The Role of Community Engagement and Public Awareness Campaigns in Promoting Maritime Security in Coastal Communities
1. Introduction
Security of the country depends on the security of the seas because a large amount of international crimes, such as illegal immigration, drug and human smuggling, occur in and around the coast. Not to forget the serious crimes against humanity that occur, such as the Tsunami in 2004 where a large number of people were killed. It is not possible that the sea of Indonesia was free of problems and threats. There are many marginal societies in the coastal area where the society is vulnerable to the threat of social and economic issues. With the geographical condition of Indonesia, the number of coastal communities living on the coastal border makes the security problems of the sea very much related and close to the issue of coastal border security. It is because the coastal community is part of the actor from the security itself, because security problems of the sea are related to the big influence that occurs on the society. Unconducive conditions of the security of the sea will render the economy of the society helpless and lead them to get out from the anguish into the act of criminal to fulfill their economy and welfare needs, because it is what is available and easy to attain.
1.1 Importance of maritime security in coastal communities
Maritime security is an elusive concept that is often defined in narrow, state-centric terms. Historically, it has been defined in the context of war at sea, and the security of the global shipping industry has been tied to the protection and perceived interests of major maritime powers. The events of 9/11 and the significant attacks on commercial shipping and offshore energy installations in the past decade have broadened the understanding of threats to the maritime domain. Indeed, for many regions, maritime security has a very real human security dimension and is a daily concern. There is a growing acceptance that a range of non-traditional security issues, such as transnational crime, environmental degradation, and political instability, have a maritime dimension and affect human security. These issues are often symptoms of a much wider malaise that transcends national boundaries and are usually most acutely felt in coastal communities. High levels of unemployment within these communities means that many young men are attracted to the quick and easy money associated with illicit activities such as smuggling and people trafficking. When we consider that an estimated 90% of global illicit trade is conducted by sea, it is clear that these activities have a significant impact. Ongoing conflict within or between states often leads to displacement of persons, and refugees often seek to move across borders by sea. In some regions, coastal communities in failed or fragile states have become safe havens for transnational criminal and extremist organizations. The activities of these groups often lead to an increase in political violence and in places have caused a breakdown in law and order. The recent piracy problems off the coast of Somalia have garnered significant international attention and are a further symptom of a wider problem. In short, the globalization of economic and social activities has meant that there is no longer a separation between what happens ashore and what happens at sea. It is often marginalized and vulnerable communities that are most affected by these issues.
1.2 Definition of community engagement and public awareness campaigns
The concept of community engagement is often centered on the process of developing and maintaining a relationship between an organization and a community. Clearly stated by Bryson, community engagement seeks to involve the community in the decision-making processes, with the aim of active involvement in the social, economic, and cultural aspects of their life. Drawing from this, Milo and Johnson state that community engagement is important due to the empowerment it provides to the community, in which community views and ideas can be verbally expressed and taken into account effectively, and also critically develop social capital as it stresses the importance of communication and networking, which is crucial in building a successful and safe community. Others argue that the empowerment process ensues as community engagement helps the community meet their needs or objectives by creating a healthy environment in which new ideas can be introduced and various alternatives can be determined through the process of trial and error. As enriched in a research by MacQueen, it is important definitely important for the field of health promotion as one of the most effective ways to improve health is through the implementation of strategies that meet the needs of an intended audience. This process has been noticeably prevalent with the work of the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (HMCG), in which through enlisting an independent research agency, consultation with a range of interested parties and regional workshops, they recently developed the Sea Sense campaign and a strategy designed to reduce the misuse and axe the casual acceptability of nuisance calls on the 999 system, delivered by HMCG staff. By asking the views and ideas of the UK recreational and professional sea users, the method to determine the issues with the system and alternative solutions to the problem have had a direct effect on the overall campaign and is reflected in the perception of success from workshop participants.
2. Benefits of Community Engagement in Maritime Security
According to a study on public participation in the United States national marine sanctuaries, there is a positive correlation between the public’s understanding of sanctuary issues and the likelihood that they will participate in the management of that sanctuary (McKiernan and Vavrinek, 2003). This report suggests that an informed public is more likely to become involved in security or management initiatives within a maritime community. However, understanding alone is not sufficient to generate active participation. The same study identified the importance of reaching people at teachable moments when their values and interests are related to sanctuary issues. Additionally, people are more likely to become involved if they understand how an issue affects them and what they can do to address it. These provide useful guidelines to generate public participation in improving maritime security, but may be easier said than done. It is essential to tailor public awareness campaigns and community engagement initiatives in order to address both the public’s understanding of security issues and the identification of how, when, and why they can become involved.
