in coastal regions and in small islands
Coastal region and small island papers 11
‘People have to be informed of the connections between their interests and the preservation of their natural heritage from generation to generation rather than from day to day. In today’s parlance: What does coastal stewardship have to do with me?’
is the transmission of data or information from one actor to another. One can
attempt to communicate by sending a message or a piece of information, or by
sharing a thought with someone. Such an act satisfies the definition of
‘communication’, provided there is reasonable assurance that the message has
been received. All communication should have a purpose and the degree to which
this purpose has been satisfied determines the success or failure of the
an intersectoral workshop ‘Towards Wise Coastal
Development Practices’ convened at UNESCO, Paris, in 1998 (UNESCO,
2000a), wise coastal practices were defined (see Chapter
1). Sixteen characteristics of wise coastal practices for sustainable human
development were proposed. These have been subsequently modified and are
included in Annex VII. One of these characteristics relates directly to
and efficient communication process: a
multidirectional communication process involving dialogue, consultation and
discussion is needed to attain awareness.
of the characteristics relates to one specific aspect of communication, namely
documentation. Documentation: The activity and the lessons learnt have
been well documented.
effective and efficient communication is recognized as one of the very
important, indeed essential, characteristics of wise coastal practices.
best forms of communication are those that achieve interactivity, encourage
feedback and maintain a two-way flow, so that the message is influenced and
informed by the views of the recipient, thus allowing a dialogue to replace a
monologue. The essence of dialogue is that there are two targets, and it is
important that each target listen to the other.
too many conflicts and failed projects can be traced back to a lack of effective
communication. For instance, in the Maldives, marine
protected areas have not worked well, mainly because of inadequate stakeholder
consultation and the perception that such marine protected areas provide for
conservation only and not extraction.
Methods of communication
James Julien of the Morne
fisherman at Batalie Beach,
Dominica, talks with islanders from the
Turks and Caicos Islands in the
Caribbean, the Maldives in the Indian
Ocean, and Palau in the Pacific. 2001
proactive involvement of masses of citizens in coastal stewardship involves a
step-by-step approach focused on the following elements:
message to be communicated.
targets of the messages.
medium to be used.
connection between new information and changed behaviour.
The evaluative mechanisms and the means by which interactive messages could be informed and influenced by feedback to increase levels of understanding and ownership in the strategies to be employed.
message and the targets of the message
actual content of the message is very important, and this will also be
determined by other factors, such as the medium to be used and the targets of
the message. For instance, in St Lucia, the Fisheries Department collects a
large amount of information and data which is very relevant to decision-making.
However, the politicians, not the Fisheries Department, are the decision-makers.
Thus there is a need to communicate information that is relevant and
understandable to these decision-makers. Photographs showing a beach before and
after a hurricane may be a much more effective means of communication than
complicated graphs and tables or even Geographical Information System maps.
too often research results are not communicated to stakeholders because the
research is not in a form that can be easily understood. In such cases there is
a need to present the material in a form such that all stakeholders can
senior decision-makers rarely attend workshop technical sessions, because of
time limitations and other commitments. Thus it is necessary to find alternative
means to reach these individuals. For instance, they often attend opening
ceremonies of workshops and training sessions, and this is an ideal time to get
key messages across in a short, succinct manner.
is therefore very important to define and focus on the nature of the message and
the target of the message, particularly when planning and implementing information dissemination activities.
role-playing different beach
stakeholders at a Sandwatch workshop
in St Lucia. 2001
many small islands, radio, and in particular community radio, may be the most
attractive conduit for getting the message out. Radio continues to be the most
widely occurring mass media instrument and has proven to be an excellent tool
for inclusiveness and wide accessibility. It also facilitates open discussions
that, when augmented by telephones and other communication and information
technologies, can include large numbers of people in exchanges of views and
sharing of information. A radio call-in programme on ‘Wise beach management
practices’ could be one way to start such a discussion. Such exercises can
help to develop consensus building, leading to action, which if sustained, can
influence the policies of the society.
methods have also proved successful in small islands. Popular theatre has been
useful in transmitting concepts about the forest in St Lucia. Videos have been
used effectively in Jamaica, and underwater videos of the coral reefs have made
communities much more aware of the problems. Site visits are another method.
