Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands


CSI info 10



On several occasions during the workshop, plenary discussions were held on the theme “wise practices” for the sustainable development of coastal regions and small islands. To facilitate these exchanges, discussion papers were prepared prior to the workshop and distributed during the meetings. These papers: “Indicators to identify wise practices” and “Example wise practices” were based on the Wise Practice Papers received from meeting participants as well as the results of the electronic discussion group held in September – October 1998, and appear in Sections below for easy reference.

A third discussion paper on “Implementing wise practices” was also prepared and distributed. However, due to the intensity of discussion on the first two papers, the meeting did not find time to address the implementation theme in detail, nevertheless because of its relevance to this report, this discussion paper has been included in Annex 3.

In order to capture the ideas and commentaries generated by the presentations and debates, the participants also prepared overheads during the meeting and these were presented at various times during the plenary sessions. These overheads captured important thoughts and also served to stimulate further discussion. They are included in Annex 2. 

based upon Wise Practice Papers and electronic discussions


Admittedly, we cannot identify “wise practices” nor designate indicators for “wise practices”, if we do not know what we mean by the term. At the same time, we must accept that our definition of the term will evolve and be refined through experiences in the field and discussions during this Workshop and beyond. So as a point of departure, perhaps we can agree upon a general concept of “wise practice” which is (for the time being) a bit vague and thus, flexible.

M. Fortes has described “wise practices” as emerging from a set of experiences. He points out that time is a factor, and notes that in some cases, “wise practices” may emerge unexpectedly, falling out from nowhere, their presence revealed by the cumulative beneficial effect they have upon people and environment (or cumulative negative effect for unwise practices). A simple step-wise process can be described:

  1. It begins with a set of experiences/actions in coastal development;

  2. From these experiences, preliminary “[un]wise practices” emerge that are identified with the help of indicators;

  3. “preliminary wise practices” are then analyzed and generalized to broaden their application, raising them to the level of tentative “wise practice” principles;

  4. “Wise practice” principles are then tested by applying them in other contexts and at other sites, and the results allow for their refinement and finalization.


Actions, processes, principles or decisions that contribute significantly to the achievement of socially equitable, culturally appropriate, economically sound and environmentally sustainable development of coastal regions and small islands.


How are we to know when we are in the presence of a “wise practice”?

Or as reformulated by J. Calvo:

What kind of quantitative and qualitative indicators should we use to identify wise practices and to rationalize why they are such?


It might be defined as a key variable, measurable with relative ease, which indicates the state of a larger set of variables (a system) which is much more difficult to monitor on a regular basis, e.g. infant mortality provides an indication of the quality of health services; measures of heavy metals in mussels may indicate water quality. 


Or are they the beginning of a list of fundamental “wise practice” issues and their associated goals? By evaluating whether we advance towards or regress from these goals, we may judge a practice “wise” or “unwise”. In this view, indicators are practical tools which provide measures (qualitative or quantitative) of our advancement towards goals, such as those listed above, that are a fundamental part of wise practice. 


  • Long-term benefit:
    Will the benefits of the activity still be evident “x” years from now, bearing in mind that benefits may be quantitative, e.g. improved fish stocks, or qualitative, e.g. increased perception and awareness?

  • Institutional strengthening:
    Has the activity provided for improved management capabilities among the individuals/groups involved?

  • Sustainability:
    Does the activity enshrine the principles of sustainability?

  • Transferability:
    Can the activity be applied to other sites in the country/region?

  • Majority benefit:
    Did the activity benefit a majority of the stakeholders?

  • Awareness:
    Do a majority of persons from the general public in the area affected by the activity know about it?

  • Documentation:
    Has the activity been fully documented?

  • Governance:
    Does this practice give due recognition to the political dimension of coastal management – in particular, the essential importance of the governance process? (A. Boina)

  • Empowerment of users:
    Are resource users – especially those from the lower strata of society – empowered by this management practice? (P. Espeut)

  • Minority benefit:
    Does the practice benefit (a) minority stakeholder group(s), that is (are) disadvantaged vis-a-vis the majority of the population (i.e. indigenous, ethnic or other culturally-distinct group); economically impoverished minority; etc? (N. Hinshiranan)

  • Gender issues:
    Have the many dimensions of gender been accounted for in the elaboration of this practice? (W. Kiai)

  • Inter-institutional/interdisciplinary dialogue:
    Has inter-institutional/interdisciplinary conflict been resolved and dialogue facilitated by this practice? (J. Calvo)

based on Wise Practice Papers and electronic discussions


Pilot project activities carried out on the “coasts and small islands platform” represent one direct source of example wise practices. We must bear in mind, however, that these projects are not carried out in a vacuum. On the one hand, as project leaders, you design activities based upon your own broad experience and your knowledge of local ecological and social realities. As a result, the emerging example wise practices benefit from your long experience and insight.

