The EcoPlata Program: Supporting Integrated Coastal Zone Management

The EcoPlata Program represents a long-term initiative aimed at strengthening institutions, the researchers, managers and public in general, in all issues relative to Integrated Coastal Zone Management in Uruguay. EcoPlata promotes an inter-institutional process with public participation towards a cultural change that translates into a behavioral change.

In Uruguay, a growing concern is spreading at the national level given the social and ecological issues related to coastal natural resources degradation when these resources are subjected to growing pressures resulting from social systems. It is estimated that 70% of the population live along the coastline. Studies conducted within the framework of the EcoPlata Program reveal that over two thirds of economic activities and income generated in Uruguay have direct or indirect relation to the coast and, in the case of Departments on the coastline, 44% of their Added Value corresponds to coastal activities. Consequently, the natural processes of Uruguayan coasts coexist alongside a variety of activities and uses that compete for space and resources with the subsequent generation of conflict and coastal degradation. The EcoPlata Programme represents a long-term initiative (1997 to date) aimed at strengthening institutions, the scientific community, managers and public in general, in all issues relative to Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) in Uruguay. Likewise, the fact that EcoPlata is recognized as a forum for discussion and activities articulation, shared by managers with legal mandates along the coastal zone and local communities, has achieve a great relevance among them.

The achievements identified in this experience constitute the basis for extension of ICZM to new and more extensive coastal areas including:

  1. Engage stakeholders on capacity development. EcoPlata has established a discussion forum with particular community, where solutions to coastal problems can be sought; involving new social actors and organizations in existing local networks.
  2. Assess capacity assets and needs. To sustain capacity building efforts, EcoPlata has been developed promoting an increasingly demand by local actors for technical and basic scientific knowledge in order to understand, analyze and better define proposal to solve coastal issues; besides improve general public interest in coastal matters.
  3. Formulate a capacity development response. The main challenge facing initiatives that aims to apply scientific knowledge and technology in the integrated coastal zone management is to connect knowledge to action. EcoPlata promoted not only the generation of knowledge that allows for specific decision making to improve the management of coastal areas, but also a cultural change that translates into a behavioral change.
  4. Implement a capacity development response. The national support and guidance for integrated coastal zone management is executed by a management body, but influenced greatly by the needs of stakeholders, and the cooperation of decision makers and scientist at the local planning level.
  5. Evaluate capacity development. Therefore, the project is undertaking activities along the lines of research-action, in order to move ahead in the process. The general methodological cycle of the project is based on the components baseline analysis; promotion of debate, enhancement and validation of evidence and work agenda, capacity building, participatory synthesis, elaboration and presentation of recommendations and institutional learning.

In summary, the most important step taken towards integrated coastal zone management for Uruguay was the development of governance models adapted to natural coastal resource management, based on best practices, involving public participation and facilitating integration. At the same time, this governance models, that can be adapted to similar situations of complex social structure and interact with ecological environments sensitive to human intervention, sets out a vision for the sustainable development of Uruguay’s coastal resources into the future, establishes specific goals to be achieved within the ICZM process, and provides the general framework to build sustainable development and ecosystem approach concepts.

Year of publication: 
UNDP Capacity is Development knowledge fair

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