Enhanced community awareness can make a big difference to coastal security. Citizens who understand the potential risks to their community are more likely to engage in dialogue with security agencies and make a report when something seems suspicious. Encouragingly, awareness and understanding of maritime security issues can be quite high in coastal communities, though residents may perceive the problem to be more relevant to other maritime communities or other nations.
2.1 Increased vigilance and reporting of suspicious activities
With increased awareness and interest in maritime security issues, coastal communities are more likely to take note of and report unusual or suspicious activity in coastal areas. There are many positive examples of this effect. The establishment of toll-free anti-terrorism hotlines in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in the USA led to a significant rise in reports of suspicious behaviour by a wide range of community members. In another encouraging example, a community watch program for the ports and harbours of the San Francisco Bay area has a strong emphasis on increasing community awareness of security issues and training members to recognise and report suspicious activities. In Southeast Asia, a region plagued by piracy and maritime armed robbery, a programme to increase coastal community awareness of security issues has been credited with a 70% drop in attacks off the coast of Malaysia between 2004 and 2005. Although statistical evidence for the relationship between community awareness and reporting of suspicious activities and actual security improvements in the maritime environment is difficult to obtain, these examples provide strong qualitative evidence that such a relationship exists. These efforts by coastal communities to increase security through their own actions represent an embodiment of the concept of human security, in that they are efforts taken by communities to help themselves rather than relying on external actors.
2.2 Enhanced collaboration between community members and security agencies
In all cases the bottom line is that local communities in coastal areas have the potential to greatly influence the security or insecurity of their surrounding marine environment. Informed, empowered and organized communities can make positive impacts in deterring security threats, or in mitigating existing conflict to prevent degradation of the resource base. A key to success is in development of partnerships and collaborative relationships between communities and external support agencies (government, NGO and private sector) aimed at building community capacity for resource management and for improving security.
In all cases the bottom line is that local communities in coastal areas have the potential to greatly influence the security or insecurity of their surrounding marine environment. Informed, empowered and organized communities can make positive impacts in deterring security threats, or in mitigating existing conflict to prevent degradation of the resource base. A key to success is in development of partnerships and collaborative relationships between communities and external support agencies. Security threats, and in some cases are at greater risk from small-scale conflict and skirmishing than more developed areas (WCS 2002). In the absence of external protection, villagers from such communities may form militias or armed groups to protect themselves, leading to a militarization process that increases risk to wildlife and to the local people. Global trends towards decentralization and devolution of government power often result in increased rights for local communities to control and manage natural resources, in areas where government capacity is low. This can provide great opportunity for effective community-based management of marine areas, but in some cases it presents a ‘tragedy of the commons’ scenario whereby competition for declining fishery resources increases.
While a popular theory is that isolated villages in remote locations are at low risk from violent conflict, evidence does not support this hypothesis. Evidence indicates that remote areas are not insulated from violence, and in some cases are at greater risk from small-scale conflict and skirmishing than more developed areas (WCS 2002). In the absence of external protection, villagers from such communities may form militias or armed groups to protect themselves, leading to a militarization process that increases risk to wildlife and to the local people. Global trends towards decentralization and devolution of government power often result in increased rights for local communities to control and manage natural resources, in areas where government capacity is low. This can provide great opportunity for effective community-based management of marine areas, but in some cases it presents a ‘tragedy of the commons’ scenario whereby competition for declining fishery resources increases.
2.3 Strengthened sense of ownership and responsibility for maritime security
A study by Walters and Marks examining New Zealand’s maritime security in the wake of September 11th and the passing of the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 provides an interesting example of how increased threat awareness influences demand for greater security measures. The study found that while the Act generated a feeling that New Zealand’s security environment had changed, there was no concurrent increase in the perceived threat to New Zealand or the terrorism threat to the maritime sector. Although the legislative changes may have implications for some time in the future, they did not directly influence the security situation at the present. This suggests that the security culture is something that takes many years to change and is often only influenced by threats once they reach a critical stage. The key component of creating a security-conscious culture is information and education that raises threat awareness and equips communities with the knowledge to take preventive action.
