The Royal Marine Conservation Society of Jordan (JREDS) engaged over 70 organizations and 2300 people to build a coalition of experts and civil society organizations to intervene in the rapidly depleting coast line and preserve the right of the Jordanian people to access public beaches.
The Jordanian coastline is just 27 km long. Due to ongoing investments – through an economic zone for tourism and development – only 5 kilometers of public access beachfront remains on the Red Sea. The Aqaba Special Economic Zone Council (ASEZA) is the government body responsible for development in the economic zone. Since ASEZA was established in 2001, Jordan has lost 10 km of its shore to investments. JREDS determined that rapid intervention action was needed to preserve the publics’ access to the beachfront. The campaign was also coupled with their struggle to preserve the local coral reefs and the diversity of sea life they sustain – including the livelihoods of the population along the same coastal area.
The focus on public access to clean and safe beaches was important for mobilizing the public. Clean and safe public access to beaches is another issue in Jordan. Areas that are clean and offer changing rooms and showers exist only on private beaches run by hotels, which cost a minimum of 25 JOD (35 USD). This is beyond the reach of most families. Medina Beach, one of the few remaining public beaches, has no such facilities. There are no control towers, lifeguards, or even garbage containers to collect trash. An additional danger is that there are no separate designated swimming and boating areas. This has resulted in deaths from accidents and drowning each year. JREDS was able to focus on public access to clean and safe beaches in order to help mobilize the community in support of their campaign.
The coalition brought together different civil society sectors including non-governmental and community based organizations, youth entities, and universities and education centers to work together in the “Our Beaches Are NOT FOR SALE” campaign. In order for the coalition to act effectively on many fronts, eight committees within the coalition were formed to address the specific needs of the campaign:
- Steering Committee – to oversee and coordinate the efforts of the entire campaign
- Historical Contest Committee – to build appreciation for the history of the coastal environmental resources and community
- Technical Issues Committee – to research the ASEZA structure and Master Plan
- Activities and Awareness Committee – to build community awareness of the beaches, ASEZA development plans, and engagement for direct actions
- Impact Assessment Committee – to compile information on environmental damages
- “Identify the Decision-Makers” Committee – to focus immediate efforts to halt the loss of public access to the beaches
- Media Committee – to ensure coverage and outreach through media mechanisms
- Legislation Committee – to research the current legislation and draft the desired changes for national legislation
At the beginning of their project in January 2012, JREDS had used the New Tactics “Strategic Effectiveness” method to provide the framework for capacity building and action development among organizational partners and experts in Aqaba to address this issue. Over the course of a year, 63 organizations and 222 individuals were trained in advocacy using the Strategic Effectiveness methodology. This training foundation, coupled with the guidance of the eight committee structures, lead to the further engagement of 73 organizations and other entities; 77 disabled persons; 1,441 youth (18-25); and 871 students (under 18) that were engaged in such advocacy interventions as:
- Awareness workshops on beach access, coastal resources situation and ASEZA development plans;
- Field visits to Aqaba beaches to see the condition of public beaches first hand;
- Beach and dive area clean up actions;
- Human chain action to bring public and media attention to the situation;
- TV and radio interviews;
- TV advertisement;
- Documentary film - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfIws6sdxjY
As a result of the JREDS campaign, the ASEZA Board of Commissioners accepted the proposed amendments to the ASEZA Master Plan. These changes have been issued in the Official Gazette by the cabinet, so they are permanent. JREDS is now poised to advance their comprehensive legal study into legislative advocacy to preserve the public’s right and access to beaches in national law.
In addition to the coalition building and public engagement, another significant success that emerged from the JREDS campaign was the coming together of the seven largest environmental NGOs in Jordan. These seven NGOs have formed a union of environmental associations, the first of its kind in Jordan. They work to carry out environmental advocacy on a national level.
New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.
JREDS was very successful at building a coalition, which can be a powerful tool by which organizations can achieve their goals. However, coalitions can be difficult to create and maintain because by nature they bring together many different organizations with different backgrounds, ideas, policies, and visions. JREDS used several tactics to help successfully avoid these problems.
First, the organization started with a plan, then looked for partners to help achieve it. If a basic plan is not in place, infighting may occur. Using the New Tactics “Strategic Effectiveness” methodology is a good way to create a plan before beginning coalition building.
Second, JREDS had a strong organizational structure. The eight committees allowed coalition members to have a say and offered them freedom to create their own activism, but kept the movement centralized and organized. Without this structure, the campaign may have broken down due to its complexity and the large number of people and organizations involved.
Finally, JREDS took advantage of the strengths of each coalition group to carry out a large number of different types of activism. A diversity of activities helped bring the issue to a larger audience and contributed the campaign’s eventual success.