Lessons learned from three ICZM best-practice projects

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The European Parliament and Council released in 2002 the recommendation ‘2002/413/EC’ to develop and implement Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) in Europe. All EU member states were requested to develop national ICZM strategies until 2006. The response of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (‘Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit’; BMU) has been to publish an ICZM strategy in March 2006. But the ICZM process in Germany still contains significant gaps. In particular, it is not clarified adequately how to execute ICZM at the regional and local level. Many coastal practitioners and stakeholders do not know how to initiate and maintain ICZM.


The objective of this study was to analyse three regional/local ICZM projects along the Baltic and Northern Sea in order to derive lessons learned for ICZM in Germany.

Research question:

What are the lessons to be learned for the German ICZM process concerning execution of ICZM measures from the experiences by three regional/local ICZM projects?

Research methods

The research method is mainly based on an own evaluation framework for ICZM projects (Tab. 1). In the course of the bottom-up approach three regional/local ICZM projects are examined in-depth according to the steps of this framework.

Table 1: Evaluation framework for European ICZM projects (according to GESAMP, 1996[1]; Olsen et al., 1998[2]; Pickaver et al., 2004[3]; SPICOSA, 2007[4])
Step Action and Description
1. Identification of preconditions for planning, management and funding
  • Choosing a particular issue or problem situation to address
  • Elimination of planning and management options that are not enforceable (legal, political, societal)
  • Identification of the major stakeholders and their interests
  • Discussion of the focal issues of the management initiative
  • Identification of scale and extent affected by the issue and definition of system boundaries
  • Defining possibilities for political implementation of the ICZM initiative
  • Obtaining of formal endorsement of policy and authorities necessary for formal implementation (see step 4)
  • Identification of sustained funding options
2. Assessment
  • Assessment of the environmental, social and institutional issues and implications
  • Invitation for review and response of the assessment
  • Defining surpluses of the ICZM initiative for stakeholders
  • Definition of a shared goal/vision of sustainable development for the initiative
3. Preparation of a plan/strategy
  • Conducting of scientific research targeted at selected management questions
  • Inclusion of the marine and terrestrial part of the coast
  • Development of scenarios, comparing costs and benefits of alternatives
  • Participation of stakeholders and communities in the decision-making process
  • Inclusion of cooperation possibilities with other ICZM initiatives, at regional, federal state, and (supra-) national level
  • Development of a multi-sectoral management plan/strategy
  • Nomination of a suitable institutional framework for formal implementation
  • Formulation of practical instructions for staff, institutions and stakeholders
4. Formal implementation
  • Obtaining of governmental mandate for planning and policy formulation process
  • Integration of ICZM aspects in existing structures, initiatives or networks
  • Nomination of responsibilities
  • Nomination of explicit tasks
  • Flow of information: top down and bottom up
5. Practical implementation
  • Nomination of responsibilities
  • Nomination of explicitly tasks
  • Insurance that the amount of information on coastal issues is made available to practitioners when they need it and in a form that they can readily use it
  • Tackling main ICZM-related problems
6. Evaluation
  • Periodic external evaluations of governance processes and outcomes and a documentation of results which is open to the public
  • Adaptation of the program to its own experience and to changing social and environmental conditions (iteration)

The conclusions of each project are drawn by the application of a SWOT (Strenghts-Weakness-Opportunities-Threats) analysis. This method is frequently used in the field of environmental management to determine current strengths and weaknesses and to estimate future opportunities and threats of certain projects (Horn et al., 1994[5]). This method is appropriate for drawing conclusions since it summarises results in an analytical and communicative way.

Lessons learned from regional and local ICZM projects

Figure 1: Localisation of the regional ICZM projects conducted in Germany and the Netherlands.

This part analyses what Germany can learn from regional/local ICZM projects in order to bridge its gap in 'ack of best-practice experience and knowledge-transfer. Therefore, three regional/local ICZM best-practice projects at the Baltic and Northern Sea were examined in-depth (Fig. 1):


All three projects have different starting points:

‘ICZM-Oder estuary’ is mainly a regional research project dealing with gaining knowledge rather than putting measures into practice.

‘ICZM-Bay of Lübeck’ is more likely a local practical measure of coastal protection using an ICZM approach, namely the sensitivity analysis as a tool for inventive participation.

‘ICZM-Western Zeelandic-Flanders’ relates to a huge region, where practical executions of numerous ICZM measures are most important and pushed forward.

All projects assessed the identification of precondition as the most important aspect of an ICZM project. Therewith, they tend to build ICZM actions on a stable and ‘real-world’ fundament. First, it was of high importance that coastal stakeholders were aware of a coastal problem. Second, the support of stakeholders from administrations and the public was essential for the acceptance of ICZM and the success of the projects. According to experiences gained in the Oder estuary, it was important to emerge key stakeholders which have a meaning and influence beyond their function. They are able to fund and implement ICZM issues. A practical tool for an innovative participation procedure holds the sensitivity analysis of ‘ICZM-Bay of Lübeck’.

The question how to implement ICZM in the respective region is answered differently. ‘ICZM-Oder estuary’ made good experiences with the Regional Agenda. It was a suitable umbrella to reach political commitment. The activities of the Agenda office led to new working-, communication-, and information structures within the region. ‘ICZM-Bay of Lübeck’ and ‘ICZM-Western Zeelandic-Flanders’ integrated aspects of ICZM into coastal defence measures. On the one hand that led to a subordination of ICZM aspects in coastal defence measures. On the other hand funding for these measures was regulated by law and was consequently taken over by higher administrations. The division of the ICZM process in Western Zeelandic-Flanders is viewed as a practical straight forward approach. First, creating an overall ICZM vision as umbrella for later ICZM activities, second, integrating this vision into sub-projects such as INTERREG programs, and third, executing coastal measures.

All projects assessed the execution of ICZM measures as very important. Therewith, the practical use of ICZM could be transferred to dwellers and visitors. Especially the realisation of huge, eye catching measures functioned as efficient tool to carry the benefits of ICZM into the region. According to experiences in ‘ICZM-Bay of Lübeck’ it must be pointed out that a long time-lag between plan preparation and execution of the measure can lead to decreasing acceptance among the public.


  1. GESAMP, 1996. The contributions of science to integrated coastal management. GESAMP Reports and Studies No. 61,IMO/FAO/UNESCO-IOC/WMO/WHO/IAEA/UN/UNEP, Rome, pp. 66.
  2. Olsen, S., Lowry, K. and Tobey, J., 1998. A Manual for Assessing Progress in Coastal Management. Coastal Management Report No. 2211, University of Rhode Island, Coastal Resource Centre, Narragansett, pp. 56.
  3. Pickaver, A., Gilbert, C. and Breton, F., 2004. An indicator set to measure the progress in the implementation of integrated coastal zone management in Europe. Ocean & Coastal Management, 47(9-10): 449-462.
  4. SPICOSA, 2007. WP3, System Design, v.1.25 (draft report), Napier University, Edinburgh, pp. 187.
  5. Horn, L., Niemann, F., Kaut, C. and Kemmler, A., 1994. SWOT Analysis And Strategic Planning - a manual. GFA Consulting Group, Hamburg, pp. 58.

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The main author of this article is Tim Nandelstaedt
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Citation: Tim Nandelstaedt (2020): Lessons learned from three ICZM best-practice projects. Available from http://www.coastalwiki.org/wiki/Lessons_learned_from_three_ICZM_best-practice_projects [accessed on 8-03-2021]