Communication and Public Participation Case Study for the Caspian Sea

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Sea of change

The Caspian Sea is the biggest enclosed body of water on earth. Five countries border it - Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan. For decades under communism in the north and the Iranian monarchy in the south, environmental concerns generated nothing but silence. But starting with the fall of the monarchy and the demise of the Soviet Union, governments started to involve their citizens in debates over how best to preserve the Caspian.

Seizing on the new political landscape, a number of organizations including UNDP created the Caspian Environment Programme (CEP) in order to help people living by the Caspian address the environmental challenges they face. People working on the endeavour first canvassed the local populations in each of the five countries to find out what their environmental concerns were. This was followed by a ‘stakeholder analysis' which identified who had a ‘stake' in the programme achieving its objectives. Then a ‘Public Participation Strategy' was created to chart how to better involve the public in resolving environmental challenges.

The problems the Caspian Sea region faces are formidable. Commercial fishing is wiping out the population of sturgeon - producer of caviar - threatening the future of a $1 billion business shared by the countries bordering the Caspian. Oil exploration and production are harming water quality and taking their toll on the rich biodiversity of the Caspian, which supports over 100 species of fish. And the Volga River, which flows into the Caspian from Russia, is believed by many to be a source of contaminants.

To help people address the environmental issues that concern them, the CEP designed two grants programmes. The Matched Small Grants Programme offers grants up to $50,000 to fund pilot projects that address urgent environmental issues such as treating sewage waste, bolstering drinking water supplies, and supporting the sturgeon population. Smaller Micro Environment Grants provide up to $3,000 for projects that support public awareness, knowledge, and understanding of Caspian environmental issues.

The CEP has also held workshops for journalists in the Caspian region to provide them with hands-on training on how to develop environmental news stories for publication in local, national, and international media.

Those who benefit from the programme include over 12 million people living anywhere from the coastal villages of Turkmenistan, to the highly dense urban settlements along the Iranian coast, to the 3 million residents of Baku, Azerbaijan.

UNDP is implementing the project for the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). Other partners include the five countries bordering the Caspian, the European Union, the World Bank and other UN agencies such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Context

Communication and Public Participation Case Study for the Caspian Sea

Focus Areas

Geographic Scope

Caspian Countries i.e. Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan

Stakeholders

UNDP is the GEF implementing agency for the project. The littoral countries are the main owners of the Programme. A number of prominent international partners which includes the European Union (EU), the UNDP, and the World Bank are also included as CEP partners. Other UN agencies such as IAEA, IMO, UNOPS, UNESCO, FAO and WHMO also collaborate with the programme. Industries in particular the oil and gas industry are also partner to specific activities under the programme. CEP has also from start endeavored the active participation and involvement of all major stakeholders such as local authorities, community residents, NGOs, Civil Societies, and the Media to the programme at the maximum extent.

Contacts

Hamid Ghaffarzadeh, CEP/SAP Project Manager

Melina Seyfollahzadeh, Grants and Public Participation Manager


Contents

Background and Significance

The five Caspian countries are highly varied in social, cultural, economic and ethnic constructs. Despite their proximity the birth of a common official dialogue or giving ear to a public voice did not begin to take shape until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the north and the collapse of the Iranian monarchy in the south.

Most decisions came from Moscow and Tehran, which ‘co-existed’ with minimal trade and other interaction while the people’s role throughout the Caspian littoral was limited to their broad smiles in official photographs. Environmental issues found no space on the agenda between the two governments in the era of the Iron Curtain and little immediately thereafter when the number of capitals increased from two to five. As for a public voice, the operative concept was silence. Environment was simply a non-issue.

The landscape changed in the late 80s and early 90s commensurate with the political earthquakes on both sides of the water body. This bought in its wake new official perspectives--governments that were open to dialogue and that shared a cautious willingness to involve the public in the political theatre.

The issue of public participation has been sought by all Caspian countries as an integral part of the development, strengthen and maintain of management of the Caspian environment.

Communication and participation in the management of the Caspian environment was one of the issues needed to be addressed by the CEP. Communication plays an important role in implementing CEP activities. To have a constructive dialogue between the CEP and people, two-way communications has been sought throughout the programme. Two of the nine major outcome of Caspian project directly deal with stakeholders participation and communication namely outcome G and outcome I.

The Experience: Challenges and Solutions

WHAT

Environment, never previously considered a major political or economic issue came to the force as an opportunity for trans-boundary dialogue and a greater public space in this suddenly opened arena that attracted significant global attention. The Caspian Environment Programme (CEP) provided an excellent vehicle for regional dialogue and public participation on common environmental issues.

Establishment of a communication system and strengthening the public participation, as one of the objectives of the programme, intends to raise environmental awareness with emphasis on community-level understanding of the Caspian environment concerns; sensitise decision makers to the issues and to the need for adopting corrective and preventive policy measures and reinforcing additional support to the programm; and involve different stakeholders and public in various levels to the management of the Caspian environment.

