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Policy instruments for integrated coastal zone management


This article will present different policy tools for use in environmental policy more specific in coastal zone management (CZM). The Policy tools are structured from a macro level (societal), but are also seen from a system perspective. In this perspective society is understood as a set of social systems that relates to their environment through a set of codes, symbols and tools. The various types of instruments or measures belong to a social system cultural, legal or economic. The strategies’ starting point is that the political institutions and their actors– i.e. politicians, technocrats and other managers need be aware of possibilities and limitations to governing coastal zones’ complexity. Most of the policy strategies involve use of two or more of these instruments working together; in other words, they are complementary. The article also link the different instruments to institutional levels – showing on what level they are most common in use, whether it’s on the local, regional, national or international level.


In the SPICOSA project one important approach is based from the fact that coastal systems are under increasing human and environmental pressures. One consequence of this is the recognition that we need more new and innovative efforts to manage the coastal zones as integrated functional systems. One solution is to improve the way research, decision making and management can be linked together in the governance of coastal zones. One way to systematically do this is to use the SPICOSA’s System Approach Framework to model and predict inputs and outcomes of different kinds of policy instruments. On the other hand, in social science there are different theories and perspectives to analyze and understand society, social action and government. One of them is a system theory that focuses on major social systems in a macro perspective. Society is here to be seen as a social system including various functional systems (eg. the economic system, legal system, cultural system, and others). Society is linked to the surrounding ecological systems by individuals and social systems. We deal with nature and nature given life (ecology) through cultural, economical and other activities. This model tries to link ecosystems and social systems. Each government or management at any level of society has to rely on these systems to govern or manage a limited field of policy action. The economic system, the legal system and the social or cultural system can therefore bee seen as set of instruments in management of a policy field or area- here the coastal ecosystem. In the integration of science and policy in coastal zone assessment this perspective can be useful. The goal is to help any manager to understand what type of legislation tool or instrument is adequate to a sustainable management of the coastal zone.

Coastal zone management is, from a manager’s point of view, a set of tools in solving challenges and problems in the coastal zone:

We can identify a handful of different types of management or policy tools:

  • deliberative processes,
  • legislative controls,
  • planning,
  • economic instruments (taxes and subsidies),


  • measures and at last, using technology to help or solve social or environmental problems.

These tools can be seen as alternatives or complementary strategies.

The SPICOSA project’s System Approach Framework (SAF) deals with the identification of one or more environmental problems in the coastal zone, then make a model for dealing with this problem and predict the outcome. The SAF is about designing of a conceptual model taking account of social and economic factors as well as the ecosystem. This article is a broad presentation of the policy instruments known available applicable as alternative strategy both in the SAF context and in addition to social system approach.

Policy instruments in coastal zone management

Environmental policy instruments include official restrictions and positive incentives designed to control activities that may be harmful to the environment or promote the opposite. We can divide between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ policy instrument. In environmental policy soft instruments will implement typical voluntary, non-binding recommendations and guidelines. Soft policy is relatively new in environmental policy and opens for less authoritative than traditional hard policy instruments (se Hertin & al 2004). Hard policy instruments will on the opposite of this be hierarchical regulations, forcing legislations and taxes. These policies can be seen as the ‘command and control’ approach (Hertin & al 2004) Environmental policy went through radical changes in the 1980s, when there was a shift away from dealing with narrower problem areas towards broader and more integrated assessments of environmental issues. Environmental policies have subsequently included more preventive measures and controls imposed on potentially harmful activities, rather than corrective measures to repair existing damage. At the same time we have seen a shift to more soft policies and more desentrased approaches (Jordan & al 2002, Hertin & al 2004). New environmantal policy also includes market-based instruments, such as eco-labels, eco-taxes and tradable permits (Jordan & al. 2002).

In the framework of system approach we have classified policy instruments in coastal zone management into social and informative measures, legislative controls, economic instruments, and technology based initiatives. This kind of classification derives from the idea that policy can influence the system response to improve susteinability in the coastal zones. This is an approach that can be effective to diagnose a problem and set in relevant tool to deal with these problems, weather they are of a natural or a societal kind. It can also be helpful to foresee how different kind of tools can meet different kinds of challenges.

I Social and informative measures

Deliberative processes, participation and governance The challenge in coastal zone management (CZM) is that it does not only involve the area where the landlife meets the sealife, but it also involves humans and human activities. In most CZM approaches is the idea that the people affected, the stakeholders, should be involved in the resolution of conflicts through a structured, organized process. Exclusion of population groups from decisions, and especially those who face their consequences, leads to conflicts further down the implementation process. In the System approach framework, one have tried to implement the social factor in an integrated CZM. The main focus in this article is however the alternative policy instruments - and the system approach framework (SAF) can in this part be relevant as a supplement for the integration of science in policy. Therefore particippation and deliberation is part of the policy-making - not a (direct) part of the SAF.

A structured deliberative process can ease these tensions by striving for consensual decisions at an early stage. Deliberation, in that case, is the process by which views are tested and arguments are put forward and countered in discussion and debate (Medsos, 2005). Deliberation processes, participation and governance have therefore both instrumental and a procedural grounding. In short therms the idea is that participation increases the effectiveness and implementation of a political decision. This is very importante also in a system approach, but it can be a huge challenge to estimate causality. Effects of deliberation can be the oposite of what was expected. Deliberative processes are “thinking processes” or communication for raising and collectively considering issues. It refers to different kinds of decision-making. It involves the gathering of information and knowledge from a variety of sources, including consultation with actor and stakeholder inside and outside an orgationsation or institution.

In the deliberative phase, the myriad of data comes together and is synthesized in a comprehensive plan, or systems model capable of generating various scenarios in an output stag. In the deliberative process, many types of data and knowledge are integrated throughout the process. The idea is to map problems, competing interests and value preferences, not only expert knowledge, but also lay knowledge (See i.e. Vanderlinden 2009).

In coastal zone policy and environmental policy deliberation is closely related to the idea of sustainable development. This is grounded in both the idea that sustainability also involves people that live of and close to resources and that traditional and local knowledge is necessary to find sustainable policy. Since the publication of the Brundtland Report in 1987, the notion of sustainable development has come to guide the pursuit of both public and private environmental reforms and to facilitate communication among different actors and stakeholders. Deliberation can involve various combinations of scientific and technical specialists, public officials, and interested and affected parties. Deliberative processes recognize that environmental plans cannot be pursued without regard to money and political power struggles, including citizens demanding their right to a good environment. The idea of deliberation is ancient, but has among others been enhanced and related to communicative rationality by sociologists like Jürgen Habermas. Although Habermas makes a strong point that consensus is the ultimate end of deliberation and discourse, one can also argue that compromises is an acceptable goal.

The notion of “governance” refers to consistent management, cohesive policies, processes and decision-rights for a given area of responsibility (Wikipedia: Governance) According to the United Nations Development Program’s, “governance” has been defined as “The rules of the political system to solve conflicts between actors and adopt decision (legality)”. It has also been used to describe the “proper functioning of institutions and their acceptance by the public” (legitimacy). And it has been used to invoke the efficacy of government and the achievement of consensus by democratic means (participation) (UNDP). In all definitions Governance involves participation.