During workshops for farmers and fishers in the OECS
islands, groups were taken to watersheds, and with no prior briefing, asked to
point out good and bad practices. They were then taken to coastal and underwater
sites, both pristine and degraded. This proved to be a useful learning
medium is used, the skill of the communicator in transmitting the material and
understanding the material is extremely important.
are another useful way to get information out. The CSI
website contains much information on all the field projects and associated
activities, including related newspaper articles. However, it is always
necessary to be proactive and to seek out new information.
material may not always be seen as news; this is one reason why sometimes
material is not published or broadcast. The control of the flow of information
is a very important source of power. Sometimes persons who own media stations
may not allow certain material to be published or transmitted. In order to
circumvent such limitations on communication, UNESCO
and other agencies are promoting small, independent community media and
telecentres; however, their range is often limited.
too little attention is given to evaluating the results of communication efforts
in environmental management. Without such evaluations it is difficult to assess
the success or otherwise of communication activities, or to plan new, improved
the workshop, the representative from the British Virgin Islands mentioned that
she had become involved in environmental work as a result of seeing a
demonstration and display on conservation and fisheries at her high school, ten
years ago. Such an isolated result provides some positive feedback of the
effectiveness of the particular communication effort, but it is necessary to
conduct more comprehensive surveys to determine the true impact.
islands are by their very nature, limited in size and relatively isolated. They
are also particularly vulnerable to natural disasters and global economic
events, making the problems they confront especially challenging. If they remain
isolated and unable to take part in the ‘information age’, the tendency will
be to continue in the downward spiral of environmental degradation and growing
project entitled ‘Small
Islands Voice’ was prepared and approved in response to a 2001 call for
proposals within UNESCO
for intersectoral activities relating to the contribution of new information
and communication technologies to the development of education, science, culture
and the construction of a knowledge society. Following approval of the General
Conference of UNESCO,
‘Small Islands Voice’ will commence early in 2002.
project seeks to overcome the isolation of small islands by building capacity
and strengthening modes of internal, regional and inter-regional communication.
‘Small Islands Voice’ will provide islanders with the opportunity to voice
their opinions on environment-development issues and their views will contribute
to the 10-year review of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development
of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), adopted in Barbados in 1994. Continued
dialogue, initiated at the grassroots level, supported by existing media and
disseminated nationally, regionally and inter-regionally by Internet-based
discussion fora, will provide for a feedback-driven flow of information up to
and beyond 2004. The strategy will focus on the smaller SIDS in the Caribbean,
Indian Ocean and Pacific regions. The views of young islanders, while included
as part of civil society, will constitute a separate component of this project.
one of the major constraints this project has to face is the limited Internet
access in small islands, especially for rural people. This is why so much
emphasis will be placed on community-based activities such as meetings and
debates, questionnaires and bulletin boards, videos and fliers. Local
celebrities can assist by ensuring the activities receive maximum coverage. The
media and community-based organizations have a major role to play. While the
essence of the project focuses on obtaining the views of civil society on
environment-development issues, it may also prove to be a good way to promote
wise practices and examples.
limitations mean that selected islands will be targeted for the ‘Small Islands
Voice’ activities. The main criterion for selection will be the presence of
key people and organizations on the ground. Other criteria will include size,
population, language, topography, single islands or archipelagos. Even though
key activities will be concentrated in certain islands, all islands will be
invited to participate in the project through the regional and inter-regional
discussions via the internet.
somewhat similar process of consultations is at present underway in the
Maldives. Here extensive consultations have been held separately with two
groups: civil society and government, in order to determine their views on
development. This was a long, expensive process which is still ongoing. The
views of the two groups are being compiled and there are many differences. It is
planned to feed the results of the consultations into a National Development
workshop participants discussed ways in which the results of ‘Small Islands
Voice’ could feed into government policy at the island level, as well as the
regional level. Islands were encouraged to be proactive if they are interested
in participating in ‘Small Islands Voice’.
need for effective communication was a pervasive thread running throughout the
workshop and its discussions, its absence lying at the root of many coastal
conflicts, its inclusion seen as an essential input for successful coastal
stewardship, wise practice agreements, local area management authorities and
ethical codes of practice. One of the major gaps identified was the need for
evaluation of communication activities in order to determine their