The programme pays specific attention to communications and to stakeholder’s participation, including: - formulation of the Regional Stakeholder Analysis Report; - an institutional arrangement within the Programme to liaise with people at different regional, national and local levels; small groups representing different stakeholders from the region were also organized as Caspian Concern Groups (CCG) to serve as voluntary bodies with an interest and commitment to support dialogue with the Programme and to air the concerns of local communities related to Caspian environmental issues; - development of an NGO database, media database, web-site, w/shops for journalists, news E-Bulletin, publishing of books, brochures, educational materials, etc. - provision of grants up to USD 50,000 to support pilot projects that address urgent Caspian Sea environmental issues; and grants up to USD 3,000 to support projects raising public awareness, knowledge and understanding of Caspian environmental issues; - formulation of the Public Participation Strategy for the Caspian Sea. MSGP concept was a novelty in the region, very successful which was repeated during 2nd phase in two rounds.

WHO

UNDP is the GEF implementing agency for the project. The main partners and owners of the programme are the littoral countries. A number of prominent international partners which includes the European Union (EU), the UNDP, and the World Bank and other UN agencies such as IAEA, IMO, UNOPS, UNESCO, FAO and WHMO also collaborate with the programme. Industries in particular the oil and gas industry are also partner to specific activities under the programme. The other major stakeholders included such as local authorities, community residents, NGOs, Civil Societies, and the Media to the programme at the maximum extent. The project’s direct beneficiaries are people and stakeholders in the five countries around the Caspian sea who have stake in the Caspian sea and its environment as well as other water bodies.

WHERE

The location of the programme is Caspian region, i.e. Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan, their coastal areas and 100 km inland from the sea, and the major tributaries up to the first major hydro-technical construction. Local people living in these areas vary from urban residents of now 3 million large Baku and the highly dense urban settlers in the Iranian coast to the villagers in the coast line of Turkmenistan, Kalmykia, Daghistan and Kazakhstan.

WHEN

CEP had the participation and involvement of stakeholders and public from its start. However, the strategic approach of having participation of public in the management of the Caspian environment started from 2002 when a survey was conducted on identifying the Stakeholders of the Caspian Sea. The Stakeholder Analysis Report was prepared in 2002, revisited in 2004 and led to formulation of the public participation strategy in 2006. Implementation of the PPS started with preparation of an Action Plan for PPS in each country in 2006. The PPS action plan will be incorporated in the National Caspian Action Programme (NCAP) to be implemented along with other activities envisaged in the NCAPs. The time-frame for the PPS Action Plan has been set in correlation with the CEP Strategic Action Plan (SAP).

HOW

Stakeholder Analysis

Towards these objectives the CEP began to identify major stakeholders as well as their perceptions of environmental issues and solutions at the beginning of the programme. One of our first steps was to carry out a comprehensive ground- truthing exercise which aimed to review and assess the status of the public participation around the Caspian including a review of regional, national and local institutional and legal structures, cultural characteristics, means of communication and access to information and justice on environmental. The exercise was carried out through questionnaires and face-to-face discussions in each Caspian country by CEP advisors. This was followed by the formulation of a regional Stakeholder Analysis Report to identify those who had a ‘stake‘ and whose interests could have helped or hampered the programme in achieving its objectives. The Report provided insight into the ways stakeholders perceive issues and the policies that attempt to deal with them. It also provided recommendations on how to better inform stakeholders and engage them in a constructive dialogue to help improve the Caspian environment, and how to provide them with a better understanding of the issues at hand. CEP major stakeholders were identified as those who have an interest in the Caspian Sea; have influence or can influence its programmes; and are affected directly or indirectly by decision-making. These are mainly the national governments, international partners, NGOs, CBOs, local authorities, private sector, educational institutions, industries and local media of the Caspian littoral countries.

An institutional arrangement was made within the Programme to liaise with people at different regional, national and local levels. As an example, five Advisors were recruited to communicate with people at the public and community level. Small groups representing different stakeholders from the region were also organized as Caspian Concern Groups (CCG) to serve as voluntary bodies with an interest and commitment to support dialogue with the Programme and to air the concerns of local communities related to Caspian environmental issues.

Databases, workshops, website and grants

To facilitate communications, specifically at the local and national level, CEP prepared an NGO database to improve linkages between interested Caspian environmental NGOs, as well as a media database. Workshops were held for journalists from different media in the Caspian region to provide them with hands-on skill building for developing environmental news stories for publication in national, local and international media.

CEP communications with stakeholders is enhanced with the aid of a user-friendly website (http://www.caspianenvironment.org) containing updated information on environmental activities in the Caspian region. There is also a unique electronic library with a comprehensive scientific database and technical reports developed under the Programme. The CEP news “E-Bulletin” is delivered monthly through the CEP website and acts as a window for all stakeholders to express their views, share news and communicate with others. CEP also publishes books, brochures, educational materials and promotional items, each bearing information and slogans about the Caspian Sea environment. Each publication has its own target group. Soft copies of publications are available on the website.