On the other hand, relevant ideas and experiences for the development of example “wise practices” are available from other projects in sustainable coastal development. These other sources should not be ignored. Consequently, a “wise practice” inventory should be based upon both CSI and non-CSI inputs.

Beyond the context of formal projects in coastal development, G. Cambers also reminds us of the wealth of information that is available informally – “in peoples” heads”. Referring specifically to local practitioners who do not have a tradition of writing things down, she points out that their knowledge and experience need also to be recorded as they represent another valuable source of example “wise practices”.

Finally, H. Gaudi, N. Hinshiranan and P. Varghese drew our attention to another important source of example “wise practices”: traditional/indigenous practices relating to coastal resource use and management, and the knowledge systems and worldviews of which they are a subset. While the ecological and cultural value of many of these practices is clear, a major challenge today is how to integrate traditional practices into contemporary contexts that are rapidly-evolving.


S. Diop cautions against re-inventing the wheel and encourages the group to move forward by considering the following question:

From all pilot projects and other research projects developed in coastal areas around the world, what concrete cases can we present that serve to illustrate our concept of wise practices?

As an example wise practice for the Senegalese coastal area, S. Diop puts forward the “Integrated Management Plan of the Saloum Mangroves Delta” which has been achieved through an interdisciplinary exercise, involving local populations in their own language (village committees), and setting into place well-defined mechanisms for capacity-building and follow-up. In this view, an example “wise practice” is portrayed as an exemplary case study.

Others have represented example “wise practices” as an inter-related series of actions/decisions. For example, P. Espeut presents a number of “wise practices” that focus upon the empowerment of local resource users. His nested series of “wise practices” for the Jamaican context include:

  1. Coastal management through protected areas,

  2. which are managed by local NGOs,

  3. through a co-management process,

  4. whereby local resource-users are empowered

  5. to enforce regulations that they themselves have drafted.

M. Fortes provides a list of 12 “wise practices” and then analyses in tabular form the extent to which these have been adopted at a number of ICAM sites in the Philippines: 


  1. Addresses well-defined issues

  2. Directs research at questions of direct relevance to resource management (scientific advice to management)

  3. Multisectoral, multi-agency and inter-disciplinary

  4. Creates opportunities to link planning to implementation

  5. Involves those affected by management schemes in all phases of the ICAM process

  6. Promotes sharing of experience among resource managers

  7. Integrates all uses of the coastal zone, including actual and potential

  8. Has functional co-ordination among stakeholders (team spirit)

  9. Has defined boundaries

  10. Has identity

  11. Is culturally and spiritually responsive

  12. Is gender sensitive

Numbers correspond to “wise practice” features above
(++ more intense; + less intense application)


SITES 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Cape Bolinao ++ ++ ++ + ++ ++ ++ + +
Ulugan Bay + ++ ++ + + ++ ++ ++ ++ +
Tubbataha + ++ ++ ++ + + + ++ + ++ ++
El Nido + ++ ++ + + + + + + + + +
Batangas Bay ++ ++ ++ + ++ ++ + ++ +
Anilao ++ ++ + ++ ++ + ++
San Miguel Bay ++ ++ ++ + + + + + + +
San Salvador + + ++ + + + + ++ + +
Puerto Galera + ++ ++ + + + +

Still others have made reference to specific “wise practices” as follows:

A common language should be developed that is comprehensible to all social actors: natural and social scientists, local community members, decision-makers, resource managers, etc. (S. Diop)

For artisanal fisheries, one should replace centralized, top-down management of coastal resources with participative arrangements that ensure effective community involvement in the management process. (O. Defeo)

In the context of conserving the cultural heritage of Essaouira (Morocco), Abdelazziz El Mouatez provides us with a structured and exacting evaluation of “what went wrong” and “why”. He concludes that “unwise practices” are of equal, if not greater importance, than “wise practices”, as the former provide an opportunity to understand why an activity has failed and how similar failures can be avoided in the future.

What is an ”example wise practice”? What should we include and exclude from this category? The proposed “wise practices” are very diverse.



