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Community participation

The influence of community-based movements and the desire for increased public awareness, and public contribution to decision-making has also become an accepted part of international declarations. The recognition of cultural differences indicates an appreciation of the need to incorporate local, regional and national perspectives into the development of management policies and plans. The Rio Declaration clearly intended to broaden the participation of all stakeholders in determining how coastal resources are used, and specifically refers to the involvement of community-based managers.

If ICM is to be achieved, there must be national or regional coastal zone management programs that include community-based coastal management initiatives. For this reason, there is a global trend toward greater community involvement in coastal management: 'Experience around the world is building in community-based coastal management wherein the people who live and work in coastal areas and depend on these resources are enabled to take an active and responsible role and increasingly share planning and decision making responsibilities with government' (Hildebrand 1997).

A variety of initiatives around the globe have been used to involve communities in managing coastal resources; see Cicin-Sain and Knecht (1998) for a review of these initiatives. While there are different models and techniques for community participation, there are also differences between various initiatives, depending to a large extent on how dependent the community is on the coastal resource for livelihood. There are other factors that influence the community-based coastal management initiatives, such as styles of governance, national coastal policy and effectiveness, and the existence and effectiveness of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Community-based coastal management has been described (by Ferrer & Nozawa 1998) as ... people-centred, community-oriented and resource-based. It starts from the basic premise that people have the innate capacity to understand and act on their own problems. It begins where the people are i.e. what the people already know, and build on this knowledge to develop further their knowledge and create a new consciousness. It strives for a more active people's participation in the planning, implementation and evaluation of coastal resource management programs.

Harvey et al. (2001a) note that community-based coastal management is growing rapidly in developing countries where there is a reliance on coastal environments for food and livelihoods but an increasing pressure from population growth and over-exploitation of coastal resources. They quote examples of centralised top-down forms of national governance acquiescing to local initiatives which rely on local knowledge and capacity, such as in the Philippines, Thailand and eastern Africa. There is also the influence of key international agencies such as the World Bank, USAID and the United Nations agencies (WHO, ILO, FAO, UNCRD and UNESCO) which issue mandates for the involvement of communities in development programs. As a result of a change in the focus and activities of these agencies, community-based coastal management has emerged. More recently it has been realised that coastal environments require specific initiatives because their ecosystems and corresponding communities are distinct from those of inland communities.

South Africa and Canada are good examples of more developed countries whose national coastal policies acknowledge the importance of community involvement in coastal management. South Africa, for example, has recently developed a coastal policy that endorses and proposes a style of management that facilitates and increases the responsibility of the community. This approach replaces the previous South African 'top-down' sectoral focus. Canada has also reduced the government role in its Coastal Action Program of the community, whereas in the United States a state-based coastal management system is complemented by a wide-spread volunteer program run via an intraagency partnership within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Harvey et al. 2001a).

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