Main Issue

More than one-third of the world’s population lives within 100 km of the coast or estuaries, which are a major source of food and raw materials. Each year, roughly 50 million people move into these coastal zones, benefiting from access to trade and transport.

Our coastal resources are limited, however, and the economic activities that compete for these vital resources are leading to more and more conflict. Fish farmers and tourist operators, for example, are competing for prime coastal space.

The rate of coastal erosion, resource depletion, soil and water contamination, biodiversity degradation, and habitat destruction has also intensified. Coastal environments are particularly vulnerable to overexploitation because they include large areas that have been traditionally perceived as a public “commons.”

More countries are embracing integrated coastal management (ICM), a strategy that embraces a broader, more systemic approach to the management of coastal environments. ICM aims to foster the sustainable development of coastal areas by bringing together government, technical specialists and local stakeholders.

What We Do

The GEF has responded to requests for assistance in integrated coastal management (ICM) across the globe — from the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba to the Mediterranean, West and East Africa and the Caribbean. In East Asia, the International Waters (IW) focal area has helped countries to manage their burgeoning coastal growth before negative impacts and conflicts become irreversible. In addition, the GEF has invested in a large number of marine protected areas, primarily through the Biodiversity focal area.

Within the IW focal area, the GEF has invested in ICM within regional frameworks that enable national investments, such as the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia. This strategy has enabled the region to develop a mechanism for integrated and collaborative planning and implementation. In addition, it has launched a forum to promote good ICM practices, including the establishment of marine protected areas.


International Waters strategic investments have supported Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) to work with local and national governments, private sector, scientific institutions and other key stakeholders. Together, they apply integrated coastal management (ICM) solutions in dozens of sites across East Asia, impacting more than 30,000 km of coastline and some 150 million people living in watershed and coastal areas.

The East Asian Seas region is considered a world center for tropical marine biodiversity, supporting 30 percent of the world’s coral reefs and mangroves. But in the last 30 years, 11 percent of the region’s coral reefs have collapsed, while 48 percent are in critical condition. The PEMSEA program aims to extend the coverage of ICM across the region’s coastline from its current 12 percent to 25 percent by 2021. In this way, it will further encourage use of ICM as a practical framework that combines management of human activities with that of long-term protection of critical ecosystems, including coral reefs and mangrove habitats.