The point was made that indicators for sustainable coastal development, despite their specific geographic focus, were unlikely to differ from general sustainable development indicators that have been the focus of extensive work since the Rio Conference, e.g. the development of tools that combine resource management and poverty reduction strategies – sound resource management as a source of income. Accordingly, these discussions and conclusions should be taken into consideration in furthering the work on coastal indicators. It was emphasized that indicators must be easily comprehended by local actors, measurable by simple and straightforward means, and conducive to long-term monitoring. In this spirit the acronym SMARTER was proposed showing that indicators should be Simple; Measurable; Actual; Replicable; Timeless – Transferable; Equitable; Reliable. It must be recognized, however, that indicators vary in resolution. Care should be taken to select indicators of the appropriate precision depending upon the context.

Several persons disputed the concept of measurement. How can one measure sustainability, long-term benefit or empowerment? Quantification was attacked as a positivist natural science approach, that should give way to more stochastic and less determinist models. Even more fundamental is the issue of who is to decide on the indicators and who is to measure them. It was pointed out that indicators can only be refined with respect to certain predetermined goals, and that these goals are unavoidably value laden, e.g. indicators for empowerment or governance. One is quickly drawn into the realm of ethics and politics. It was further suggested that the notion of indicators was static and thus it would be better to focus on process and procedures.

Finally the issue was raised as to whether it was correct to consider the items discussed in the first Discussion Paper as indicators, or as queried at the end of the paper. Is this rather a list of issues, goals or characteristics of wise practices? 


In order to assist the debate a short document was drafted (see below).

Several participants discussed the definition of coastal management, the proper terms to use, and the need for a clear distinction between methods and goals. Some thought there was no need to discuss definitions but rather to identify a common approach. However, it was pointed out that in order to achieve this goal there was a prior need for a satisfactory information repository, a clearing house mechanism and a protocol for information sharing.

Following a proposal for the use of the “ecosystem concept”, Step 1 in the “Proposed Procedure” paper was modified as follows: “The goal of integrated coastal management is to improve the quality of life of human communities dependent upon these resources without jeopardising the basic diversity and productivity of the ecosystems”.

Some persons were in favour of remaining within general statements while others warned of too much simplification when the issues remain complex. Caution was raised concerning rigid guidelines and a dogmatic approach which might result in an idealized (wishful thinking) vision of integrated coastal management (ICM).


While the use of the term “wise” practices (rather than the more commonly encountered term “best”) met with general agreement, discussion arose as to whether the overall objective was wise “management” practice as in ICM or wise practice for “sustainable development”. Some felt management was the broader term that encompasses development and conservation, others understood management as a subset within the broader goal of sustainable development, and still others viewed the terms as closely interrelated and largely inter-changeable.


Step 1. Overall goal
Integrated coastal management (ICM) is a dynamic process where the government and community, scientists and managers, and private and public sectors formulate and implement an integrated plan to protect and develop the coastal eco-systems, its resources and uses. Its goal is to improve the quality of life of human communities dependent upon those resources without jeopardising the basic diversity and productivity of the ecosystems.

Step 2. Definition of a wise coastal practice
Actions, processes, principles or decisions that contribute significantly to the achievement of environmentally sustainable, socially equitable, culturally appropriate, and economically sound development of coastal regions and small islands.

Step 3. What do we include as example wise practices?
Examine criteria/issues for designating “example wise practices”.

Step 4. Try to organize our set of wise practices

  • by matching issue and content;

  • by determining levels of wise practice (e.g. primary wise practices with broad application, secondary wise practices with narrower application etc).


To resolve these different points of view, it was suggested, based on a series of debates in the Indonesian context, that a more appropriate term could be “management of change”. This more modest expression was presented as anchored in real world contexts where in most cases, the possibilities for moving towards improved conditions (as suggested by “development”) were at best limited. Recognising that most change escapes the control of the state or corporate sector, not to mention local communities, “management” of that change is already an ambitious undertaking. It was therefore proposed that our objective could be stated as “the management of change to sustain quality of life”. The term “management of change” allows for a dialogue that will link local communities with local governments and other actors while also recognising that their actions are influenced by outside factors. It was felt that any attempt to find an exhaustive definition for “quality of life” was doomed. While this proposal met with general support, it was nonetheless noted that the term “management” perpetuates economic overtones and emphasizes manipulation of both people and the environment. 


