Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) is a process defined in terms of achieving sustainable development. Despite sustainability being accepted by the majority of organizations currently operating on the coast, the integrated approach is seen as the more constructive and beneficial alternative to achieve this state. Id 'success' for ICZM means sustainable development, then the question is raised as to how it attempts to achieve this, and, more specifically, how effectively it does so? Put another way, how can the management process be evaluated in terms of achieving its aims? Despite several attempts to produce sustainability indicator sets, there is currently no established or validated way of assessing the effectiveness of ICZM initiatives and consequently there is also no national overview with which to judge the strategic performance of coastal partnerships (CPs). This study aims to address this failing by developing and critically evaluating a standardised operating mechanism for assessing the ability of ICZM initiatives to achieve sustainable development. In order to develop this 'Coastal Sustainability Standard', a review was made of the current role and treatment of sustainability in coastal planning and management in the UK. Using the electronic database of the company 'Coastal Management for Sustainability' (CMS), a survey of UK coastal practitioners was carried out as to the key theoretical constructs inherent in the concept of sustainability. Textual analysis of the results, using the qualitative software package, Nudist 6, revealed six dominant constructs which would form the basis for the development of the standard. These six - planning; participation; communication; integration; responsibility and balance were defined as principles, and a set of criteria developed for each, with which to enable assessment. A scoring system and a set of guidelines were then designed to maximise the level of objectivity in carrying out the assessment, with the scoring system also reflecting the systems thinking inherent in the design. In order to validate the mechanism, three case study CPs were selected against which to carry out a detailed application of the Standard. These were the Exe Estuary Management Partnership (EEMP); Tamar Estuaries Consultative Forum (TECF) and Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum (PCF), all of which scored relatively poorly. That none of the three CPs achieved the pre-requisite standard raised a number of considerations relating to the efficacy of the Standard and its operation, as well as to the nature of ICZM in the UK and its aim of achieving sustainable development. Conclusions drawn from this evaluation identified that the current operation of ICZM in the UK exhibits a disjointed approach to achieving its long-term goals, as a result of its voluntary nature. The voluntary approach employed in the UK can be seen to be at the root of a number of problems facing the successful development of ICZM. In terms of resources, it has implications for the skills, knowledge and training of coastal managers, as well as the funding available to develop and implement effective plans. The voluntary approach also does not necessarily 'encourage' appropriate cultural changes within or between stakeholder organizations, and does not impart joint responsibility or collective liability upon stakeholders to achieve sustainable development.
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