Historically, the European North Sea Coast has regularly been affected by disastrous storm surges. Since 1962 – the latest fatal disaster in the area – it has been possible to prevent fatal casualties. Huge financial and technical input helped to keep damages at relatively low levels. However, the projected impacts of climate change, especially intensified storm activity and sea level rise, may lead to increased hazards and, thus, to the need to enhance resilience.
The work conducted within the case study substantiated that the involved stakeholders don't perceive risk management of storm surge events as a burning issue. An online survey, which was conducted in communities along the German Wadden Sea coast, revealed that - despite of anticipated social-economic impacts of severe storm surges and demanded information - stakeholders expressed general confidence in the coastal protection measures for current and future scenarios (see Gonzáles-Riancho et al. 2015). In a second step, a workshop with the multi-sector partnership of the Wadden Sea Forum (WSF, see Box: Stakeholder involvement) resulted in similar statements. However, at the same time the multi-sector-partnership, including participating stakeholders from the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, raised a variety of other natural and socio-economic risks for the region and expressed major concerns about the need of improved risk management processes to cope with these risk. In this context stakeholders perceive the possibility of shipping accidents, conflicting spatial uses and the impacts of demographic change in the rural areas of the Wadden Sea Region as most prominent. In this setting, storm surges are a part of a multi-risks situation in which major challenges arise out of the need to manage these risks while taking mutual dependencies into account and the need to manage these risks according to the identified needs and concerns not only of the people involved in the process but as well of the society at large.
Currently, risk management in the Wadden Sea Region is characterised by governmental top-down decision-making coupled with engineering protection measures which are purely focused on the prevention of storm surge damage. Moreover, the current risk management is bound to administrative and national borders. Little attention is paid to management processes across the national borders yet, even though the highly interlinked risk system of threats, causes and consequences goes beyond administrative boarders and affect all three countries in a comparable way. At this point the trilateral WSF offers a possibility to enhance the cross-national perspective in risk management in terms of trilateral cooperation and communication.
This multitude of risks and impacts, affecting different business sectors and administrative levels, calls for an enhanced stakeholder involvement in the risk management process, contributing experience and knowledge and sector specific perspectives to the risk management process. The complexity and dynamics of the environmental and social risks in the WSR demand flexible and dynamic decision-making including the variety of knowledge and perceptions of stakeholders and sectors affected. This goal is pursued in the ENHANCE project by including affected stakeholder in a communication process within a multi-sector partnership (MSP) on a trilateral level. The WSF constitutes an appropriate MSP and partner for this case study because it pairs up the affected stakeholders and offers a platform for a collaborative approach to risk management in the cross-national region.
In this setting, the ENHANCE project applies a framework of integrative risk management with the objective to overcome obstacles and raise awareness towards a variety of risks, including storm surge risks, and their cascading effects. The framework is focussed on facilitating an exchange of knowledge, facilitating a communication process about priorities in risk management in the WSR and to provide a basis for further collaborative risk management on a cross-border level in cooperation with the existing multi-sector partnership. This process means to move beyond a pure technical perspective and perceive risk management as a societal process.
Following the integrative risk management, the case study aims to illustrate the capabilities of MSPs to enhance risk management on a trilateral level. To achieve this goal, the case study addresses the role of the WSF in risk management and the circumstances for successful involvement. This was pursued in a series of three workshops with the members of the trilateral WSF. On the basis of continuous communication between the ENHANCE partners and the stakeholders of the WSF the role of the MSP in enhanced trilateral risk management has been identified by the stakeholders themselves while the workshop served as catalysts for this process. The first goal was to sensitize for risk management as a social process rather than a purely technical endeavour by accessing the different risk perceptions and stimulating a dialogue about causes and consequences of the risks in the Wadden Sea Region (see Gerkensmeier & Ratter 2016). Afterwards, the role of the WSF in the risk management process was collaboratively accessed in a second workshop. The results of the first two workshops were summarized and further discussed in a third workshop which also included a participatory scenario approach to elaborate the role of the WSF with practical examples.
State of play
This case study analysed the regional culturally embedded perception of nature, natural events, resources and resource interests as well as the recent historic handling of the two storm surges on 1953 and 1962 and its influence on current coastal protection measures. The research goal has been to compare the different regional cultures of risk in the Netherlands and in Germany as well as to test, assess and proof the transferability of culturally embedded social resilience approaches for the future.
The total time period for the ENHANCE project encompasses 48 months (month 1: December 2012). The time frame necessary to complete the deliverables within the case study is:
D1. Report: Month 12
D2. Report: Month 17
D3. Report & Database: Month 27
D4. Report: Month 36
D5. Report: Month 39
The workshops highlighted the capabilities of the WSF as a cross-national MSP to serve as a communicator, ambassador and multiplier in integrative coastal risk management. In this role, the WSF can develop new strategies as well as support the implementation of already existing ones. The Forum can accomplish its function because it can draw on the knowledge and experience of the involved stakeholders, offers a cross-national and cross-sectoral platform and, finally, initiates snowballing effects to other stakeholders.
The current composition of the WSF with the inclusion of stakeholders from all three countries and from different sectors and different levels constitutes an adequate basis for its role as an MSP in integrative risk management. Its transnational characteristic enables the WSF to improve the trilateral cooperation on risk management. For example, socio-demographic change will raise demand for innovative solutions. Different approaches and ideas could be discussed on a cross-border level and the WSF could serve as a platform to collect and distribute best-practice examples. In the case of storm surges, the stakeholders expressed that, besides the protection measures in place, coordinated spatial planning is needed. The planning portal of the WSF could offer a tool to achieve this need.
The analysis made the capabilities of the WSF evident, although it also identified aspects which need improvement (see Figure 1). To realize their full potential as an actor in risk management, the involved stakeholders could increase the WSF's visibility in the political debates. For a long-lasting role in decision making, appropriate financial and structural support is crucial. Additionally, the WSF need continuous effort to keep track of the changing multi-risk situation in the trilateral areas.
Finally, the WSF demonstrates that voluntary structures are able to work successfully. However, the WSF depends on this voluntary engagement of its participants. Therefore, it needs the long-lasting commitment of the involved parties and continuous efforts to obtain the engagement. It is important as well that other actors keep this voluntary engagement in mind.
Figure 1. Assessment of key characteristics of the WSF as a MSP in trilateral risk management in the WSR.
Trilateral Wadden Sea Forum, Landesbetrieb Küstenschutz, Nationalpark und Meeresschutz Schleswig Holstein (LKN), Niedersächsischer Landesbetrieb für Wasserwirtschaft, Küsten- und Naturschutz (NLWKN).
We would like to thank all Wadden Sea Forum members (http://www.waddensea-forum.org/) for their fruitful and inspiring discussions during the stakeholder workshops, by which they significantly contributed to the insights presented here.
Gonzáles-Riancho, P., Gerkensmeier, B., Ratter, B., Gonzáles, M. and Medina, R. 2015. Storm surge perception and resilience: A pilot study in the German North Sea coast. Ocean & Coastal Management 112, 44-60.
Gerkensmeier B., Ratter B. M. W. 2016. Multi-risk, multi-scale and multi-stakeholder – Contribution of the bow-tie analysis in risk management processes in the trilateral Wadden Sea Region. Journal of Coastal Conservation, DOI 10.1007/s11852-016-0454-8
See also the poster on the Adaption Futures 2016 conference in Rotterdam (http://edepot.wur.nl/378594, p. 185)