A strengthened sense of ownership and responsibility for maritime security is necessary since the threats and vulnerabilities are in a state of flux and often closely interlinked. “Traditional” security responsibilities such as law enforcement agencies and the Navy cannot tackle these challenges alone. In the maritime environment, security is a public good that is best achieved through a collective act. Achieving a state where there is a sense of shared responsibility between public and private organizations and indeed the wider community is a difficult and long-term endeavor. However, the evidence suggests that investing in preventative measures that create a security-conscious culture within communities is a far more cost-effective way to address security threats than increasing the number of security personnel or assets.
3. Strategies for Effective Public Awareness Campaigns
Utilizing various communication channels can influence different communities either directly or indirectly. Identifying the target audiences allows campaign organizers to allocate resources specifically for the identified audience, which increases the efficiency of the campaign. Mass media channels like newspapers, televisions, and radios could promote the messages to a large and diverse population, but it may not effectively deliver the messages because of the different levels of attention given by the audience. An alternative method for a more focused audience is education in schools through activities and events that help students understand the importance of safety and security. This can also be extended to their parents and families. Another direct approach would be through community programs, often a sure way to successfully attain two-way interactions. These programs are designed with the intention to influence a specific group and can range from adolescents and children to elderly people. Another example would be using a door-to-door approach to disseminating information and educating the homeowners at their own doorsteps, promoting safety measures and security that can be taken to safeguard their homes. High leverage can be obtained using law enforcement and security agencies as a channel to reach the community as they can be educated to pass the information to the public, as well as to implement certain safety and security measures. These are also explained by speakers and detailed literature more valuable and easier to understand, providing a better depth of understanding. In the long term, sustaining two-way interactions can help build better relationships between the community and law enforcement/safety agencies. This link leverages a trust-building process that the local security system is working for the best interest of the community. A more informal approach would be public “edutainment,” such as plays, performances, and/or road shows. While being engaging, often these events leave a lasting impression compared to other modes often due to the entertainment value. Some schemes may choose to just post signboards or notices at strategic locations in the hope to remind the community to continually keep security in mind.
3.1 Utilizing various communication channels
Another potentially effective channel is through the use of public information events and presentations. This method has the potential to create direct engagement with a target audience, often resulting in greater understanding of the issue due to the ability for audiences to ask questions and seek clarification. Being informative and cost-effective, it has the potential to produce strong results if implemented to the right audience, however, may lack in comparison to the wide-scale reach achieved through mass media.
In contrast to a mass media approach, behavior change theory suggests that social marketing (“the systematic application of marketing concepts and techniques to achieve specific behavioral goals relevant to a social issue” Andreasen 1994), “works from the group up, utilizing a consumer-oriented marketing approach to design products which a target audience will want to ‘buy’ in order to produce a desired change.” A social marketing approach enables a campaign to focus its message on a very specific audience and produce materials relevant to that audience. This increases the likelihood of a message being accepted and change being initiated, all by paying specific attention to what colors, words, or messages an audience may be more susceptible to. With an understanding that not all audiences are the same, it is important to note that different strategies will be needed to reach a range of target audiences, which will be discussed in further detail in the section below, “Tailoring messages to target audiences.”
At the heart of any public awareness campaign is the spread of a particular message to a target audience, in hopes of affecting behavioral change and/or educating the audience on a particular issue. As stated by Paul L. Aoki, “The key to promoting behavioral change is to deliver a message to the audience in a manner which they can understand and accept.” One of the most effective ways to spread a message is through the utilization of a range of communication channels. The most widely used and commonly thought of channel is mass media in the form of television or radio broadcasts and/or advertisements. Thanks to its wide-reaching audience and reported 95% weekly penetration across all age groups (as seen in Table 3.0.1), mass media is an effective method of spreading a message to the general public or a specific target audience. However, without knowledge of a target audience and their media habits, a campaign may find its audience is missed completely due to inadequate media channel selection. This could result in wastage of both funds and campaign resources.
