A framework for governance assessment and enhancement of public participation in environmental management plans: Application in the integrated coastal zone management of Iran

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Water Engineering Institute, Tarbiat Modares University

2 Department of Water Resources Engineering, Tarbiat Modares University


Over the past three decades, in response to the rising coastal problems, most countries have moved towards adopting integrated coastal zone management. However, most of the approaches were not successful. This was due to the lack of attention to the inadequate institutional and structural capacities of the social system. Management approaches cannot succeed without looking at the local social, cultural, economic, political and environmental contexts.
The governance of natural resources is defined as "interaction among structures, processes and traditions that determine the distribution of power and responsibilities, how decisions are made and how actors or other stakeholders are expressed". One of the main components of governance is the participation between stakeholders. The purpose of this paper is to propose a framework for assessing the governance structure of coastal zones in Iran, with an emphasis on improving the outcomes of integrated coastal zone management. Since the stakeholder participation is an important component in improving governance and resource management, so this study also has a special focus on this component. Therefore, the proposed framework is derived based on the review of the former research and global experiences related to governance and public participation approaches in coastal resources management. Also, this framework was evaluated and used for designing the public participation strategies and its appropriate capacity building program in the coastal zones of Hormozgan province, Iran.

Materials and methods
The economic features of the coasts of Hormozgan province, along with its problems, such as disproportionate population, oil pollution, sediment and erosion, degradation of mangrove forests and water scarcity, require the integrated coastal zone management approach to address the existing problems. For this purpose, two basic steps are taken in this article. Initially, a framework for assessing the structure of coastal governance and the implementation of the public participation approach under integrated coastal zone management for coastal zones of Iran has been developed. In the second step, the public participation strategies of the coastal zones of Hormozgan province along with their capacity building program were derived based on the framework proposed in the first step.
In the first step, the objective was to propose a Coastal Governance Assessment Framework with an emphasis on implementation of the public participation. Tthe basic stages of the ICZM were considered as five main stages including: identification of issues, analysis of stakeholders, planning and decision making, policy implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. The main focus of this framework is on the three pillars of governance assessment, the use of public participation and the providing capacity building (training) program. The assessment of the governance structure is presented by defining and adopting 26 indicators under 7 categories of components and dimensions. These seven dimensions include capability and resources, adaptation, transparency and accountability, social capacity, participation, legitimacy and integration. In the framework of the public participation, based on the analysis and classification of the stakeholders using the indexes of interest, power and knowledge and awareness, the level and strategy of the stakeholder participation under ICZM plan was developed. The level of participation in this framework is considered as five levels of informing, consultation, Shared Decisions, Shared Working and empowerment. The third pillar, which is related to the designing of the capacity building program, was carried out in five main stages of setting the goals, defining courses, identification of audiences, determining the most effective tools, and setting out the authorities in charge of the capacity building process. The focus of the capacity building program is to train stakeholders. Also, for evaluation public participation at the final stage of the ICZM approach, which is monitoring and evaluation, indicators of information and informing, open space, agreement, accountability, participatory methods, trust and interaction, learning and capacity building, and level of participation were developed.

In the second step, with the aim of proposing a public participation strategy for integrated coastal zone management of Hormozgan province, the framework presented in the first step was used. First, the related stakeholders were identified by snowball sampling method. Then they were evaluated and classified by indicators introduced in the framework (interest / power / information, knowledge and awareness), and their level of participation was determined. Based on the level of knowledge and awareness of the stakeholders, the capacity building program was also determined. The process of collecting the data required for this assessment was carried out by holding several workshops with experts related to coastline management project of Hormozgan province. Therefore qualitative methods for collection and analysis were used.

Discussion of Results & Conclusions
The Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) approach aims to exploit and sustainably develop natural resources in coastal zones along with solving socio-ecological problems in those areas. From this perspective, regardless of the social context of coastal zones and the problems encountered in it, the adoption of practical and emergent solutions to solve issues face with difficulty and failure. In addition to pay attention to the governance structure, the necessity of public participation between stakeholders with the aim of adopting solutions, implementation of plans and projects, and monitoring and evaluating their outcomes have been recognized. However, there was no specific, integrated and clear framework for these goals and gaps, and on this basis, the purpose of this paper was to provide a framework for assessing governance and public participation with respect to the coastal zones of Iran. It was also attempted to provide a clear methodology for designing the capacity-building program for stakeholders. Considering the importance of public participation and capacity building of stakeholders to prepare for ICZM projects, the second goal of this paper was to design the public participation strategies and capacity building program of the stakeholders of Hormozgan province by using the proposed framework. The public participation strategy is, in fact, a way for stakeholders to engage in ICZM's planning and implementation. Therefore, the list of stakeholders involved in the issue and the actors involved in the ICZM process (problem identification, decision making and planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation) were first provided. In the next step, according to the analysis and assessment of the identified stakeholders, the level of participation was determined. Participation levels showed a wide range of participation from awareness to implementation, but none of stakeholders in the current situation has the capacity to initiate local governance and fully participate in ICZM programs. This weakness has been identified especially at the level of knowledge and awareness of the stakeholders. Therefore, the capacity building and training program for those stakeholders was designed. In this respect, various capacity-building programs were developed for the purpose of achieving their ability to participate. The main objectives and goals of the Capacity Building Program were explained in the seven groups as of creating a common knowledge, creating common concerns, improving adaptability, improving the level of stakeholders’ expectations, improving insights on coastal issues, improving the level of participation between all stakeholders, and creating and improving professional skills. Finally, it can be concluded that, based on the categorization and the determined capacity building packages, the process of implementation and participation in the ICZM project should be started by the stakeholders, and according to the level of Participation, participants in different stages and processes will be involved. Based on the above framework, the roadmap of implementation of the public participation with regard to the different levels of stakeholders will be designed in two basic steps. In the first step, the main priorities of capacity building should be those who are at the current level of participation in decision making and implementation. In this step, in the capacity building matrix, priority is given to the titles and courses that improve knowledge and awareness of these stakeholders. In the second step, after achieving the results of the capacity building process, the implementation of the ICZM at various levels of engagement by each of the stakeholders will be carried out.


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