Background and objectives
Essaouira, Morocco, is a historic coastal town located between the ocean and a dune forest. The city is isolated from the main communication networks of the country. As the previous economic base of fisheries is in crisis, urban employment is limited to tourism and handicraft production. This has had severe repercussions on the quality of life and the environment. The cultural heritage has suffered degradation and continued expansion of the city inland is threatening its fragile ecosystem and the very survival of the town.
To promote good urban governance, the programme strategy emphasises the need for a shared vision for the future development of the city. In parallel, urgent problems are addressed through action planning and environmental conflict resolution. This process is underpinned by a continuous, broad-based consultation process. Capacity-building efforts focus on setting priorities for action, targeted human resources development, institutional strengthening, development and adaptation of tools, encouraging partnerships, mobilization of resources, and promoting exchange between cities facing similar problems.
The programme has activated consultation around the new master plan for Essaouira and played a catalytic role in the creation of an urban action planning centre. This centre has developed action plans, addressing issues such as the protection of the collapsing sea retaining wall and dilapidated city gates, a revitalisation plan for the Mellah area and development of an urban park as a buffer zone between housing estates and a dune forest. Several components of these plans have been implemented, while other more capital-intensive parts are now being redesigned into feasible projects. Meanwhile, results are being sustained through the promotion of collaboration between the municipal council and neighbourhood groups and through the strengthening of the information, dissemination and training functions of the centre.