Facts, fictions, and failures of integrated coastal zone management in Europe

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Nearly 40 years on since its first tentative steps in North America, this article considers whether Integrated Zone Coastal Management (ICZM) in Europe has grown to maturity as a form of governance. The article summarizes the findings of recent research concerning the levels of implementation of coastal management in Europe, with particular reference to the UK experience. A research framework is used to identify the different motivations behind the social actor groups involved in coastal management. The application of this framework reveals four major findings about gaps in implementation: (1) the complexity of responsibilities at the coast continues to prevent agencies from taking a "joined-up" approach; (2) a policy vacuum is constraining implementation from national to local scales; (3) informational obstacles are significant in preventing co-ordination between science and policymakers, and between different sectors; (4) a democratic deficit is preventing implementation in the working practices of coastal stakeholders, with little opportunity in decision making for public comment or local accountability, especially offshore. The article also explores different conceptualizations of the role of coastal management and planning held across Europe, providing an analysis using the Strategic Management literature and the experience of the EU Demonstration programme on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (1996 1999). Recent arrangements, with the availability of priming funds from the European Commission and emphasis on "pilot" and "demonstration" methods, have tended to encourage a project-based approach to ICZM that may fail to realize long-term objectives. The article seeks to present an analysis of the behaviors of scientists, academics, policymakers, and practitioners, and will be of interest to all those seeking to establish ICZM within the wider system of governance, as supported by the Commission of the European Community (2000) Communication on ICZM (COM 547). Some technical solutions are also offered from the UK experience that will be of use to coastal project officers working at national and regional levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-398
Number of pages24
JournalCoastal Management
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • governance
  • Europe
  • Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM)
  • strategic management
  • United Kingdom


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