in coastal regions and in small islands
Coastal region and small island papers 12: papers
RESOLUTION IN SMALL ISLANDS: VOLUNTARY CONTRACTS AND ETHICAL CODES OF PRACTICE
RESULTS OF THE UNESCO-CSI WORKSHOP ON 'FURTHERING COASTAL STEWARDSHIP IN SMALL ISLANDS', DOMINICA 3-6 JULY 2001
inter-regional small island workshop, sponsored by UNESCO’s
platform for Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and in Small Islands
(CSI), was held in Dominica from 4-6th July 2001, to further ideas on
coastal stewardship, especially in relation to beach resource management in
small islands. While most of the
participants came from the Caribbean region, islands in the Indian and Pacific
Oceans were also represented. This workshop followed a series of national
workshops held in the smaller eastern Caribbean islands during 2000-2001 on
‘Wise Coastal Practices for Beach Management’, as part of the project
‘Managing beach resources and planning for coastline change, Caribbean
over resources and values lie at the heart of many of the problems facing
coastal managers today. These
conflicts are on the rise, as more and more people move to live in coastal
areas, and as populations expand leading to increased competition for dwindling
resources. In small islands, with
their limited land areas, such problems are accentuated, and added to this are
restrictions such as isolation and vulnerability. However, adversity and limitations can lead to strength, thus
small islands have the opportunity to turn these constraints to advantages and
thereby to lead the world in finding solutions to coastal resource conflicts.
of the conflicts
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 between:
tourism developers/managers and other beach user groups such as fishermen and vendors;
coastal landowners and the public over the right of access to the beach;
sand mining operators and beach users;
coastal property owners protecting their land from the sea and persons wishing to enjoy the beach;
polluters and beach users.
conflicts are accentuated by a lack of clarity regarding agency responsibility,
inadequate coordination among agencies, minimal political support, out-of-date
and sometimes non-existent legislation, and insufficient enforcement of the
Many of the conflicts were common to small islands whichever
part of the world they are located. However,
each country is unique and individual, and the way the coastal conflicts are
handled often differs, thus there is much to be learnt from ‘sister islands’
in the same region and ‘cousin islands’ in different regions of the world.
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 was defined as 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 were explored, and examples presented of
activities involving the private sector, government, communities and students.
While the traditional tools of legislation and its
accompanying enforcement have shown little success in beach management in small
islands, it is always necessary to continue to strive to improve coastal laws
and their enforcement. However, it
is also timely to explore other options. Two
of the most promising options discussed in the workshop were the use of social
contracts and ethical codes of practice.
A social contract may be
defined as a voluntary agreement
among multiple users of a resource characterised by mutual recognition of rights
to the resource. The
steps involved in establishing a social contract would be:
identify and bring together, under equitable arrangements for discussion,
all the stakeholders. (The
government is of course a major stakeholder).
reach agreement on the multiple uses of the resource and the boundaries of
the area covered by the agreement.
To develop decision-making procedures, rules of compliance, and dispute resolution mechanisms.
It was envisaged that separate
voluntary agreements could be established at specific beaches.
Reference was also made to
‘Local Area Management Authorities’ (LAMAs), for example the Soufriere
Marine Management Area in St. Lucia. A
LAMA represents a slightly more formal form of agreement, in that it is endorsed
as a Cabinet decision or decree, and often has a full-time management
Such voluntary agreements have considerable potential for
conflict resolution, however, they need to be in place before conflicts reach
crisis proportions. Based on the St. Lucia experience, continual adaptation and
evolution of the principles of agreement are necessary in order to ensure
successful compromises among stakeholders.
Obviously not everyone can gain all the time in a voluntary agreement,
the essential element is compromise and to ensure that more stakeholders are
better off with the agreement than without it.
Workshop participants felt that the concept of social contracts was one
worth exploring in the field of beach management in small islands.
codes of practice
Such codes of practice are usually drawn up for specific
groups and domains, they try to incorporate a moral dimension and to set out a code of
It has been suggested that the inclusion of spiritual and aesthetic resources in a coastal management programme may be seen as a luxury in many countries, which tend to give priority to the material side of things – tangible yields, products and consumption. However, since so many conflicts result from differences in the way a resource is valued, omission of the intangible aspects results in an incomplete picture. Moral and ethical statements and values already exist in the natural and social sciences, where they enrich the discourse.
Examples of ethical codes of practice discussed in the workshop included the UNESCO recommendations for the ‘Safeguarding of the Beauty and Character of Landscapes and Sites’ (1962), the ‘St. Georges Declaration of Principles for Environmental Sustainability in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States’ (2000), and ‘The International Federation of Landscape Architects Code of Ethics’ (2000). There are many others.
Concepts of coastal stewardship and social contracts are closely linked to ethical values. There may be a spectrum of tools here, in that social contracts may provide a way to incorporate ethical values at a local, on-the-ground level, while ethical codes of practice may lie at the other end of the spectrum where moral principles are defined and upheld at a national or international level.
Role of communications
Effective and efficient communication lies at the heart of conflict resolution. Indeed it is most likely that ineffective and inefficient communication lies at the root of many, if not most, coastal conflicts. Thus in every aspect and mode of conflict resolution, communication must play a key role.
Wise coastal practices for conflict resolution
In the context of social contracts as a tool for conflict
resolution, all the sixteen characteristics of wise coastal practices are
relevant, however, the following are particularly important.
Capacity building and institutional strengthening: this is part of the process needed to ensure that the various stakeholder groups can resolve existing conflicts and prepare for more intense and severe problems in the future. Some stakeholders may be inexperienced in the negotiation process.
Sustainability: voluntary agreements such as discussed in this paper will provide for a process such that conflicts can be resolved on an ongoing basis, without the need for external assistance.
Participatory process: all the stakeholder groups at a particular site need to be included, from the user and community groups to the government agencies. Identification of the groups and ensuring each is properly represented in the social contract may be a very lengthy process.
Consensus building: this lies at the root of conflict resolution.
In reality, consensus will likely include a majority of the stakeholders,
not all the stakeholders.
Effective and efficient communication process: this is fundamental to conflict resolution and will undoubtedly, in many cases, be very time consuming, especially when dealing with illiterate stakeholder groups or those not used to the negotiation process.
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, utilising their traditional self-resiliency and taking advantage of improved communications, can lead the world in charting their own destiny and finding solutions to coastal resource conflicts.
 COSALC project activities in 2000-2001 were supported by UNESCO-CSI, the University of Puerto Rico Sea Grant College Program and the Caribbean Development Bank.