3.2 Tailoring messages to target audiences
The principle of tailoring messages to target different audiences is a widely accepted standard in marketing and communication theory. Grunig and Hunt (1984) stated that in order to be effective, communicators must identify what each public wants to know, hold or do if this is within the communicators power, and develop and send message to each public. This is arguably a simplistic method of audience targeting, but the underlying principle is an essential consideration for those planning to engage with different members of the community. If we are to promote security effectively it is essential we provide information that is considered personally relevant to different sectors of the community. People are more likely to change their attitudes and behaviours based on persuasive communications when those communications are personally relevant to them (Petty & Caccioppo, 1986). Influencing behavioural change is an important outcome of many security promotions. The health communications literature has widely documented the effectiveness of media campaigns targeted to specific demographic groups, this being defined by variables such as age, sex, SES or ethnicity. In a study aimed at reducing smoking prevalence Pechmann et al. (2003) found that adolescents were less likely to remember and relate to adverts designed for adults. This has clear implications for communication a security message to youths in coastal communities. They are more likely to respond to information that affects them directly and is of specific relevance to their lifestyle. It also encourages the use of social marketing techniques which is simply the application of marketing technologies to social programs to influence a target audience to voluntarily accept, reject, modify, or abandon a behaviour for the benefit of individuals, groups, or society as a whole (Andreasen, 1995). This is particularly pertinent to the issues surrounding maritime security in coastal communities where many of the target groups are being asked to change behaviours for the benefit of the larger community.
3.3 Engaging local leaders and influencers
Engaging local leaders and influencers is crucial to the success of public awareness campaigns. Guidance from credible authority figures can legitimize an issue and a campaign in the eyes of community members. Without their support, campaigns can be seen as less important. In some cases, local leaders may offer funding, resources, or other support beyond mere endorsement. Often, the support of local leaders may be conditional upon their personal and private approval. In these situations, campaigners may be required to alter the substance or methods of the campaign to ensure that it does not directly conflict with the wishes of local leaders. This was evident in an attempt to undertake qualitative research in villages of the Maldives Islands. At the behest of local leaders, the research was required to focus on issues of marriage and divorce, and avoid discussion of more sensitive topics such as drug abuse or sexual health. In this instance, the research was later found to be important for the identification of local health determinants, however it was not until attitudes of community leaders had changed, that wider issues could be addressed.
3.4 Providing actionable information and resources
The fourth strategy involves the provision of actionable information and resources. The literature review suggests that communication to improve maritime domain awareness may be inhibitive due to an information gap. Local communities may be unaware of the maritime environment that surrounds them, or they may not understand how changes in this environment can affect their own safety and security. It is difficult for a community to take preventative actions without a good understanding of what threats they may face, or how these threats may manifest. The terminology used in discussing maritime security issues may also be foreign to some members of the community. This can be a further barrier to the effective communication of the issues and desired behavioral changes to enhance security. The literature reviewed also suggests that local communities may not understand the capabilities or limitations of government or law enforcement organizations in preventing or responding to maritime security incidents. This too can affect the community’s expectations and can influence the extent to which a community will engage in self-help to mitigate security risks.
The review of the literature has identified a range of maritime security threats and issues relevant to coastal communities. Effective communication begins with identification of the target audience and ends with the receivers’ understanding and interpretations of the messages that have been communicated to them. It involves much more than simply educating the community on security issues. It involves a ‘framing’ of the issues in a manner that is relevant to the community, aligning the interpretation of senders and receivers on the issues, and facilitating an exchange between the community and government organizations. To effectively communicate the range of maritime security issues to different communities, it is necessary to tailor the messages so that they are relevant and meaningful to specific target audiences.
4. Case Studies of Successful Community Engagement and Public Awareness Campaigns
Maritime security measures fall within the defense realm and are subject to change. The true test of finding a solid method for protecting a maritime area comes with the test of time and various changes in different situations. People generate change, and when policies are implemented by societal standards, they are more likely to be working in favor of those people. It is the generation and enforcement of these policies with people in mind, as well as generating change in the way people think, that can be termed as a true public awareness campaign. These campaigns more often than not involve community engagement and can be of significant benefit when trying to come up with new methods to keep a maritime community safe. As with any public awareness campaign, they need to produce an outcome that results in behavioral change in the community and assist in solving a problem. In order to measure the success of such change, it is necessary to provide a finite before and after scenario of a crime situation in the given maritime area. An example of a change in community behavior might be an ad campaign to encourage the locking of boat engines, with the completion being a decreased rate of outboard motor theft. However, measures will be relatively difficult to assess, as it will usually involve the absence of an event that has not occurred since the implementation of the method to solve the problem. An example of this might be a subsidence in petty crime, with the method having to be speculated as the cause, despite other variables that may have influenced the result.
