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


‘In small tropical islands the coast is not just the coast. It is an entire way of life. It is the meeting point of two different worlds, the sea and the land. The sea becomes a symbol of our existence in that it sustains us through its fruit and, in its vastness and power, also reminds us of our frailty and the transitory nature of our existence. It reminds us of our isolation while at the same time serving as a link and a connection with other countries and cultures. It unifies the world and all of mankind as one. It calms and reassures us in its sleep; it terrifies us in its anger. Forever changing, forever speaking to us in myriad tongues.

For those who live on these islands, the beach is the location of some of our strongest memories, most of them with intense joy and happiness, some with immense pain and sorrow.

A tropical beach is not just a beach. It is a world. A realm of dreams. A precious gift to be preserved, to be embraced and loved, to be cherished by all generations. The beauty of the beach, its rejuvenating and recreational qualities, its sunrises and its sunsets, its moonlit nights, its music, its romance, its wild life, its flora and fauna – all come together to say ‘I am special, I am blessed. Be gentle with me’.

Alwin Bully
(Bully, 2001)


This cultural vision of the interface of the land and sea exemplifies some of the concepts facing small-island representatives meeting in Dominica in July 2001 for a workshop on ‘Furthering Coastal Stewardship in Small Islands’. It emphasizes the need, indeed the necessity, to consider the environment holistically, encompassing the spiritual, the scientific, the managerial and the social contexts. In many ways the concept comprises more than just the sum of its parts.

Small islands, like other countries, are seeking equitable balances between economic development and environmental protection. However, because of the limitations of size and isolation, and their vulnerability to natural disasters and global economic events, the problems they confront are particularly challenging. Thus, planning for their sustainable development calls for special solutions.

In 1992, at the ‘United Nations Conference on Environment and Development’ in Rio de Janeiro, the world community adopted Agenda 21 (UN, 1992). This represents a global consensus and political commitment at the highest level on development and environment cooperation. Following on in 1994, the ‘Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States’ held in Barbados, attempted to translate Agenda 21 into specific policies, actions and measures to be taken at the national, regional and international levels. The resulting Declaration of Barbados and the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States listed 15 priority areas for specific action (SIDS, 1994). In 1999, a Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly was held to assess progress and boost support for the islands (Barbados + 5). During this meeting, six problem areas were identified as being in need of priority attention for the next five years:

Among the global initiatives set up to assist small islands after these two important meetings was the platform for ‘Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and in Small Islands’ (CSI), established in 1996 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).The overall objective of the CSI platform is to contribute to the development of an intersectoral, interdisciplinary and integrated approach to the prevention and resolution of conflicts over resources and values in coastal regions and small islands.

Three modalities lie at the core of the CSI approach:

Wise practices have been defined as actions, tools, principles or decisions that contribute significantly to the achievement of environmentally sustainable, socially equitable, culturally appropriate, and economically sound development in coastal areas (UNESCO, 2000a). The concept of ‘wise practices’ builds on previous efforts, which have attempted to define what should be done through ‘best practices’. Acknowledging the inequalities and diversities of the real world, the wise practices initiative attempts to provide guidance on ‘what can wisely be done under the prevailing circumstances’. Thus the goal is to define the wisest possible action under sustainable criteria.


The building blocks of the CSI initiative are 19 field projects, located around the world. They are listed in Annex I. Eleven of these field projects are located in small islands, and in December 2000, leaders of these small-island projects met in Samoa to discuss and advance ‘Wise coastal practices for sustainable small island living’ (UNESCO, 2001a). It is within these projects that wise practices are formulated, tested and implemented on the ground at the local level before being transferred to other areas and sites. One of these projects, located in the Caribbean islands and started in 1985, is called ‘Managing beach resources and planning for coastline change, Caribbean islands’ (The original name of the project was ‘Coast and beach stability in the Caribbean islands [COSALC]’; the project has retained its original acronym). This project seeks to develop in-country capabilities so that small islands in the Caribbean, often economically dependent on coastal tourism, can effectively manage their changing beach resources and plan for coastline change in a framework of integrated coastal management. A summary of the project is included as Annex II.

Abandoned development too close to 
maritime zone, Princesa del Mar,  
San Juan, Puerto Rico. 2001

Between 1999 and 2001, the COSALC project received considerable support from the Caribbean Development Bank to further develop the capacity for beach monitoring and management in the islands belonging to the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS; islands belonging to the OECS are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines) and the Turks and Caicos Islands. In order to explore the local dimension of beach management, a series of national workshops on ‘Wise Coastal Practices for Beach Management’ were held in nine of the islands between September 2000 and February 2001 (Cambers, 2001). These national workshops brought together government agencies, non-governmental and community-based organizations, representatives of the private sector – especially tourism and the construction industry – other stakeholders, students and the public.

The workshops identified various conflicts relating to beach management as well as factors exacerbating these conflicts. It was recognized that in order to resolve the existing conflicts, mechanisms need to be put in place to provide for the equitable sharing of beach resources. Suggestions included developing the concepts of coastal stewardship and civic pride.

In order to try and further develop some of these ideas, it was decided to hold a small-island workshop on coastal stewardship, which would focus not only on the Caribbean islands, but also involve other small-island regions, specifically the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean.  


Against this background, a workshop was held in Canefield, Dominica on ‘Furthering Coastal Stewardship in Small Islands’ from 4–6 July 2001, with the following objectives:

While the title of the workshop refers to coastal stewardship, participants were asked to concentrate particularly on beach management when preparing their presentations and papers, so as to maintain a principal focus and a main line of action for future activities.


The workshop programme is shown in Annex III. Prior to the workshop, participants were asked to prepare and submit short papers on coastal stewardship in their island. These papers were circulated at the workshop. Presentations and discussions during the first one and a half days focused on national perspectives of coastal stewardship, communications, ethical dimensions and the CSI platform. During the afternoon of the second day, participants visited three coastal sites in Dominica where there were specific resource-conflict situations. During the morning of the final day there were further presentations and discussions on national stewardship perspectives, and in the afternoon, the participants discussed and analysed the three resource-conflict situations visited the previous day.


A list of workshop participants is given in Annex IV. Persons from the following islands were present at the meeting:

Anguilla Nevis
Antigua and Barbuda     Palau
British Virgin Islands Puerto Rico
Dominica St Kitts
Grenada St Lucia
Jamaica Seychelles
Maldives Turks and Caicos Islands

(Unfortunately, the invitee from St Vincent and the Grenadines was unable to attend). A map shows the location of the islands represented at the workshop.


The highlights of the presentations and papers, and the key discussion items have been incorporated into five chapters in this report as follows:

Chapter 2 -  Conflicts over beach resources and values
Chapter 3 - Coastal stewardship
Chapter 4 - Wise practice agreements
Chapter 5 - Ethical dimensions  
Chapter 6 - Communications

The final chapter contains conclusions. The titles and authors of the papers prepared by the participants prior to the workshop are listed by author and geographical area in Annex V with links to the papers themselves. Readers are referred to these papers for comprehensive coverage of each island’s national perspective on coastal stewardship issues.

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