Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Coastal region and small island papers 11


An inter-regional small island workshop was held in Dominica from 4–6 July 2001 to further ideas on coastal stewardship, especially in relation to beach resources, in small islands. Participants came from the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific regions. This event followed a series of national workshops held in the smaller eastern Caribbean islands during 2000–2001 on ‘Wise Coastal Practices for Beach Management’.

With expanding coastal populations, many small islands are finding that their beaches and coastal areas, which formerly they had taken for granted, are becoming less available for their use and enjoyment. This is leading to conflicts over access and recreation, traditional uses, sea defences and pollution. Successful examples of conflict resolution relating to sand mining issues are described in Montserrat and the Maldives, and the role of regional and non-governmental organizations is discussed. Constraints facing the successful resolution of the conflicts include a lack of inter-agency coordination and political support, as well as inadequate legislation and insufficient enforcement.

In the earlier national workshops, coastal stewardship had been suggested as one way to reduce conflicts by engendering a sense of ownership and pride in a country’s heritage. Coastal stewardship is an attitude of voluntary compliance demonstrated by a strong commitment and willing participation in efforts to ensure sound and sustainable use of coastal resources. Moral and economic aspects of stewardship are explored, and examples presented of activities involving the private sector, government, communities and school students.

Wise practice agreements are proposed as another way in which to reduce conflicts by bringing together all stakeholders, including the government, in a framework of voluntary compliance. Ideas and proposals are considered and analysed for using such less formal agreements to resolve conflicts over beach resources at Pinney’s Beach in Nevis and at Batalie Beach and Picard Beach in Dominica. A slightly more formalized form of agreement, the Soufriere Marine Management Area in St Lucia, was also discussed. Such agreements have considerable potential for conflict prevention and resolution; however, they need to be in place before conflicts reach crisis proportions.

Ethical considerations in sustainable living and decision-making is discussed, including the UNESCO recommendations for the ‘Safeguarding of the Beauty and Character of Landscapes and Sites’, the ‘St George’s Declaration of Principles for Environmental Sustainability in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States’, and ‘The International Federation of Landscape Architects Code of Ethics’. At a local level, the ethical aspects of a local coral farming activity in Dominica are discussed. There is a spectrum of tools, with wise practice agreements representing a way to include ethical concepts at the local level, while ethical codes of practice provide a way of including moral values at the international and professional level.

Effective and efficient communication lies at the heart of all the concepts discussed in this report: conflict prevention and resolution, wise practice agreements and ethical codes of practice. Indeed it is most likely that ineffective or inefficient communication is among the causal factors of many, if not most, coastal conflicts. Examples of various methods of communication are considered, in particular a project entitled ‘Small Islands Voice’, which seeks to ensure that the voice of civil society on environment-development issues is heeded and becomes an effective catalyst for on-the-ground action as well as providing input to the 10-year review of the Programme of Action for Small Island Developing States.

Small islands face many constraints and limitations in the long road to sustainable development, especially in an era of continual change. However, these disadvantages can be turned to strength, such that islanders, utilizing their traditional self-reliance and taking advantage of improved communications, can lead the world in charting their own destiny and finding solutions to coastal resource conflicts.

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