Physical alteration and the destruction of habitats are now considered one of the most significant threats to coastal areas. Half of the world’s wetlands, and even more of its mangrove forests, have been lost over the past century to physical alterations, the major causes being accelerating social and economic development and poor-planning (UNEP, 2002).
There are currently about one billion people living in coastal urban areas. It is estimated that almost 50% of the world’s coasts are threatened by development-related activities. The intense pressure on coastal ecosystems calls for preventive and protective action at all levels - local, national, regional and global.
The Case for Integrated Coastal Management: Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) is increasingly being recognised as an effective method for managing and protecting marine and coastal environments and associated freshwater catchments. It merits wider application, both for resolving existing problems and for dealing effectively with new ones.
ICM incorporates and promotes the following actions:
- Coordinated, cross-sectoral and holistic approaches to the management of environmental resources and amenities, taking full account of environmental, public health, economic, social and political considerations
- Environmental impact assessments, risk management, and cost-benefit analyses in all decision making processes, and incorporating the value of ecosystem services wherever possible
- The active involvement and participation of all major stakeholders (local authorities, private sector and interested public) in the design and implementation of ICM
- Regular reviews of management systems and their implementation, and adjusting of priorities, targets and methods where necessary
- Strengthened institutional capacities through training and retraining programmes.
If existing global and regional environmental agreements had been implemented as intended, coastal areas would not be in their current precarious state. In many countries, legislative frameworks to achieve national goals and implement multilateral agreements are weak and inadequately enforced.
To address this situation, ICM recommends the following actions:
- Governments should adapt national legal instruments to conform to the provisions of internationally endorsed agreements
- National and international attention should focus on compliance with existing international agreements rather than the development of new ones, unless they have compelling justification
- Governments must adopt a consistent and coordinated approach in dealing with different international organizations and agreements
- International bodies responsible for the implementation of global environmental agreements should improve the coordination of their secretariats and governing bodies
- Further attention should be devoted at the regional level to harmonizing national approaches and measures, and to cost-effective collaboration; the full potential of voluntary commitments and targets should be explored, including with the private sector; and further legally binding instruments should be developed.
The need for globally integrated freshwater, coastal and marine assessments facilitated the development of the Global International Waters Assessment (GIWA) project, whose results are available at http://www.unep.org/dewa/giwa.
The need for globally integrated freshwater, coastal and marine assessments facilitated the development of the Global International Waters Assessment (GIWA) together with a request from the UNEP Governing Council to conduct a feasibility study for the establishment of a regular process for assessing the state of the marine environment (GESAMP 2001; UNEP, 2002).
Towards a Global Marine Assessment The Oceans area a global common. They are connected to other ecosystems, to human societies and to the economy. It is essential that we understand the current state of the biophysical, social, and economic relationships and be able to better project future trends. The formulation of sustainable, ecosystem-based policies and measures for the oceans and coasts needs to be supported by assessments at national, regional and global scales. Also needed is an overview of the global marine environment that encompasses socio-economic considerations and shows the linkages between the state of the marine environment and human well-being.
In response to this, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has requested, through resolution 60/30, that UNEP and UNESCO-IOC co-lead a start-up phase - the Assessment of Assessments (AoA) - which aims to provide a better understanding of the marine assessment landscape. This will help to determine how the on-going work at the global, regional and national level can contribute to a process that will regularly report on the state of the marine environment and include socio-economic aspects.
Options and a framework for such a process (referred to as a ‘Regular Process’) will be proposed to the UNGA, at the end of the AoA phase, in October 2009. The AoA will explore how a Regular Process can build on existing assessment work and how it could provide a framework for the integration of sectoral and specialized assessments. It will ensure linkages between regions so that issues of common concern can be tackled in a coordinated way and linkages between human impacts on the marine environment, environmental change and human wellbeing can be identified. Proposals for a Regular Process will take into account best practices and regional strengths and capacities.