Participants were urged to think critically about the conventional model whereby scientists first provide information, the politicians convert this information into guidelines and finally these guidelines are communicated to people who do as informed. Reality is quite otherwise. It was felt that some conventional thinking was still present in the paper on Indicators and that it might be more appropriate to portray scientists as offering different scenarios or alternatives. Furthermore local people can acquire information about themselves and their situation by being confronted with other sets of knowledge and experience directly, with or without the mediation of scientists.

But it is not sufficient to speak of alternatives, as if some ultimate environmental or social logic will prevail. One must recognize the existence of different interests and, as in the Alang case, consider the interests of certain stakeholders who may not be local. We must also recognize the practices and experiences (knowledge) that already exists. In our pursuit of “wise practices” we must develop a more critical and self-evaluating approach. 


Much discussion arose on the issue of transferability of wise practices. Certain participants emphasized the specificity of local situations, referring to the strength of cultural factors and the unique local circumstances under which a “wise practice” may evolve. Accordingly, they expressed grave doubts whether a practice judged “wise” at one location, might also be “wise” at another. While not denying the importance of the aforementioned, others found this position somewhat exaggerated as it assumes there is little possibility of learning from experience. A proposed solution was to distinguish between “general” practices or “methods” which would be universally applicable, and thus be highly transferable (e.g. to make a social analysis), and specific “solutions” which would be context/site specific, and thus less transferable (e.g. local resource user councils for management).

A proposal was made based on the “Small Coastal Cities” project, to take the lessons learnt from each example/context, e.g. Essaouira and Saida, and to transfer the lessons learnt from each case to a new context, in this case a third city. The transfer of the lessons learnt will require adaptations which may themselves be the wise practices. 


While the need for environmental education and public awareness was emphasized on several occasions, a number of participants also expressed scepticism about such measures. In their view, many of the social and environmental problems being discussed were not caused and are not perpetuated by a lack of information. Other issues such as a lack of confidence in the existing political system, or the weakness of social control mechanisms, were seen as more fundamental concerns. In sum, education remains a valuable tool in the process of change, but it is only one part of the solution. “... education is not everything ... development of policy and structures that go beyond just making people aware should be encouraged”. 


Management regimes need to be adapted to complex institutional and international situations. We also need to support management regimes that maintain the integrity of ecological systems, e.g. the entire island approach with insular systems. Furthermore management regimes need to be translated into mainstream ecological processes and economic policies so as to avoid having two different worlds working side by side in a non-productive manner. For instance, we need to understand how major urban core regions are linked to transnational economic processes. The fruits of the CSI initiative should feed into these agendas. 


Many participants felt that the workshop provided an opportunity for sharing experiences and lessons learnt from the different pilot projects. In a similar light, sharing experiences from other situations where integrated management is required might be useful, e.g. integrated transport systems.

During one late night session, the preceding discussions together with the overheads prepared by the participants (Annex 2) were used to compile a list of wise practice criteria/characteristics and qualifiers. This list is presented below, and was discussed in detail in parallel group sessions. 


  • Long-term benefit:
    Will the benefits of the activity still be evident “x” years from now?

  • Institutional strengthening:
    Has the activity provided for improved management activities among the individuals or groups involved?

  • Capacity building:
    Has the activity provided for training, on-the-job training, education etc?

  • Sustainability:
    Does the activity enshrine the principles of sustainability?

  • Transferability:
    Can the activity be applied to other sites in the country or region?

  • Awareness:
    Do a majority of persons from the general public in the area affected by the activity know about it?

  • Consensus building:
    Has mutual understanding through improved communication been achieved?

  • Culturally acceptable:
    Is the activity acceptable within the local traditional and cultural frame-work of the area?

  • Participatory process:
    Has the activity ensured participation of all the players, have all the players or stakeholder groups participated in the decision-making process?

  • Community self-reliance:
    Has the activity provided for community self-reliance?  

  • Strengthening of ethnic identity:
    Has the activity strengthened ethnic identity?

  • Majority benefit:
    Did the activity benefit a majority of stakeholders?

  • Minority benefit:
    Did the practice benefit a minority stakeholder group that is disadvantaged?

  • Documentation:
    Has the activity been fully documented?

  • Governance:
    Does the practice give due recognition to the political dimension of coastal management, in particular the essential importance of the governance process?

  • Empowerment of users:
    Are resource users, especially those from the lower strata of society, empowered by this management process?  

  • Gender issues:
    Have the many dimensions of gender been accounted for in the elaboration of this wise practice?

