Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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From the Essaouira case study to a Mediterranean network

The small city of Essaouira (on the Atlantic coast of Morocco) is a case in point to illustrate the plight of a number of historical urban coastal settlements in need of effective, integrated development in order to face up to such issues as coastal erosion, freshwater security and important socio-economic transformations. To this effect, an international seminar was held from 24 to 26 November 1997 in this city; it was organized on the Organization's Coastal Regions and Small Islands (CSI) platform. As a final result, the knowledge and experience gathered from the ‘Essaouira case study’ are expected to serve as a basis to further develop the cross-sectoral network on ‘Urban Development and Freshwater Resources: Small Coastal Cities’ in the wider Mediterranean Region.

One objective of the Seminar was to stimulate the development of partnerships between coastal cities in North Africa, on one side, and in Europe, on the other. It was attended by the mayors of: Saint Malo (France), Alghero, Taglio di Po, Licata, Sciacca (Italy), and Sa´da (Lebanon). Also present were representatives of the municipalities of Esberg and Odense (Denmark), Kotor (Montenegro), Omisalj (Croatia), Alexandria (Egypt), and Tunis (Tunisia), as well as international experts in various fields (hydrogeologists, coastal erosion specialists, socio-economists, town planners, architects, environmentalists etc.) and participants from nongovernmental organizations. The Moroccan representation was at a very high level (e.g. King Hassan II's adviser for financial affairs, and Essaouira's Governor and Mayor) as well as representatives of ministries, technical departments and local NGOs.

Brigitte Colin, project co-ordinator, surrounded by documents for the seminar

photo: D. Troost

The Seminar was divided into plenary sessions and specialized workshops on: (i) management of freshwater resources in historic coastal centres, and results, (ii) consequences of coastal erosion, (iii) socio-architectural revitalization of historic urban fabric, (iv) tourism and alternative socio-economic activities and (v) an integrated approach to development of the natural and social environments.

At the end of the Seminar, a ‘letter of intent to cooperate’ was signed by the mayors and representatives of Alghero, Esberg, Essaouira, Kotor, Licata, Odense, Omisalj, Sa´da, Saint Malo, Sciacca and Taglio di Po. These cities intend to work together as partners in the above-mentioned network. Activities will include the exchange of expertise and experiences and mutual assistance among these municipalities, with technical support from two international programmes of UNESCO: Management of Social Transformations (MOST) and the International Hydrological Programme (IHP). In addition, three specific letters were signed between Essaouira, on the one hand, and Saint-Malo, Alghero, and Licata and Sciacca, on the other. The development of partnerships among these five cities will be followed closely by the Organization's Office in Rabat. A representative of the Tunisian Ministry of Environment offered to present a case study in his country which will be supported by the Tunis Office. The two cities of Omisalj and Taglio di Po signed a letter of mutual cooperation, to be followed by the Venice Office.

The Mayor of Sa´da made a strong request for his city to become the second pilot case of the network. The city of Sa´da, supported by the Hariri Foundation, proposed various activities for 1998-99 with the support of the Beirut Office. Among these proposals are:

From the old ‘Mogador’ (Essaouira) to the Phoenician ‘Sidon’ (Sa´da), as well as from various places in Europe, a number of partners (including municipalities, non-governmental organizations and UNESCO) have joined forces in order to achieve a more rational urban and environmental development in small and medium-sized cities along the North African and other Mediterranean coasts.

Further details on these developments can be obtained from the following units at UNESCO, 1 rue Miollis, 75732 Paris cedex 15:

Management of Social Transformations (MOST)/CITIES Architecture,
Fax: 33-(0)1 - 45 68 57 24, attn: Brigitte Colin

International Hydrological Programme (IHP)
Fax: 33 (0)1 - 45 68 58 11, attn: Alicia Aureli

Coastal Regions and Small Islands (CSI) Unit
Fax: 33 (0)1 - 45 68 58 08, attn: Alexei Suzyumov

and specifically for enquiries on Essaouira:

UNESCO Rabat Office, 35 avenue du 16 Novembre, Agdal, B.P. 1777 RP, Rabat, Morocco
Fax: (212) 7 67 03 75

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