Integrated Coastal Zone Management

Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) is recognised as the way forward for the sustainable development of coastal zones since the 1992 Rio Conference (the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development) and is characterised by a distinctive integrated approach to providing solutions to the complex environmental, social, economic and institutional problems of the coastal zones.

As defined by Art. 2 of the ICZM Protocol, “Integrated coastal zone management means a dynamic process for the sustainable management and use of coastal zones, taking into account at the same time the fragility of coastal ecosystems and landscapes, the diversity of activities and uses, their interactions, the maritime orientation of certain activities and uses and their impact on both the marine and land parts”.

Need for ICZM

The coastal zone is an area of intense activity, an area of interchange within and between physical, biological, social, cultural and economic processes. The interdependence of these processes and coastal resources explains why a sectoral approach to coastal zone management has not been able to achieve satisfactory results. Each economic sector generates a range of impacts on coastal resources and their combined impacts generate acute problems for the resource base on which the survival of these economic sectors depends, and cause conflicts between sectoral interests. A cost-effective solution to one sector may be economically and environmentally detrimental to the needs of another sector. Therefore, an effective management of coastal zones must be based not only on an analysis of individual activities and their impacts, but also on the combined effects of sectoral activities on each other and on coastal resources.

Managing complex systems requires an integrated approach capable of bringing together the multiple, interwoven, overlapping interests in a co-ordinated and rational manner, harnessing coastal resources for optimum social and economic benefit for present and future generations without prejudicing the resource base itself, and maintaining the ecological processes.

Competition over the allocation and use of coastal and marine resources, including space, is under constant increase. There is, therefore, a need to bring sectoral activities together to achieve a commonly acceptable coastal management framework.

ICZM remains the key tool for delivering the wide range of sectoral and institutional policies in the coastal zone, and the ICZM Protocol for the Mediterranean represents a major achievement in global terms in delivering a common agenda for a regional sea i.e. for “scaling up” ICZM to address coastal management in a concerted approach across the whole Mediterranean region. Namely, the ICZM Protocol seeks to:

  • provide a strategic context to avoid piecemeal, project-based and potentially wasteful activity and to make a substantive impact with regard to natural and anthropogenic challenges facing the Mediterranean;
  • change the understanding of ICZM as an environmental activity, and to fully engage those institutions and actors responsible for the social and economic pillars of sustainability;
  • strengthen the role of spatial planning of both the terrestrial and marine areas – a major tool for ICZM – in order to make coastal zone planning and management less fragmented and rigidly divided between policies, administrations and institutions;
  • integrate in the ICZM process future risks and uncertainties, notably climate change and natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and tsunami;
  • recognise the role of ICZM as the key tool for the implementation of the ecosystem approach in the coastal area.

Characteristics of ICZM

ICZM requires a far more extensive analysis than the sectoral approach, and by incorporating external effects, it should generate economically, socially and ecologically acceptable policies for coastal and marine management. Fundamental to ICZM is the comprehensive understanding of the relationships between coastal and marine resources, their uses, and the mutual impacts of development on the economy and the environment.

As stated in the ICZM Protocol, the objectives of ICZM are to:

  1. facilitate, through the rational planning of activities, the sustainable development of coastal zones by ensuring that the environment and landscapes are taken into account in harmony with economic, social and cultural development;
  2. preserve coastal zones for the benefit of current and future generations;
  3. ensure the sustainable use of natural resources, particularly with regard to water use;
  4. ensure preservation of the integrity of coastal ecosystems, landscapes and geomorphology;
  5. prevent and/or reduce the effects of natural hazards and in particular of climate change, which can be induced by natural or human activities;
  6. achieve coherence between public and private initiatives and between all decisions by the public authorities, at the national, regional and local levels, which affect the use of the coastal zone.

The ICZM Process

In coastal areas, where adapting to rapid change is often required, flexible decision-making calls for a continuous process of planning, implementation and goal-adjustment. In a resource management process, such as ICZM, decisions are being taken in three separate stages: initiation, planning and implementation.

The proposed ICZM Process is designed for guidance; its adaptation to local circumstances will dictate the necessary changes within the overall framework. The ICZM Process is structured into five sections representing the key stages of ICZM: Establishment; Analysis and Futures; Setting the Vision; Designing the Future; and Realising the Vision.

It is important to stress that the ICZM Process is designed not just to produce a plan or a strategy for a coastal area. In the end, a plan or strategy’s success or failure depends on its ability to catalyse change. This is what matters - not the specific process, nor the form of the strategy document, but whether or not it results in positive action.

The ICZM Process has been launched at the Coastal Wiki. This unique wiki-based roadmap for the ICZM Process has been prepared in the frame of the EU FP7 PEGASO project.

Plan Preparation and Implementation Process: Tasks

Tools and techniques for ICZM

The nature of coastal development, the environmental interactions of sectoral activities, and the complex management requirements imposed on decision-makers and professionals involved in ICZM  require the employment of specific tools and techniques. Most of them are based on methodologies which can be handled by national expertise available in many countries, such as:

  • data bases and GIS;
  • evaluation and assessment techniques (EIA; SEA; risk analysis, with particular stress on climate change; cumulative impact assessment; economic evaluation; prospective studies; vulnerability and suitability assessment);
  • instruments for implementation: regulatory and economic; bargaining; negotiations and voluntary agreements (meetings with partners and key stakeholders, structured interviews, workshops, brainstorming); indicator description (environmental, socio-economic and governance indicators); Imagine - Systemic and Prospective Sustainability Analysis; conflict resolution techniques; etc.