Marine spatial planning in the EU and globally

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The EU is the driving force behind the European work on maritime spatial planning. Globally, IOC UNESCO has an important role in promoting marine spatial planning. There are also research collaborations.

Maritime spatial planning in the EU

Maritime spatial planning is an important tool for the implementation of the EU’s integrated maritime policy. The planning will contribute to sustainable blue growth, but also support efforts to achieve good environmental status in the EU’s marine areas.

EU member states are nationally responsible for the planning of their sea and coastal areas. In order to have a common framework, there is a maritime spatial planning directive.

The official name is Directive 2014/89/EU of the European parliament and of the council of 23 July 2014 establishing a maritime planning framework and is available on the EU lex website.

The directive has been transposed into national legislation and by 2021 there shall be maritime spatial plans established in the concerned Member States. The European commission is running an expert group focusing on maritime spatial planning in which member states participate. The purpose of the expert group is to advise the European Commission on all aspects of maritime spatial planning. The group meets about twice a year.

More information on marine spatial planning in the EU is available on the European MSP Platform.

Maritime spatial planning for sustainable development

According to the directive, maritime spatial planning must promote sustainable development, the sustainable use of marine resources and sustainable growth in the maritime sectors, while at the same time applying an ecosystem approach. The directive sets requirements for member states to take into account land-sea interaction, and other planning, for example in the coastal zone.

Member states shall also ensure that there is a broad participation of stakeholders in the planning process and that cooperation takes place across country borders, as well as taking into account environmental, social, economic and security aspects. Member states must review the plans at least every ten years.

Marine spatial planning in a global perspective

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, works in a global perspective for the development of marine spatial planning around the world. The Marine Spatial Planning Global Initiative works to guide cross-border cooperation on marine spatial planning, increasing the proportion of planned sea areas and for marine spatial planning to contribute to the global sustainability goals.

In 2006, the first international marine spatial planning workshop was followed up by publishing the “Step-by-Step Approach for Marine Spatial Planning toward Ecosystem-based Management” guide.

The second international conference on marine spatial planning was held in 2017. It was followed by a “Joint Roadmap to accelerate MSP processes worldwide” decided by the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and the European Commission. Within the framework of this roadmap, a new international guide for marine spatial planning was prepared and launched in 2021. At the third international conference, anUpdated Joint Roadmap to accelerate Marine/Maritime Spatial Planning processes worldwide was presented for the years 2022-2027. The roadmap includes six priority areas;

  • Exchange of experience and support for the marine spatial planning process
  • Capacity building
  • Cross-border cooperation
  • Climate smart marine spatial plans
  • Marine area protection and restoration
  • Sustainable blue economy

Espoo Convention

The so-called Espoo Convention was adopted in 1991 in Espoo, Finland, and is actually called Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context. It states that countries should notify their neighbouring countries at an early stage that planning is underway, and in the next step, keep consultations with them on the plans and related environmental impact assessments.

In Sweden, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency coordinates the consultations under the Espoo Convention..

The Espoo notification and consultation is an integrated part of the Swedish marine spatial planning process.

International Maritime Research Council

Within the framework of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), there is a Working Group for Marine Planning and Coastal Zone Management (WGMPCZM) in which the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management participates. The working group is inter- and transdisciplinary and involves people from social and natural sciences.

In addition to work meetings that result in reports and documentation for the administration, the working group organises meetings on various issues related to marine spatial planning and coastal zone management.

Work on marine spatial planning in East Africa within SwAM Ocean

The Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management’s work in the International Development Cooperation Programme 2019-2022, SwAM Ocean, aims to increase opportunities for people to escape from poverty thanks to sustainable use of the sea. Marine spatial planning, which is ecosystem-based, is one of four themes. Here you can read more about SwAM Ocean.

Published: 2021-11-01