Report on civil society participation in the Grupo de Integração do Gerenciamento Costeiro - GI-GERCO - (Coastal Management Integration Group)

By Leopoldo Cavaleri Gerhardinger


Since the mid-1990s, the Coastal Management Integration Group (GI-GERCO) has received secretarial support from the Environment Ministry and the secretariat of the Interministerial Commission for Marine Resources  (CIRM), to which is it subordinated. This is the only working group within the CIRM architecture that is open to civil society participation and, therefore, even though it has an inherently interministerial and coastal orientation, it provides a space in which we may talk about how to navigate the transition towards an effective governance that embraces the diversity of social actors involved and their respective interests regarding the sea.

This high level area for government dialogue, which is unique in the public sphere, where integration is the byword and the Federal Action Plan for the Coastal Zone (PAF-ZC, currently in its 4th edition - 2017-2019) is what establishes the government agenda for questions related to the extensive Brazilian coastal zone.  

In 2016, we noted a serious gap (for unknown reasons) of almost three years in the participation of representatives of NGOs (civil society ) in the GI-GERCO, a right guaranteed upon indication by the Permanent Commission of the National Register of Environmental Organizations (CP-CNEA).

Immediately, members of a number of coastal and marine networks such as: the working group of volunteers of the Ouvidoria do Mar (Sea Ombudsman), the Conservação Marinha e Pesca (Marine and Fisheries Conservation) network, Teia Pesca (Teia de Redes de Pesca Artesanal no Brasil), and the Brazilian Panel for the Future of the Oceans (SeaPanel) set about re-establishing participation in this important space for social control of public policy relating to the sea in Brazil.

The anti-wild animal traffic NGO Rede Nacional Contra o Tráfico de Animais Silvestres (RENCTAS), a member of the CP-CNEA and accordingly a council member of the national environmental council CONAMA, assumed the representation (Ítalo Mazzarella) and supported the participation of the alternate indicated by the coastal and marine networks mentioned above (Leopoldo Cavaleri Gerhardinger). The logistics for the participation of these networks in GI-GERCO are being subsidized by Instituto Linha D’Água, a non-governmental organization based in São Paulo that promotes marine conservation measures in a number of areas along the Brazilian coast.

In 2017, for the first time since the creation of GI-GERCO, civil society representatives proposed and assumed responsibility for two of the 18 measures in the 6th PAF-ZC 2017-2019 (Federal Action Plan for the Coastal Zone). One of these is related to fostering social control of public policy of the Brazilian sea focused on the targets of the Sustainable Development Goal No 14 “Life below water” (Action No 15). Another measure for which the networks are responsible (Federal Action Plan No. 16) is aimed at contributing towards the approval of bill of law 6.969/2013, the objective of which is the introduction of a national policy for the conservation and sustainable use of the Brazilian Marine Biome (PNCMar) and to pursue mechanisms and synergies to drive its implementation.

These are very ambitious and highly complex actions, considering the major challenge of representing civil society in a country with such a great diversity of direct and indirect users of ecosystem services produced by the ocean.  

 Moreover, in spite of all the governmental efforts in the form of all the programs and working groups associated with the CIRM, so far the GI-GERCO has still not been able to overcome the setbacks generated by the fragmentation of sector management and development policies. For example, in the previous edition of the Federal Action Plan – Coastal Zone 2015-2016, the key Action 4 sought to promote two forums for the discussion and integration of sector planning exercises up to 2015, but these never materialized. 


Civil society participation in the debate on governance of the ocean

On Wednesday, August 9, members of GI-GERCO met for the 60th Ordinary Session and, for the first time, civil society activities being undertaken were presented in full to the entire plenary audience. The presentation is available in this link but, in summary, the main initiatives presented were those developed by civil society in relation to SDG 14 in Brazil, including:

  • the  launch of the 2018 edition of the Relatório Luz (Light Report) on social control over SDG 14 in Brazil (link);

  • the preparations for a National Partnership for the Conservation of the Oceans (link), which includes proposals of measures for the creation and implementation of protected marine areas;

  • the initial steps for the implementation of the Programa Horizonte Oceânico Brasileiro (Brazilian Oceanic Horizon Program) (link) aimed at fostering action by researchers and activists at the beginning of their career at the interface of knowledge around public policies for the sea and coasts;

  • the steps taken and the challenges involved in the Pesca Vital (Vital Fishing) strategy for the implementation of the Small-Scale Fishing Guidelines in Brazil (link and video) and;

  • the various action fronts that still lack greater attention such as the definition of indicators for social control, the limitations that still exist to societal participation in GI-GERCO, and the need to raise funds to implement some Federal Action Plan – Coastal Zone 2017-2019 activities that are the responsibility of civil society representatives (e.g., collaborative studies on the interaction between the SDGs, the production of a series of regional Ouvidoria do Mar events in partnership with the MPF, the development of a data bank, seminars on artisan fishing, etc).  


