Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands

Coastal region and small island papers 17

There are eight different International Labour Organization Conventions deemed by governments, trade unions and employers to be key enabling rights upon which countries can build. within this context, workers and employers can, and should, jointly establish a common framework and set priorities for improving the working environment.

Chapter Four   Towards a framework for conflict management at ASSBY


  Anne Ebner © 2003


Business and industry, including formal and informal, private and public undertakings that operate both nationally and internationally play a major role in the social and economic development of a country. These enterprises, producing many goods and services that improve human welfare, are also important in providing employment and livelihood opportunities. The policies and operations of business and industry including research and development can help reduce negative impacts of resource exploitation and promote environmentally sound and sustainable development.

Business enterprises are increasingly recognizing environmental management as a priority and some have attempted to implement environmentally and socially responsible policies through voluntary initiatives. Regulatory policies and the growing consciousness of consumers have also improved environmental and social responsibility in the business and industry sector in many countries.

One priority for the business and industry community is to promote cleaner production systems through technologies and processes that utilize resources more efficiently and at the same time produce less waste for proper disposal. This requires mechanisms to facilitate and encourage innovation, competition and voluntary initiatives, which in turn promote more varied, efficient and effective options. The concept of cleaner production technologies implies striving for optimal efficiency at all stages of the product life cycle. This includes increasing the reuse and recycling of residues and reducing the quantity of waste discharge per unit of economic output.

Responsible entrepreneurship in the business and industry sector is another way to promote sustainable development. Entrepreneurship is an important driving force for innovation, increasing market efficiency and responding to challenges and opportunities. Most importantly, small and medium size entrepreneurs play a key role in the social and economic development of a country. Often, they are the major players in rural development, generating off-farm employment and other remunerative activities. As such, responsible entrepreneurship can greatly improve the efficiency of resource use, reduce risks and hazards, minimize wastes and safeguard the environment.

  A stripped ship ready for final cutting

In order to support sustainable development, governments and employers must respect and promote the rights of individual workers to allow them to freely associate and organize, as enshrined in the mandate of the International Labour Organization Convention. In June 1998 in its 86th session, the International Labour Organization approved the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and their Follow-up. It refers to freedom of association and the right to organize, freedom from discrimination in employment, freedom from forced labour and the elimination of child labour. There are eight different International Labour Organization Conventions deemed by governments, trade unions and employers to be key enabling rights upon which countries can build. Within this context, workers and employers can, and should, jointly establish a common framework and set priorities for improving the working environment.

Workers as a group are expected to define, develop and promote policies on all aspects of sustainable development, both independently and in co-operation with international and regional organizations. At the workplace, they can participate in environmental audits, and receive adequate training to augment their environmental awareness, ensure their safety and health, and improve their economic and social welfare, particularly with respect to the rights and status of women in the workplace. In their communities, trade unions can participate in local environment and development activities, including environmental impact assessments, and promote joint action on potential problems of common concern. Workers’ participation in sustainable development is facilitated through education and organization building.

For their part, governments and the private sector need to ensure that workers are able to participate actively in decisions on the design, implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes on environment and development, including employment policies, industrial strategies, labour adjustment programmes and technology transfer.

Wise practices and their characteristics

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, 2000). The concept of wise practices takes into account the fact that we live in a heterogeneous and changing world and the idea of a best practice is often not achievable or desirable.

A list of characteristics describing wise practices was prepared during a CSI workshop in 1998, and has been subsequently modified and refined. The most recent list (UNESCO, 2002b) is included in the attached table. These characteristics have been used to define CSI activities and in the assessment of field projects and university chair activities. An assessment of the ASSBY project, utilizing these wise practice characteristics, is available in Annex II.

Wise Practice Characteristics

Long-term benefit: The benefits of the activity are still evident ‘x’ years from now and contribute to the improvement of environmental quality.

Capacity building: The activity improves management capabilities, and provides education and knowledge for the stakeholder groups.

Institutional strengthening: The activity enhances existing management mechanisms/structures or creates new ones.

Sustainability: The activity adheres to the principles of sustainability (the extent to which the results will last and development will continue once the project/programme has ended).

Transferability: Aspects of the activity have been applied at other sites in and/or outside the country or region.

Interdisciplinary and intersectoral: The activity incorporates all relevant disciplines and sectors of society.

Participatory process: Identification of, and transparent consultation with all stakeholder groups, as well as the involvement of individuals, is intrinsic to the activity.

Consensus building: The activity builds agreement among a majority of the stakeholder groups.

Effective and efficient communication process: A multidirectional communication process involving dialogue, consultation and discussion is utilized.

Locally responsive: The activity respects local traditional and cultural frameworks while also challenging their environmental validity.

Gender and/or other sensitive issues: The activity accounts for the many aspects of gender and/or other sensitive issues.

