WHY AND WHEN SHOULD MPA MANAGING TEAMS LAUNCH A RESILIENCE EVALUATION PROCESS ?
Any moment is good, it is never too early and generally never too late to address resilience through evaluation. Considering that coastal protected areas face both terrestrial and marine threats, their main threats will arise from outside the protected area resulting in direct and indirect effects. It is therefore necessary for MPA managers to better understand and to get ready to address emerging threats, and change from external stressors. This exercise will lead to a more open, proactive and collaborative process, considering that the necessary data will be partly provided by other institutions and stakeholders, and that the results will be of interest to a wide range of potential partners.
When developing or implementing the management plan: Resilience capacity-building objectives and tasks can be integrated into a management plan, whether the first one for a new MPA, or when implementing a plan. Effectiveness and implementation can be assessed either mid-term or at the end of the management plan period.
When evaluating a management plan that does not consider resilience: even if a management plan does not define objectives and activities related to resilience, the criteria and indicators proposed above could be used when evaluating its implementation. This exercise can lead to decisions to integrate new elements in an updated management plan for the next period.
When facing a new situation or new threats arising from the outside: in the case of new activities or noteworthy developments in the surrounding area, conflicts with stakeholders, or after facing a serious hazard, the managing team might consider strengthening their capacity to face rapid changes. Implementing a resilience assessment will help to identify the main weaknesses and the potential management strategies to be implemented.
WHAT ABOUT BEING “PROACTIVE” ?
Several good practices have been documented in different contexts by the Transatlantic MPA CRWG. Each case study clearly demonstrates the capacity of MPAs, in the case of hazards and increasing pressures or conflicts, to act as data providers, mediators and initiators of common solutions.
This ability is linked to several specific characteristics of MPAs: i) MPAs produce public information and work with data and science producers to monitor ecological and social changes, which is valued by many stakeholders; ii) MPAs are established permanently, focus on long-term objectives and are able to orient stakeholders acting on the basis of temporary mandates; iii) MPAs are equipped with materials which can be used for various tasks on the field and can serve for education matters or in case of emergency; iv) MPAs demonstrate good results when reducing the impacts of direct and indirect pressures, which requires developing collaborations with multiple stakeholders.
They are proven more efficient when co-managed with the local communities and partners; and v) the benefits produced by MPAs are generally shared by numerous diverse stakeholders.
Therefore, by recommending a proactive approach, we recommend that MPA managers should invest time and energy on connecting to local communities and other stakeholders, developing and strengthening partnerships, gathering information about the development of surrounding territories, producing reference data and monitoring environmental change and human activity.
IS A RESILIENCE EVALUATION PROCESS COMPLICATED TO UNDERTAKE AND TIME WASTING ?
The project team recognized that an in-depth resilience assessment might be an exigent and time-consuming process that requires a lot of information, much of which is neither produced nor stored by the MPA manager. Undertaking a formalized prospective study is a project in and of itself. Although desirable in the long term, it might not be a priority for MPAs with limited staff or resources. However, it is possible for all MPAs to undertake a partial and/or synthetis assessment in order to identify main weaknesses and the priority elements that should be integrated by the MPA managers in their dashboard and possibly in the management plan.
Assessing capacity for building resilience is finally a continuous process linked with MPA manager proactivity.
Building resilience is a progressive and continuous process and can’t be achieved at once. The importance of the process is to progressively anticipate and identify the threats, raise awareness, help establish partnerships, and define possible pathways to reduce the risks, strengthen resilience, enhance recovery, recognize the value of new strategiess, and explore driving forces of the changes. Getting to resilience entails adopting an institutional approach as much as implementing a plan of work. The more the MPA manager is collaborative, connected, transparent, open to information sharing, ready for shared governance, the more success there will be in strengthening the resilience of his or her site. It requires both patience and the ability to move quickly when the circumstances allow.
HOW DO I START IF I HAVE NO DATA ?
The whole process will necessarily be open and collaborative. Once the manager defines the type of data that will be needed to document the process and answer the main evaluative questions, it will be helpful to set up collaborations with potential partners. The type of studies and data mining may be of interest to a wide range of disciplines which provides an opportunity to engage universities, researchers, students and stakeholders. This might be an effective and low-cost data gathering and production pathway and an opportunity for broader exchanges. The managing team must be encouraged to partner with institutions and stakeholders that produce and store information, and seek access with an open attitude and clear communication about the objectives of data collection; it must be clear also that the results of the studies will be shared with and accessible to the stakeholders.
HOW DO I DO TO GET OTHER STAKEHOLDERS ENGAGED IN THE PROCESS ?
In a fast changing situation, MPAs won’t be the only entities to be interested in better understanding their position, weaknesses and strengths, the risks they face and the opportunities they have to build stronger resilience. MPA managers need to remain open and transparent when presenting their interest in conducting a study about local/regional changes and the implications for the MPA and for partnering institutions and stakeholders. As MPAs may have a limited mandate to make decisions outside their borders, MPA managing teams can play a role of facilitator or moderator of the process, knowing that the outputs of the exercise might be taken over by other stakeholders. MPA managers can also share scientific or technical resources about the MPA with external stakeholders or institutions.
HOW TO START WHEN FACING CONFLICTING RELATIONSHIPS WITH ONE OR PART OF THE STAKEHOLDERS?
Successful MPA management involves many parties. It will be useful to establish a map of the stakeholders, documenting their respective interests, sphere of influence, capacity and support for the MPA. The MPA manager will need to establish alliances with the stakeholders who recognize the value of the MPA, its benefits, and those who share common or coherent long-term objectives. These alliances should ideally be multiple and concern actors of different categories (research institutions, academic community, socio-professional and civil society organizations, local communities, locally elected fellows, opinion leaders, private sector, media, etc.).
Depending on the type and degree of the conflicts, it could be productive to develop an early agreement on roles and responsibilities, with shared activities preferred. Other stakeholders may be effective spokespeople or facilitators with certain parties or sectors, based on their existing relationships. The process should not be completed without trying to bridge the gaps and reduce the conflicts with stakeholders which have different visions, interests or positions of negotiation.
One of the utilities of the prospective study is that it brings the actors to think at a time scale allowing to put aside immediate conflicts of use or access and rebuild common objectives at a broader geographic scale. In the same spirit, it is important to consider all stakeholders, just like in a participatory process, as it will be important not to let any group of interest which could, if not engaged, reject the conclusions of the process.