International Waters learning Exchange & Resource Network


Environmental policy and management only succeed if key stakeholders feel engaged and have bought into the design of the actions concerned. The Toolkit for Stakeholder Participation in Environmental Policy (in further text: Toolkit) provides practical guidance on how to achieve this, focusing on the Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) projects, which seek to advance ecosystem-based management approach and action in five modules: productivity, fish and fisheries, pollution and ecosystem health, socioeconomics, and governance.

This toolkit organizes and shares a range of approaches, gathering highly regarded tools for achieving effective stakeholder participation at all stages of environmental policymaking. It is intended to equip users with:

A framework and principles for working collaboratively,

Approaches for identifying relevant stakeholders,

Specific tools for different needs in stakeholder engagement, and

Strategies for reaching agreements.

The Toolkit was developed based on the lessons learned, best practices, and experiences gathered by Conservation International and partners in applying the Ocean Health Index (OHI) worldwide, with contributions from principles developed by the Consensus Building Institute.

1.1 Toolkit rationale

According to the US National Atmospheric and Oceanographic Administration (NOAA), all 64 LMEs combined produce about 80% of global annual marine fishery biomass 1 . And, using Costanza et al. (1997) estimation, LMEs (open oceans) account for about 40%, or US$ 8.4 trillion, of the total of marine $20.9 trillion of annual goods and services. Given the main role humans play in all five LME modules, stakeholder participation throughout all stages of an LME initiative (from Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis - TDA, Strategic Action Programme - SAP design, and National

Action Plan - NAP adoption, all the way through to SAP implementation and revision) is an essential requirement to attain project objectives. While effective LME management is inherently a participatory endeavor, it is often the case that stakeholders with varying interests do not work together, leading to inefficient and unsustainable use of natural resources, as can be evidenced by the high rates of overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction seen throughout most LMEs. Historical, political, and cultural factors continue to pose barriers for LME management to effectively engage stakeholders in project planning and decision-making. In the LME context, in particular, the sheer number and diversity of relevant stakeholders that need to be involved for effective project implementation, makes the participatory management task very difficult. Nevertheless, the rapid degradation of marine natural resources, which poses a threat to economies and human well-being, has brought renewed attention to the need of seeking greater coordination and cooperation among all the actors that affect and are affected by changes in coupled socio-ecological systems and the solutions proposed by various LME initiatives.

In general, most environmental management efforts only engage stakeholders to keep them informed about proposed actions or to understand what are the conditions that may be negatively affecting their well-being. However, few efforts seek to remediate the status-quo (which is often unsustainable) and create new development pathways that offer equitable distribution and sustainable delivery of marine ecosystem services, which are the key benefit people receive from nature. For LME projects to shift business as usual in ocean and coastal management, project managers and lead collaborators must be deliberate about designing and implementing a plan for working with all relevant stakeholders throughout the life of the project. The ecosystem, multi-scale, long-term, human centric multi-management scale approach inherent in the LME process necessitates the use of custom-made tools precisely designed to address the complexities intrinsic to this management approach. As such, this toolkit has been developed with a view to gather tools and approaches from known best practices for involving various stakeholder groups in active participation throughout all phases of an LME project.

1.2 Target audience

The main audience for this Toolkit is the individuals and teams involved throughout the stages of LME projects, which includes, but is not limited to, Global Environment Facility (GEF) personnel, scientific staff conducting TDAs, regional managers and consultants developing SAPs, country officers and Project Coordinating Units (PCU) implementing SAPs and NAPs, as well as stakeholder leaders involved in LME projects. The Toolkit, however, can also be used by non-LME audiences, as it is designed to be useful at multiple scales of management, from stakeholders working at the smallest relevant unit of decision making, such as the community or local levels, to stakeholders influencing national or sub-national decision making. This document will be most useful, however, to environmental managers planning new projects, programs, or activities whose success hinges on the degree of participation and collaboration of environmental actors.

The principles and tools presented in this document work best when efforts are guided by a strong convener, such as the PCU. That is, an actor who has a stake in the environmental issue at hand, has the willingness and legitimacy to engage other stakeholders for advancing common objectives, and has sufficient capacity (technical and financial) to drive the stakeholder process forward. While PCUs and government agencies often play this role in the LME project context, NGOs, civil society groups, and/or academic institutions can also serve as conveners, provided they meet the required criteria mentioned above.