To have more effective communications at the national and local level, CEP designed two Grants Programmes to encourage the public to participate in CEP activities. The larger MSGP (Matched Small Grants Programme), with grants up to USD 50,000, supports pilot projects that address urgent Caspian Sea environmental issues. The smaller MEG (Micro Environment Grants), with grants up to USD 3,000, support projects raising public awareness, knowledge and understanding of Caspian environmental issues. Many interesting completed and ongoing project examples can be found at CEP Grants Programme

Strategic public participation

Finally, in order to have a strategic approach towards communication objectives, CEP formulated a Public Participation Strategy (PPS) for the Caspian Sea which helps enhancing our communications and other objectives. The Caspian PPS was based on the GT survey and Stakeholder Analysis Report and through a consultative, participatory, transparent and inclusive process within the Caspian region.

The PPS serves as a flexible framework and addresses stakeholder participation in Caspian environmental initiatives through capacity building and strengthening the legal and institutional basis. It establishes new formal and informal institutions for public participation and facilitates a systematic and transparent information flow to raise public awareness. The desired outcome of PPS is to enhance and inform stakeholders and facilitate inter-sectoral participation in the management of the Caspian environment. The document divides CEP’s target audiences into three groups at the regional, national and local levels and provides recommendations for actions expected to be taken by them.

The Caspian PPS was endorsed by the CEP Steering Committee Meeting in February 2006 and Operational Plans for activities at the various levels (local, national and regional) are being developed, together with monitoring and evaluation indicators in each Caspian country based on the PPS and priority areas in each country.

Results and Impact

The Caspian Environment Programme (CEP) is an umbrella inter-governmental environment programme in Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan that aims to promote sustainable development and management of the Caspian environment in order to obtain optimal long-term benefits for the human population of the region. Established in 1998, CEP is reflecting a regional desire to collaborate to actively tackle the environmental challenges that the Caspian faces.

Lessons for Replication

The initiative expects the challenges during the implementation phase as the various levels of capacities in the region which needs to be addressed to pave the way for establishment of a regional environmental network. Other challenges may include the language barrier in the region as well as the budget constrains.

The initiative benefits from the support of governments of the five Caspian countries as it was endorsed by all Caspian countries.


Main Results

We are not sure we come across “the solution” but can confidently claim we are moving in the right direction. The problem to us was lack of communities and stakeholders conmunications, in a sustainable and adequate way. What we have achieved are:

  • have learnt who the stakeholders are
  • have tied to understand what they perceived as issues and solutions
  • have endeavored to engage them in the dialogue on solutions.


Interviewees and Key Contacts

Hamid reza Ghaffarzadeh – CEP/SAP Project Manager: hamid.ghaffarzadeh@undp.org

Melina Seyfollahzadeh – Grants and Public Participation Manager: melina.seyfollahzadeh@undp.org

Ms. Aytan Shirinova – Public Participation Advisor – Azerbaijan: ashirinova@caspian.in-baku.com

Mr. Hafez Ghaffari – Public Participation Advisor – Iran: hafezghaffari@gmail.com

Mr. Serik Akhmetov- SAPIC – Kazakhstan: serik.akhmetov@mail.ru

Mr. Oleg Guchgeldiyev – Public Participation Advisor - Turkmenistan pipp@online.tm

Dr. Mary Matthews – Stakeholder Analysis Advisor: Mary.matthews@tethysconsultants.com

Dr. Shahrbanou Tajbakhsh – Public Participation Advisor: shahrbanou@yahoo.com

Testimonies and Stakeholder Perceptions

Timeframe & Status

Phase I of the programme started in 1998-99, established the Programme Coordination Unit (PCU) in Baku-Azerbaijan. Phase I-CEP terminated in 2003-04. CEP resumed its activities in 2004 as the phase II of the programme by establishing the PCU in Tehran-Iran. The 2nd phase of the CEP (CEP/SAP) will be terminated in 2007.

During its two phases of activities, CEP succeeded in establishing a regional dialogue on environmental concerns and issues: to undertake a comprehensive Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) of priority environmental issues, and to formulate and endorse an overall Caspian Strategic Action Programme (SAP) and five National Caspian Action Plans, one for each country. It also succeeded to develop fundable investment environmental projects and funded and implemented a number of small-scale investment environmental projects of tangible and quick results. These achievements were topped by the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea which the programme helped to be developed and signed by all Caspian countries in Tehran in November 2003 and ratified by them in 2006 and has come into the force on 12 August 2006.

CEP, in brief, made a regional constructive environmental dialogue a possibility and a reality.

References

See also

Water Knowledge Fair 2006

Caspian Environment Programme

Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis for the Caspian Sea

CEP/Grants Projects

CEP/Azerbaijan Oily Soil Clean Up

External Resources

Attachments

 Iran Caspian Case Study.DOC

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