Strengthening local identities: The activity promotes and strengthens a sense of belonging and self-reliance.

Contributing to national policy: The activity assists in informing and shaping government’s environmental, legal, economic and social policies.

Regional dimension: The activity takes into account the regional, economic, social and environmental perspective among neighbouring countries.

Human rights: The activity is sensitive to issues concerning the freedom to exercise fundamental human rights.

Documentation: The activity and the lessons learnt are well documented.

Evaluation: The activity is regularly assessed to determine the extent to which integrated coastal management has been achieved and/or wise practice characteristics utilized.

During a CSI workshop in 2001 (UNESCO, 2002b), which included representatives of the ASSBY project, discussions centred on those characteristics most important to conflict resolution. They were as follows:

Towards a multi-stakeholder agreement at ASSBY

Management of conflicts over resources and values lies at the centre of most of the CSI field projects, including the one dealing with ASSBY. One of the ideas that has evolved within the framework of wise practices for conflict management concerns multi-stakeholder agreements, which have the potential to bring together all stakeholders, including the various levels of government, in a framework of voluntary compliance. Such potential arrangements have also been tentatively termed ‘wise practice agreements’.

Based on previous discussions (UNESCO 2002a), a multi-stakeholder (wise practice) agreement may be characterized by:

One of the main factors leading to increased conflict over resources in many coastal areas has been inadequate legislation and the limited enforcement of existing laws and regulations. Thus the exploration of less formal mechanisms may provide an opportunity to adopt a new approach to deal with conflict prevention and resolution. Multi-stakeholder agreements are not a panacea for all conflict situations and they do not replace the need for legislation and enforcement. There is an entire spectrum from voluntary compliance to external enforcement. A multi-stakeholder agreement might be regarded as a first level attempt at conflict resolution; if unsuccessful it might be necessary to explore and apply different methods.

Several steps have been identified in the formulation and implementation of such multi-stakeholder (wise practice) agreements (UNESCO 2002a). These were further discussed as they relate to the ASSBY project and other field projects at a CSI workshop held in Thailand in November 2002. The steps are identified below:


General view of the
ship-breaking yard

1. Identify the partners in the agreement. These need not necessarily be confined to local stakeholders but may include national government representatives and international organizations. In the case of ASSBY, four main stakeholder groups have been identified, but there are other interest groups including the former owners of ships sold for breaking, political representatives, media persons and NGOs. The active participation of these groups is also necessary. International NGOs may be able to assist through lobbying efforts to ensure that Indian labour laws are fully implemented and that the requirements of international conventions to which India is a signatory are fully adhered to, e.g. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. At ASSBY, the effective representation of the migrant workers is the single greatest challenge facing the development of a multi-stakeholder agreement (see step 3 below).

2. Define the physical boundaries of the area contained by the conflict situation. At ASSBY, this area has been defined as the ship-breaking yard and the surrounding villages within a 12 km radius.

3. Construct a mechanism for bringing all the stakeholders together. This should ensure equitable arrangements for discussion and avoid unequal representation by particular parties. Difficulties may also be encountered in determining the representativeness of groups or individuals identified as stakeholders. This is particularly the case at ASSBY where, for example, the migrant workers come from several states with diverse cultures and different languages, and in addition they may not be familiar with procedures for negotiating directly with their employers. Bhavnagar University, acting as a third party with no vested interests, has facilitated meetings with individual stakeholder groups and one joint meeting was held with the four main stakeholder groups to begin to identify and prioritize some of the social and environmental issues. Yet much remains to be done in the field of confidence-building and dialogue to ensure that all stakeholders are adequately represented.

4. Reach agreement on the multiple uses of the resource and issues of concern to stakeholders and partners. At ASSBY, one of the main issues that have been identified are the living and working conditions for the workers at the ship-breaking yard. This in itself is a very complex issue and there may be merit in instigating small-scale multi-stakeholder (wise practice) agreements for such issues. These agreements could then be expanded to include other groups and/or concerns.

5. Develop decision-making procedures, rules of enforcement of compliance, and dispute resolution mechanisms. These have yet to be established at ASSBY.

6. Establish mechanisms that ensure continuation beyond the project timeframe. At ASSBY, Bhavnagar University with the support of CSI has initiated the initial consultations and discussions. However, eventually the process will have to be managed and continued by the stakeholder groups themselves. The groups and the issues at ASSBY are extremely complex making this a difficult task. One approach might be for the government to show leadership in managing the continuation of this process. For example the Gujarat State Government, acting in coordination with the national government, has the power to bring the industrial sector (the ship-breakers) to the table.

The project activities at ASSBY offer an excellent opportunity to highlight coastal zone management challenges in Gujarat. Given the enormous development anticipated in the State’s coastal areas in the future, the project may provide a demonstration model for conflict resolution through stakeholder convergence.




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