A f rican economies are in crisis part i c u l a rly where the development of coastal regions and
small islands is concerned. So too is the relationship between the physical state of the land
and that of coastal regions, the sea and ecosystems. Education and communication are clearly
the most neglected factors in the equation. It is hard to list all the programmes of United
Nations (UN) agencies in this field around the world. The state of data-gathering projects in
individual countries makes it difficult to draw up summaries by sector. The UN Secretary General’s report to the Sixth Session of the Commission for Sustainable Development illustrated the wide range of UN action in the field of water resources, such as:
• the gathering and analysis of data and making surveys and reports;
• holding meetings and workshops with appropriate backup;
• technical help (providing consultancy services and working projects).
The problems and delays in communication and education in Africa, particularly in the countries
concerned, block out the inevitable developments going on worldwide. Communication and
education influence a country’s development of its resources because they are at the root of all
development. Sustainable development in count ries with a coastline and in small islands
depends largely on the ability of local people to communicate in modern or traditional fashions
and form local links between individuals to initiate new forms of co-operation and action.
So the people of the countries invo l ved first h ave to be made awa re of the need to protect the
e nv i ronment and taught how to do it in the hope t h ey will include it in their development pri o ri t i e s . They need to assess the status of the major coastal problems as part of the education and communication programmes of African countries. The rather hasty surveys done on this so
far are modest and generate little optimism about the present ability of education and communication to solve the demographic and environmental problems of coastal regions and small islands. In addition, future projects can only be carried out over the long term by including the problems and their solutions in education programmes, and by developing formal and informal education.
African countries need to formulate an information- education-communication (IEC) strategy
and consider ways to raise public awareness, ‘strengthen’ participation and decision-making
and encour age a change in people’s behaviour; since many problems are due to the way people
damage the environment. This method involves training IEC instructors for target groups so as
to bring communities closer together to consider the problem. Many international projects could be adapted to local communities which are in the main unaware of such things. These include drawing up regional communication plans, local use of new information and communication technology (setting up web sites) and developing traditional media as well as supporting local media and formal and informal education.