DESIGNED FOR CHANGE
The Coastal CURA was designed to achieve three things. First, it focused on including community members in research, as a means of addressing the power inequalities inherent in the conventional academic research approach. Inclusion also serves to draw on local knowledge and experience that could otherwise be overlooked. This participatory approach helped some communities (such as the Fundy North Fishermen’s Association) develop tools to undertake research on specific resource issues on their own.
Second, it aimed to engage audiences through varied and meaningful mediums. Stories about how communities are affected by decisions, and how they reflect and learn, have been told through academic papers, documentary films, workshops and a multi-day conference with delegates from around the world.
Third, the Coastal CURA focused on generating applicable findings that improved the management of Canada’s coasts and oceans, including ways to involve local communities in decision-making. Providing educational tools and drafting clear policy recommendations have been central in this strategy, and we hope that these will help governments and other actors address conflicts generated by multiple use and mitigate against cumulative impacts.
Despite the existence of policies that encourage the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to work “in partnership” with local stakeholders (such as the Oceans Act), opportunities for representation of local voices are still greatly lacking when assessing the costs and benefits of a decision to these communities.
Coastal CURA’s review of past experiences and current management across the Maritimes yielded four key recommendations, each one highlighting an important requirement for effective participation of local communities in decision-making:
1. Focus on Community Participation as an essential element of resource management: Begin by consulting those most affected by decisions to be taken, namely those living beside the resource base in local communities. Local communities can and do create effective partners for managing resources, but only if government supports this role in a consistent way.
2. Incorporate Local Values and Resource Knowledge (e.g. traditional knowledge), which can be vital in assessing and addressing local resource concerns, into decision-making, and keep in mind that those in resource-based communities have diverse ideas of what constitutes proper and sustainable use of their local resources.
3. Build Capacity for Participation in Resource Management
Write community participation into new and existing policies to provide clear guidelines and best practices for engagement, every time; seek to understand and overcome obstacles that may prevent people in local communities from participating in decision making processes; and respect the important internal mechanisms communities have for deliberating ideas and alternatives, and the time these require to be completed.
4. Reflect Multiple Scales in Resource Management by enabling and supporting action not only at the large scale but also at the small (e.g. local beaches and wetlands). The time scale we use to judge ‘progress’ is important. Since our decisions now about coastal resources might be perceived differently in the future, we must ensure that decisions taken today leave local communities in future generations with similar opportunities to manage their local resources and spaces.
Wiber, M. & Coastal CURA. 2011. CURA Conversations: Summary Notes, and Lessons Learned. Notes and Conclusions from the CURA Conversations Meeting, June 25, 2011, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, NS.
Wiber, M., Young, S. & L. Wilson. 2011. Aquaculture-Traditional Fishery Interactions in Southwest New Brunswick: Implications for Future Research. OCN-Canada Policy Briefs, Volume 1 (January – April 2011): 4.
Bood, S. & Coastal CURA. 2011. Film: A Coastal Partnership: Maritime Stories of Integrated Management. Coastal Community University Research Alliance. Available Online.
Charles, A., Wiber, M., Bigney, K., Curtis, D., Wilson, L., Angus, R., Kearney, J., Landry, M., Recchia, M., Saulnier H. & C. White. 2010. Integrated Management: A Coastal Community Perspective. Horizons 10(4):26-34.
Wiber, M. & M. Recchia. Policy Brief: Calling for Integrated Management of Saint John Harbour