ICZM Participation and Implementation in Europe

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Importance of public participation

In a 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.

In short, public participation can lead to decisions that are better for the environment.

More on Why public participation is needed in ICZM

It is important to follow the status and progress of the implementation of ICZM and public participation within ICZM. The Current status of public participation in ICZM gives an overview of this topic.

Public participation in ICZM

See also Introduction of public participation

The public are now much more aware of their rights and the effects that decisions have on their lives. More than ever before, they expect better services and desire to be involved in the decision-making process.

All citizens of the EU now have the right to participate in environmental decision-making. Especially considering the recent enlargements with former communist states, public participation trends throughout Europe can differ immensely. For example, a country with a strong central government will probably have a very different participation tradition from a country with a weaker central and stronger regional government. First of all, regional governments logically exist of people from the region and secondly, regional government and regional issues are much closer to the people which makes citizens and citizen groups more prone to participate.

Numerous definitions of public participation exist and this makes it more difficult to promote and implement it throughout Europe. Public participation means different things to different people.

Consultation is only a part of the participation process

One viewpoint is: “Notions like "public" and "interested public" are used to identify the citizens who are directly affected by the project and not vested with administrative responsibilities, but taking part in the process of decision-making and implementation.” The Aarhus Convention, on the other hand, claims that the public consists of just about anyone who wants to be involved and/or has an interest in the matter. The public is just one of a number of concerned stakeholders.

As for participation, it has been defined as “the various mechanisms that individuals or groups may use to communicate their views on a public issue”. So it is the way that the public gets its views across on a public matter. The ways this may occur are numerous: voting, demonstrating, petitioning, lobbying, letter writing, debating, campaigning, discussing and many more.

Key features of public participation

There are a number of key features that have recognised in public participation:

  • subsidiarity: simply said this means that decisions should be taken at the lowest possible level, i.e. as closely as possible to the citizen,
  • access to information: before any meaningful participation can occur, the public must be aware and informed,
  • a voice in decision making: implicit in the concept of public participation is the notion that the public’s voice should not only be heard in the decision-making process but that it should be acted upon. Listening to someone’s opinion and then disregarding it is not participation.
  • transparency: the process should be completely open without secret deals or decisions amongst a sub-grouping of the stakeholders behind closed doors,
  • enforcement: once taken the decision should be implemented,
  • access to justice: if needed, and
  • post-project analysis and monitoring: the participation should continue after the initial decisions have been taken.

Legislation related to Public Participation

See also Public participation legislation

The EU has passed specific legislation (Directive 90/313 of 7 June 1990) on the freedom of access to information on the environment is one of the first binding pieces of European legislation that had to do with public participation. This freedom of access to information has to do with creating “awareness”, one of the early levels of public participation. This directive is now amended by Directive 2003/4/EC which also constitutes the first pillar of the Aarhus Convention. The right to public participation has been determined by some minimum participation standards in environmental decision-making:

  • The “public concerned” should be notified timely and effectively,
  • Time should allow for public participation,
  • Acquiring information should not cost the public any money,
  • The decision-makers should take into account the public’s opinion,
  • The decision should be made public timely, with full text and reasons to back it up.

Implementation of ICZM and public participation in ICZM

Implementation of public participation in ICZM in Europe

Since the 1992 Rio declaration on environment and development, public participation has increased immensely. The Aarhus convention in 1998 and the SEA protocol in 2003 further strengthened the role of public participation in Europe. there are many European pieces of legislation about public participation in the European Union. However, many are not binding and therefore have considerably less influence. However, legislation is a good catalyst for promoting a more common standard on public participation in European Coastal Zones

Public participation is one of the cornerstones of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM). In order to measure public participation in different EU countries, EUCC put out a questionnaire to approximately 150 professionals in ICZM, with a focus on public participation. Out of 187 questionnaires sent, 38 were returned. The questionnaire was sent to experts in public participation in ICZM. The experts are from a variety of backgrounds, including science, national authorities (including national research institutes), regional authorities, local authorities, consultancy and NGO's. The results of this questionnaire can be found Current status of public participation in ICZM


Public participation conclusions

The main source of this section is Current status of public participation in ICZM.

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 the levels of public participation are not very different between countries, the rest of the questionnaire indicated larger differences between countries. The overall result of the questionnaire indicated that the UK and Sweden have a high degree of public participation in ICZM. Legal instrumentation makes public participation mandatory for coastal projects, EU directives have been implemented, there are information campaigns for the general public, both organized stakeholders and the general public are involved. In contrast, Greece and Italy have minimal legal instrumentation for public participation, other than EU directives, and there is a large gap between legal instrumentation and practice. In practice, the public is not informed and minimally involved. Consultation is often not taking place, the wishes of the public are not taken into consideration. The majority of states are somewhere in between these two groups. This group is very diverse.

Stakeholder identification

In most cases, stakeholders are identified on an ad hoc basis. Some states (France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK) use a more formal method. Ad hoc stakeholder identification seems to be no better or worse than formal identification in terms of level of public participation. The main stakeholders authorities at different levels (local, regional and national), environmental and/or conservation NGOs, academics, recreation, fishermen and shipping and the general public. Most experts agree that stakeholder involvement is greater in local projects, that the stage of stakeholder involvement differs for each project and that different types of stakeholders were approached at differing stages. First, administrative bodies were consulted, then organized institutions from industry, academia and NGOs and last, the general public.

Legal framework

There is some form of legal construction for public consultation for large coastal projects everywhere, usually in the form of EIA public participation meetings. The Aarhus Convention and the Water Framework Directive are implemented in most states, or are currently in the implementation process. However, many question the effectiveness of these legal instruments. In states with low public participation, there seems to be a gap between coastal practice and legal instrumentation which implements public participation. The legal instruments are available, but these are rarely used in practice.

Drivers of public participation

Most experts agree that the main driver of participation in environmental issues is the European Union, with a few exceptions. These are the Dutch regional governments (provinces) and the Swedish and English national governments.

Main obstacles

In most countries, lack of awareness and/or lack of interest by the public is reported as the main obstacle. other problems include lack of resources/funding, lack of common policy/strategy, lack of interest from local or national governments, lack of (good) communication from policy and/or science to the public, bureaucracy, legacy of previous failed projects.

Public participation within a governance framework

ICZM implementation conclusions

So far the results collated from around coastal, EU Europe using the Progress Indicator show that ICZM is showing good evolution. This 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. It is this aspect which has shown most progress in the last few years. Some countries have even begun clearly to work in the direction of integration e.g. France and Belgium. But the trends is positive for all countries. With respect to having an ICZM planning and management approach in place and functioning well as well as having an efficient, adaptive and integrative process embedded in all levels of governance, some progress has been made but it is largely ad hoc i.e. no trends are present in the EU and, in reality, very little improvement has been made. Any improvements have been largely determined by priorities set by each country. Quite clearly, further progress in ICZM still needs to be seen.

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The main authors of this article are Pickaver, Alan and Kreiken, Wouter
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Citation: Pickaver, Alan; Kreiken, Wouter; (2020): ICZM Participation and Implementation in Europe. Available from http://www.coastalwiki.org/wiki/ICZM_Participation_and_Implementation_in_Europe [accessed on 14-07-2024]