Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Coastal region and small island papers 12

6. Conclusions


‘Conflict management is a well-developed field ... However, to date it has been used very little in an area noted for conflicts and one in which there is a potential for the productive use of conflict management techniques – the management of natural resources in general and coastal resources in particular’.

Frank Rijsberman, 1999

With the rising numbers of people moving to coastal areas and increasing global population, conflicts over coastal resources and values will be on the increase in the years to come. Therefore, coastal managers and people involved in integrated coastal management need to become familiar with the established techniques for conflict resolution.

An examination of the case studies discussed in this publication shows that the tried and tested methods for conflict resolution have worked well in many instances. Identifying the nature and cause of the conflict is the first step, followed by bringing all the concerned parties (or their representatives) together in a consultative framework. Trying to reach agreement on the conflict and then implementing this agreement is the ultimate objective. However, it must be recognized that the agreement will be in the nature of a compromise for most, if not all the parties involved. In other words, everyone gets only a little part of what they want. These are the proven methods of conflict resolution and correspond to some of the previously identified characteristics of wise practices, namely participation, consensus building and an effective and efficient communication process. Another wise practice characteristic – locally responsive – is also important, since the successful resolution of any conflict requires that the local and cultural background is fully understood and taken into account.

However, another dimension also becomes clear and this relates to the prevention of future conflicts. Sometimes, even when a conflict is resolved, individuals and groups do not give up on their ideas easily, and they may still harbour feelings that they were right. So, if another conflict comes up that deals with the same general subject, there is a possibility of being back at the starting point. Thus there is a need to not only resolve conflicts, but also ‘to change attitudes so as to prevent future conflicts’.

As seen in the case studies in the earlier chapters, specific activities combined with education and awareness may be the best way to change attitudes and prevent future conflicts. Getting the fishers trained as wardens of the coral park at Chumbe Island was an effective way of reducing fishing disputes in the area of the coral park. Restoring a demonstration house in Mahdia was a way of involving the local population and helping them to understand and benefit from the advantages of architectural and cultural tourism. Assisting a local aquaculture farmer from the White Sea region in Russia in gaining his university diploma in aquaculture studies was a way of better equipping local stakeholders to deal with future conflicts relating to aquaculture farming. Such activities take time, often several years, but they are essential to change people’s attitudes so that future situations do not reach the conflict stage.

Another factor that emerges from these case studies is the need to have a mechanism to resolve existing conflicts and prevent future ones. One suggestion has been that wise practice agreements might provide a ‘place of encounter’ or a mechanism where conflicts can be addressed and resolved. For instance in the case of fishers in the Saloum Delta in Senegal, the Local Vigilance Committee is the ‘place of encounter’ for resolving disputes. However, in the case of the four main stakeholder groups at ASSBY, there is as yet no ‘place of encounter’ and there is a need to build upon existing dialogue and initiatives, so that a mechanism, such as a wise practice agreement, evolves to resolve existing conflicts and prevent future ones.

The usefulness of having an outside party involved in conflict resolution has also been demonstrated. In most of the cases discussed here, this third party has been a university, which brings the added advantage of providing a wider vision of the conflict, impartiality, and professional expertise from many different disciplines.

While focusing on conflict resolution at the local level, national and international levels must also be included. The proposal to develop an ethical code of practice for donors is one such idea, which covers all levels – local, national and international, and seeks to ensure that recipient countries benefit from external aid to the maximum extent.

The foregoing discussion and analysis have shown that in order to move beyond conflict resolution to conflict prevention, there is a need to take a multi-faceted approach, incorporating all the tools of integrated coastal management, so as to begin the process of changing attitudes and managing change.


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