Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands


An intersectoral workshop Towards Wise Coastal Development Practices was convened at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 30 November to 4 December 1998 and organized by the Organization’s Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and in Small Islands (CSI) platform. Leaders of the pilot projects and related UNESCO Chairs, from around the world, met together with colleagues from the UNESCO sectors dealing with basic and natural sciences, human and social sciences, culture, communication and education as well as the World Heritage Centre.

Presentations and discussions covered a variety of topics ranging from ways to integrate natural and social sciences to the role of community participation and communication in wise practice development; and from preserving underwater cultural heritage to defining the role of environmental economics. The diversity of the topics emphasized the variety of subject material in CSI’s pilot projects and Chairs as well as the range in geographical scope, which varied from a single city to a circumpolar network. However, throughout the workshop, trying to define the nature and scope of wise practices for sustainable coastal development was the central theme uniting the interests and experiences of the participants. At the beginning of the workshop many participants felt there was a need to develop a common language to discuss wise practices in a productive manner; however, towards the end of the workshop, people began to realize that the wise practices themselves are the common language.

Prior to the workshop an electronic discussion group (EDG) had been convened for a period of two months to develop some initial ideas about wise practices. The results of this EDG were combined with contributions prepared prior to the workshop by the pilot project leaders to provide a starting point for the discussions. These discussion papers dealt with characteristics of wise practices, example wise practices and the implementation of wise practices. During the workshop some progress was made on trying to define wise practices by developing a list of characteristics that could be used to describe wise practices.

Throughout the workshop the need for communication among all sectors of society and using all available methods for communication was emphasized continually. Two relatively new means of communication were used in this workshop, one was the electronic discussion group convened prior to the meeting; and the second was a video conference held during the meeting between a group of workshop participants and a group of fishers in Jamaica who were an integral part of one of the CSI pilot projects. Both these two new means of communication were successful and greatly enhanced the deliberations of the participants.

The workshop participants recognised that their work was not finished after one week in Paris, indeed it had only just begun. A decision was taken to continue the deliberations further through the means of electronic discussion groups which would be conducted at the global and regional levels and would, in the first instance, concentrate on further development of the work done on defining the characteristics of wise practices and on developing example wise practices. The work would also be continued at regional meetings and through a dedicated website. Part B to this document is a summary of CSI’s general orientation as well as comments on the evolution of the forum’s wise practice discussion, as at early 2000.

  • As for the specific term “wise” versus the more common term “best” (as in best practice), “best”, as a superlative, implies the existence of a SINGLE course of action that is superior to all others. Given the social, cultural and ecological diversity of local contexts, to which these recommendations should apply, such a monolithic and inflexible terminology is judged to be inappropriate.  

  • ICM, ICZM, ICAM etc. Several terms and their corresponding acronyms are currently in use throughout the world to designate the same or similar idea, sometimes with emphasis on one or another aspect of the global concept. UNESCO's CSI usage gives preference to Integrated Coastal Management (ICM); however, in this document each participant's choice is respected.  



Mr. M. Iaccarino, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, welcomed the participants and expressed his satisfaction about the great diversity of expertise and experience of the workshop participants. He underlined the importance of the integrated and intersectoral effort towards the sustainable development of coastal regions and small islands. He mentioned the international policy framework for this effort:

  1. the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development that led to the Río Declaration and Agenda 21 (Chapter 17);

  2. the UN Global Conference on Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States or SIDS, which took place in Barbados in 1994;

  3. the “Convention on Biodiversity” and the “Global Programme of Action on the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Sources of Pollution”;

  4. the “Pan-African Congress on Sustainable Integrated Coastal Management” or PACSICOM which was held in Maputo, Mozambique, in 1998.

He drew the attention of the participants to one of UNESCO’s greatest strengths, this is the breadth of its mandate ..., one that includes basic and natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, communication and information, as well as education. By rallying these diverse but complementary areas of expertise, CSI – the Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and in Small Islands platform – makes the most of its comparative advantage and is able to address complex problems in a holistic and all-encompassing manner. As a platform for intersectoral collaboration, CSI fosters co-operation amongst stakeholders in Member States, amongst scientists from diverse intellectual traditions, and amongst complementary programmes and projects within UNESCO’s areas of activities. This pooling of expertise and experience provides the necessary foundation for developing integrated solutions to challenging coastal problems.

Ms. L. Prott, representing the Assistant Director-General for Culture, explained that there are two reasons for the interest of the Culture Sector in “Wise Coastal Development Practice”. The first reason relates to the general policy of this sector, namely “the importance of cultural factors in development and the need for cultural development”. Coastal and island peoples have millennial traditions in their relationship with the sea, which has had an extraordinary impact on cultural history. Because of their sense of adventure and their skills, early cultural interchanges were more extensive and more numerous in coastal regions and small islands than in the interior parts of countries. This fact can be seen in the persistence of languages, history and skills in non-literate societies over vast distances and many centuries, while at the same time providing a microcosm for gradual cultural differentiation. The second reason is the particular concern of the Culture Sector in the coming years for the international development of the indigenous peoples’ movement. These peoples are making demands of us not to divorce biodiversity, nor medicine, from traditional knowledge of resources, not to separate museum objects from the workaday objects made with artistry for daily use, not to ignore burial traditions in the race for better scientific knowledge of human biology, and, most importantly, not to separate the past from the present and the future. They are the first interdisciplinary thinkers, and they have much to tell us in all these areas if we listen. Many of them are island and coastal peoples. She thanked the Coastal Regions and Small Islands Unit which has taken the lead in these interdisciplinary projects and helped to co-ordinate the many different units and diverse consultants involved.  

Ms. B. Colin, representing the Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, pointed out that the MOST Programme (Management of Social Transformations) is concerned with several intersectoral pilot projects developed within the framework established by the “Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and in Small Islands” (CSI) Unit. Three projects developed by the Social and Human Sciences Sector within the framework of CSI, in partnership with the Division of Water Sciences, the World Heritage Centre and the Education Sector, emphasize the importance of social and human factors in the study and implementation of realistic demonstrative projects. These are:

  1. “Support to neighbourhoods for improving living conditions” which is based in the outskirts of Dakar, where 120,000 people are living within an urban context with no basic urban infrastructures;

  2. Circumpolar coping processes” which relates to coping locally and regionally with global economic, technological and environmental transformations in a northern circumpolar perspective. Countries involved are Norway, Denmark, Finland, Russia, Sweden, Iceland and Canada;

  3. Network of small historical coastal cities” launched in June 1997; the first pilot city is Essaouira (Morocco), the second pilot city is Mahdia (Tunisia), and a forthcoming one is Saida (Lebanon).

She emphasized that the experience of intersectoral work is the major issue in the success of UNESCO’s forthcoming research and actions. It gives another vision of development and a better comprehension of UNESCO’s actions on site and vis-à-vis national counterparts. She added that the MOST Programme and in particular the Cities and Human Habitat Unit would appreciate being integrated into CSI projects including social and human issues, to ensure a real benefit for Member States of UNESCO’s programmes.


The meeting elected Prof. S. Diop as Chair-person and accepted the recommendation of Mr. D. Nakashima as Rapporteur and Mr. P. Maclenahan as Assistant Rapporteur. The Chairperson presented the agenda and timetable for the meeting and asked for comments and revisions. The agenda and timetable were accepted without change.

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