy matters

For instance: develop practical tools to reach a common view or a coastal issue + understand the feeling and thinking of people + punt Kathy: scientist must also be prepared to spend some time with translator + criterium of relevance of scientific research scientists must make a sythesis (1/what is relevant)

  • How to involve local knowledge with practical experience

Continued information dissemination What: dissemination of ICZM principles to general public

  • Standardise the method of participation across Europe

Understanding the principles of governance Leading to a diagram with different issues How? Through legislation? Using legislation only when legislation has shown to work. Alternatives: guidelines for participation or a fixed sum in ICZM project budgets for participation.

Agreed Final Action plans

TITLE Setting the parameters for public participation in the ICZM governance framework
WHY to improve consistency and efficiency of public participation in coastal EU
WHAT descriptive model of effective PP within the ICZM governance framework; PP standards (definition, objectives, targets), process indicators (do countries/regions have facilitating system, is it working etc) and guidance
HOW comparative research of current PP practices within the ICZM governance framework; defining objectives, targets and PP process indicators; testing and refining the indicators

TITLE Managing the dialogue/communication process between science, administration, and the public on ICZM matters in the most efficient and effective way
WHY Communication problems are hampering the implementation of ICZM (self-centeredness, cultural differences between sectors and disciplines etc)
WHAT analysing communication problems, assessing available methods and approaches from outside and within the ICZM context; compiling and adapting them
HOW communication tool box (incl use of indicators, social science involvement, visualisation tools, awareness raising, social-technical network (with “translators”), conflict resolution)

Themes 1 and 2 have independently developed an almost identical action for the action plan. This is very surprising and shows the importance of the issue at hand if both groups independently consider this a priority, although under different names. Theme 1 has a priority named ‘Making sciences talk to society to improve coastal systems sustainability’ and in theme 2 this is called ’Managing the dialogue/communication process between science, administration, and the public on ICZM matters in the most efficient and effective way’. Both workshops address the same issue: the gap between different sciences, specifically social and natural sciences and between science and policy and practice. This issue is of course larger than just the coastal and marine community. However, due to the integrated nature of ICZM, this gap becomes very apparent and an obstruction to the successful implementation of ICZM. The chosen methods to bridge this gap differ between themes 1 and 2, but both themes acknowledge that bridging this gap will take time and effort and therefore methods are based on the long term. The ENCORA network suffers from this as well: scientists are overrepresented within the network, with under-representation of policymakers and practitioners. Themes 1 and 2 suggest that proactive measures for integration between science and practice should be recognised as a priority action for ENCORA and the EU to address.


List of participants

Name Institute
Alan Pickaver EUCC
Wouter Kreiken EUCC
Irene Lucius EUCC
Kathy Belpaeme VLIZ
Pierpaolo Campostrini CORILA
Manuela de los Rios CoastNet
Frank Ahlhorn ICBM, University of Oldenburg
Pedro Fernandez Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain
George Ggogberidze Russian State Hydrometeorological University
Plink Nikolay Russian State Hydrometeorological University
Amy Diedrich IMEDEA
Joe Ducomble IMI
Guy Fontenelle Agrocampus Rennes
Xavier Lafon
Nicole Lenotre BRGM

Original contributions from participants to the workshop:


WHY ' It is obvious that the implementation of integrated methods of coastal management requires the development of direct interaction between Local Municipality Authorities (Administrations) and the inhabitants. One of the main tasks of Local Authorities is search the most optimal decisions for local conditions and correct implementation of these decisions. And authorities, from one side, and inhabitants involving to the decision-making process and to the process of strategic planning of the Local Municipality development, from another side, will the regulation tool for lowering of the communication conflict level.


  • Elaboration of analysis methods for search of main weak points in the interaction of Local Authorities and inhabitants.
  • Making the tool for estimation of communication conflict level in different coastal municipalities as well as the level of public participation of the decision-making process.
  • Development of recommendations on strengthening a role of public participation and regulation role of authorities in development of Local Municipality.
  • Definition the main directions of sustainable development of the European coastal municipalities on the basic of analysis of Local Authorities activities.


  • To design of unified European questionnaires for analysis of socio-economic situation in the coastal municipalities and to develop a system of estimations of different authority services for inhabitants with adaptation of indicator methods.
  • To realize of the public-opinion poll in the European coastal municipalities.
  • To publish of the public-opinion poll results as in Local Municipalities as the aggregate publication for European coastal countries with recommendations on strengthening a role of public participation and regulation role of local authorities.

Goal: improvement of public participation practices within the EU.

  • Continued information dissemination to the general public

Most public participation experts within the state of the art questionnaire agreed that lack of information and/or lack of awareness remains the main obstacle to ICZM and good public participation. This has been an important issue in the past. We suggest that this issue remains a priority.

  • Targeted information campaign for relevant authorities

The role of authorities at all levels in ICZM is twofold. First, they are a stakeholder, but their main role is to supervise the participation process. In this role, authorities are also often the initiator and main driver behind the participation process. Raising awareness in politicians and civil servants of the importance and specifically the advantages of public participation is a factor for success.

  • Participation in stages

The state of the art shows that in practice, public participation is often divided into three different stages. First, (other) authorities are involved by the initiators. Second, organized stakeholders such as sectoral organisations and NGO’s are involved. Third, the general public is involved. Formalising these stages into legislation may be a way to streamline and/or focus public participation. More specifically, it is a method to efficiently govern public participation, it is also a method to prevent more unrealistic ideas from the public, as the authorities and organized stakeholders have given a framework of options to choose from.

  • Accept that there is a limit to participation

Current conventions and legislation mentions public participation as a goal, but does not set a limit to the amount of participation. However, there is a limit to participation as several replies from the UK report consultation fatigue. Apparently there is a limit to the amount of time and energy members of the public are willing to spend on participation. Although most states (including the UK) may not have reached this limit yet, this may be expected in the future.


  • The role of public participation legislation
  • What can be done at EU level to improve public participation
  • How do you define what level of participation should we be aiming at?

  • Deal with consultation fatigue
  • Participation of scientists (ENCORA)
  • Participation of key coastal actors
  • Participation of private sector and local authorities
The main author of this article is Kreiken, Wouter
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Citation: Kreiken, Wouter (2020): European Action Plan Theme ICZM Participation and Implementation. Available from [accessed on 20-04-2024]