From stakeholder to shareholder – organising stakeholder commitment for the Scheldt estuary of the future

Stephanie Janssen, Gerald Jan Ellen, Marcel Taal

Monday 29 june 2015

11:30 - 11:45h at South America (level 0)

Themes: (T) Special session, (ST) Scheldt Estuary physics and integrated management

Parallel session: 1J. Special session: Scheldt Estuary physics and integrated management

The Scheldt Estuary is of central importance to ports, an extremely valuable, unique and protected nature reserve and is located in an area that is intensively used by agriculture and offers many opportunities for the tourism industry. Moreover the Scheldt Estuary covers both Dutch and Flemish territory. Due to this multitude of functions, the Scheldt Estuary provides the stage for a broad range of stakeholders and (conflicting) interests. Especially in the past decades these diverging interests led to an extremely tense decision-making process and accompanying implementation. The EU Interreg project ‘Estuaries on the MOVE’ (EMOVE) has taken up the challenge of bringing stakeholders together and organizing bottom-up commitment in working towards a sustainable Scheldt Estuary of the future. The main ambition of EMOVE was to turn stakeholders into shareholders, meaning that parties obtain ‘ownership’ of a particular development or project. Crucial in the approach were: 1) generating a shared understanding of the Scheldt estuary – combining state-of-the-art knowledge on the physical and ecological functioning of estuary involving knowledge on tidal processes, sediment budgets, estuarine processes and more with the different perspectives stakeholders have on the estuary – by means of a ‘Group Decision Modelling’ method and 2) collectively formulating projects and organizing coalitions for these projects. The result of the approach was both successful and highly promising. Five different projects were formulated – ranging from a changing polder regime (‘wisselpolders’), to a cross-border nature reserve, environmental-friendly sediment techniques, silt agriculture and governance opportunities – supported by stakeholder coalitions involving a variety sectors. The applied methodology of bottom-up project formulation, combined with Group Decision Modelling provided fruitful ground for a future healthy and sustainable Scheldt Estuary of the future and moreover important lessons for organizing stakeholder commitment in sensitive decision-making environments.