The civil society presentation also includes an alert about SDG 14.5 which addresses expansion of the national network of protected marine areas. The intervention was based on a scientific article published recently in the journal Marine Policy (Giglio et al., 2018 - link), in which 27 researchers issue a warning about the three main deficiencies and concerns related to the process of creating large protected oceanic marine areas in Brazil, including:

  1. top-down alterations in the original design left the most diverse, vulnerable and unique ecosystems with little protection;

  2. permission for fishery activities within fully protected conservation units (UCs);

  3. problems in the use of these conservation units to quantify progress related to the Aichi Target 11.

The authors also presented an estimate that recreational fishing on the islands would result in an annual catch of approximately 11.7 tons of reef fish, including species threatened with extinction. In response to the questions, the representative of the Navy Chief of Staff on GI-GERCO (Commander Teixeira), promptly responded affirming that these activities have already been regulated for a number of years, indicating an article published recently in the magazine “Nexo" (link) that clarifies this subject and provides the Navy’s response to some of the questions raised by the scientists.


Main themes to be tracked by the coastal and marine networks 

During the session, updates on the measures in the Federal Action Plan – Coastal Zone (PAF-ZC) were presented by the respective organizations responsible. Shortly, the minutes of the meeting will be widely disclosed, but some important questions that were addressed should be underscored. 

Soon after the beginning of the day, there were expressions of regret at the absence of the Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio) and the Special Aquaculture and Fishing Department (SEAP) from the GI-GERCO sessions, which constitutes a gap in the government’s approach to marine conservation and fisheries, because only civil society is raising these subjects for debate through the measures for which it is responsible in the PAF-ZC (Federal Action Plan – Coastal Zone).  

Academia made a proposal to introduce new representatives into the GI-GERCO in function of the diversity of perspectives and capabilities these could bring to the debates. As part of civil society, we indicated our support for the proposal and also informed that when the time is right we should present proposals to expand the representation of societal segments in this and other participative spaces related to public policy on the sea and coasts in Brazil. Unfortunately the proposal made by Academia was not accepted by the GI-GERCO secretariat, which demonstrates the challenge we face in renewing and updating ocean governance arrangements in the country.

The GI-GERCO secretariat informed the participants about alterations in the mechanisms for assessing and monitoring the Federal Action Plan – Coastal Zone (PAF-ZC) actions, with the requirement that from now on members should send in updates 10 working days ahead of the next session. This implies that the networks need to improve the dynamics of the joint construction of the synthesis or results to be presented in the future.

On a number of occasions during the meeting, civil society representatives questioned and requested that GI-GERCO guarantee funds for the implementation of the Federal Action Plan – Coastal Zone  (PAF-ZC) through the government’s multi-year planning or other mechanisms. This support is especially important given that, differently from the government organizations that participate in GI-GERCO, civil society representatives do not have any funds allocated for developing actions considered to be key in safeguarding the country’s coastal and marine natural heritage beyond the volunteer work done by the dozens of people who contribute via the networks.   

Important working groups linked with the GI-GERCO were created. These will require articulation by the networks based on the identification and ongoing engagement of focal points with the expertise necessary to exercise thematic social control, such as: GT Orla (Waterfront Working Group) to support negotiations and contribute to the development of six workshops on the application of the new legislation that regulates the transfer of waterfront (beach) management to the coastal municipalities; GT Zoneamento Econômico-Ecológico Costeiro - GT ZEEC - (Coastal Economic-Ecological Zoning Working Group), whose mission is to develop methodological guidelines for integrating coastal and territorial/continental zoning.

It was also announced that we are close to the launch of the Coastal Erosion Prevention and Protection Guidelines (Guia de Diretrizes de Prevenção e Proteção à Erosão Costeira) prepared by the sub-working group, together with other manuals recently published by the Federal Public Prosecution department, such as land ownership regularization and  fisheries management (link). 

Lastly, the plenary dealt with the organization of the 11th National Coastal Management Meeting (XI Encontro Nacional de Gerenciamento Costeiro - XI ENCOGERCO) in Florianópolis from October 15 to 20 (link). The meeting includes a wealth of technical programming as well as the realization of the next Ordinary GI-GERCO Session during the week. For civil society and the knowledge networks it will be an important occasion for clarifications and alignments aimed at strengthening public participation in the implementation of Federal Action Plan – Coastal Zone (PAF-ZC) 2017-2019 Actions 15 and 16 . In this regard, around fifteen volunteers will be conducting an Audiovisual Educommunication Workshop during the 11th ENCOGERCO. The objective is to introduce a critical and constructive approach to the manner in which coastal and marine networks may help in the transition from Government to Governance of the Brazilian ocean.


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