4.1 Coastal community X: Empowering fishermen as maritime security ambassadors
Having interacted with military and police personnel during numerous camps, the NCC cadets of the region were given insight into the prevailing security scenario and the possible repercussions it may have on the state of the nation in the global scenario. This motivated the cadets to take up an issue that was hitherto unrelated to the activities of the NCC. A community-level meeting of the fishermen was organized by the cadets, wherein the scheme was explained to the fishermen and the problems they were facing at sea were discussed. This greatly inspired the fishermen, who apprised the district collector of the level of nationalism of the young cadets and opined that these cadets would be the best medium to bridge the gap between the coastal inhabitants and the security agencies. An MoU between the Indian Navy and the State NCC Directorate, involving the NCC cadets in the coastal security tasks, is the result of the same.
In a rural coastal community of western India, fishing is a way of life. Located 1600 kilometers from the international border, this village has long witnessed illegal immigrant infiltration, smuggling, and a host of other incidents from across the border due to a lack of security measures at sea. With a constant threat to the fishermen and coastal inhabitants, the Coastal Security Awareness, sponsored by the Ministry of Defence, and subsequent village-level meetings gave birth to the Marine Volunteer Corps of the National Cadet Corps (MVNCC) of the region. The NCC, being a well-established platform for the youth of the nation, would provide the much-needed impetus to the awareness scheme.
4.2 Coastal community Y: Educating school children on coastal security measures
With the understanding that the major root of the coastal security threat is attitude, behavior, and wrong public views and practices towards the utilization and management of coastal resources, the education alternative security measures and security step-by-step model turns out to be a strategy that takes time but may change the community mindset. This education program must be continued until progress and positive changes can be seen in the students and the society themselves. During the advocacy mission or leafleting amongst the society with the students, educators may interact and discuss with the society so that the society may get a deep understanding from the information shared by the students. This interaction can also create a social service project as an alternative security model for students and society by applying the information and knowledge given during the education programs.
Activities and education programs conducted by schools provide understanding on what are the real issues of coastal security threat among the students. Educators will enable the education approaches addressing the issues of coastal security NGOs to strategically and alternatively. This includes development of learning materials and security measures, alternative security models that can transfer the knowledge more effectively, and student games, storytelling, shadow plays, involving leafleting and briefing during tsunami disaster simulation, and art complete various mission and coloring competitions. This is to equip the educators, NGO trainers, and students on creating their own step-by-step alternative security models.
Along with the teaching of school children on the issues of coastal security, particularly those which involve the management of natural and environmental resources, there is an educational approach in which the school facilities are used as a center for surrounding communities. This approach involves the society around the school and in the coastal area. The main objective of this alternative approach is to integrate awareness of the issues and security among the society in the coastal area with the students and school community. This could be the long-lasting solution as the societal awareness will be increased from time to time when the students continuously exchange information and discuss the issues with the society. This is not only beneficial to the society but also to the students themselves as it will broaden their knowledge and understanding from the information that they get and the discussion that they have with the society.
4.3 Coastal community Z: Collaborating with tourism industry for enhanced security measures
The tourism industry has been long considered as having high potential in contributing to the economy of the coastal community. Coastal community Z in the southern part of Thailand is no exception, as it has been depending on tourism as the main source of income due to its abundant natural resources and its cultural uniqueness. However, in the prevail of regional terrorist threats and bomb incidents associated with the restive southern provinces, the tourism industry and the community in general have taken serious impacts towards their safety and security. As the industry is striving to recover from the impacts and to prevent a recurrence of such incidents, the industry players namely hoteliers have shown their interest and concern for the safety and security of their establishments, the community and their guests, suggesting a need to strengthen security measures and stating that any security improvement in the community shall be beneficial for the entire industry. In educating local school children on coastal security measures, a program was held in October 2016 where children and teachers from 5 schools within the community were invited to a special field trip in an effort to familiarize them with the various attributes that comprise their coastal area and to instill in them the importance of keeping these attributes safe and sustainable. The children were tasked with mapping and noting down their observations of the area and were later involved in a drawing activity illustrating what they have learnt and understood from the trip. The school children have exhibited a positive response and high enthusiasm towards the activities, displaying a better understanding and interest in coastal security measures. This has shown a positive impact albeit indirect towards the tourism industry which remains as the community’s main focus, as the children of today will be the future pillars of the community.

Published by
Write essays
View all posts