  • Improved dialogue:
    Has dialogue between different groups, e.g. social scientists and natural scientists, NGOs and politicians, been improved by this practice?

  • Political and cultural dimensions:
    Has the activity enlarged the political and cultural space for local social management protocols, practices, entities?

  • Human rights:
    Has the activity provided for fundamental human rights, e.g. freedom of speech?  

Qualifiers are an attempt to render the criteria for wise practices more useful, since some of the criteria are rather simplistic. Some proposed qualifiers are as follows:  

  • Whether or not a practice is wise depends on population density and extraction levels, as well as the context or domain of the problem or issue.

  • Wise practices may be value-laden, even cultural practices evolve over time.

  • At a primary level a wise practice may be transferable, but at a secondary or implementation level it may not be transferable because of cultural perceptions, legal framework, political climate.

  • Wise practices: wise from whose point of view?  

  • Who needs the wise practice, wise practice for whom?  

Before we can identify an activity as a wise practice we should:

  • Look at the knowledge that is already there in existing wise practices.

  • Define the specific problem and its context.  



Participants: J. Calvo, G. Campeol, S. Diop, H. Dube, A. El Mouatez, S. Fazi 

Whereas industrialization of the productive processes and urban expansion seems to apply to all coastal regions, uneven geography and pace of economic and environmental change mediate the configuration, types and magnitude of stressors to coastal/island ecosystems. The dynamics of the current international division of labour also teaches us that we increasingly are dealing with non-linear, sometimes two-way directions of change. On the developed end, we are witnessing the presence of the trans-territorial production, de-industrialization of former core industrial coastal areas; ex-urbanization of the Maquiladoras and the Guang-Zhou economic zone, and the African post-independent urbanization without economic transformation.

On the other hand, local coastal communities are constantly dealing with exclusionary urban policies and unresponsive delivery of services and infrastructure, while having to cope with the loss of accessible fishing grounds and coastal arable land. To add to the complexity, the last four decades have seen the declining efficacy of locally accountable financing and political institutions in the urban regions, which has endorsed the growth of portfolio investment that tends to disregard long-term environmental costs. The exposé of problems, resource use and coastal zone management over the last three days forces us to broaden, rather than narrow, the contexts of each of our undertakings. What we need is a sufficiently inclusive problematic for the urban-industrial coastal region and small islands.  


All the range of coastal resources use and exploitation is present in urban/industrialized coastal sites, this gives a particular importance to the need for identification of criteria and wise practices for sustainable development.


Worldwide, it is possible to select some significant geographical categories of the relationship between urban-industrial coastal sites that range from megacities to small coastal cities:

All the criteria identified by the plenary section are valid and important. In particular, for all the geographical categories the list can be prioritized as follows:

  1. Local community level:
    awareness (i.e. sanitation); community self-reliance; capacity building/institutional strengthening; consensus building; industrial impact reduction;

  2. Community/industry relationship:
    participatory process; documentation, improved dialogue, culturally appropriate;

  3. Long-term criteria:
    sustainability; empowerment of users;

  4. Legislation and normative.  

In order to show the applicability of the wise practices, the case of a “high environmental risk in the north Mediterranean area” (pollution and explosion) has been discussed. Applying the criteria (following the hierarchy a c), it is possible to indicate some actions of wise practices as:

1. Sanitary security of the population:  
  • Basic training, information (i.e. self security and protection),

  • Evacuation plan,

  • Protection of residential area at risk.  

2. Improvement of production cycles:  
  • Closing obsolete production lines,

  • Introduction of high technology for reduction of pollution and incident risk,

  • Modification of the industrial “transport-hubs”.  

3. “Requalification” of urban areas:  
  • Bonification” (improvement of the quality) of abandoned soil from the industry,

  • Water purification,

  • Green belt,

  • Recreation of buffer zones.  

The same methodological approach can be used in the other geographical categories taking into account local characteristics, local environmental problems and the economic situation.

Participants: J. Baerenholdt, O. Defeo, R. Ernsteins, M. Fortes, N. Hinshiranan, W. Kiai

In this group, the terms of reference were discussed and the decision taken that the list of criteria would be examined to see if they are relevant to the above topic. Members of the group reviewed the list, with the following results.


The group agreed to go through the items listed, rewording and clarifying, if necessary, and characterizing the items if possible as universal or of specific importance. In some cases, the entire group did not agree on whether an item was universal or selective, in which case the word consensus was added.

Part B

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Wise practices Regions Themes