IOC-UNESCO leading the way for sustainable management of the ocean through Marine Spatial Planning

Over the past 15 years, Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) has been recognized as a way to meet multiple objectives – ecological, economic, and social – within an increasingly crowded ocean. As a leading international organization on MSP, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO discussed its strategies to foster this process worldwide on 9 June 2017 at the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York.
The side event “International Marine/Maritime Spatial Planning for an effective and sustainable management of our oceans and seas” focused on the possible ways to encourage and develop MSP globally by articulating international good practices and sharing lessons learnt from existing initiatives. It was co-organized with the Permanent Commission of South Pacific (CPPS) and the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG-MARE) of the European Commission.

“The conservation and sustainable use of the ocean and marine resources is the foundation for a healthy planet,” said Julian Barbière, Head of the IOC Marine Policy and Regional Coordination Section, on behalf of IOC-UNESCO.

Intensified activities in coastal and marine waters require integrated planning and decision-making, as well as enhanced efforts, including transboundary coordination, to achieve sustainability and improved management. MSP brings together policy-makers, public and private stakeholders and citizens to coordinate and co-design human activities in marine areas to achieve sustainable development objectives, and notably Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 on the conservation and use of the oceans, seas and marines resources.

The side event counted with the valuable participation of the Government of Flanders (Belgium) and the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management sharing national experiences and lessons learnt with all participants. The Nature Conservancy – TNC Canada and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation represented NGOs with long experience working in MSP around the world.

Private stakeholders were represented by the CEO of SUEZ Groupe (France), Mr Jean-Louis Chaussade, who said: “We need to start with simple, concrete actions that citizens can see as valuable.” Mr Chaussade described the SUEZ initiative that was launched during the World Oceans Day in New York, calling on its 83,000 employees in over 70 countries to promote coastal clean-ups and other grass-roots actions to conserve marine and coastal areas.

When IOC held the first ever international workshop on MSP in November 2006 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, only three countries had government-approved marine spatial plans that covered about 0.3% of the surface area of the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the world. Today, 15 countries have implemented MSP, and an additional 25 countries have completed or approved plans. By 2030, at least half of the surface of the world’s EEZs is expected to have government-approved marine spatial plans.

IOC’s Guide to Evaluating Marine Spatial Plans, published in 2009, has also become an internationally recognized standard and helps countries foster the technical and institutional capacities to reduce biodiversity loss and manage their marine ecosystems sustainably.

This side event promoted the “Joint Roadmap to Accelerate Maritime/Marine Spatial Planning Processes Worldwide” recently adopted by IOC and DG-MARE at the 2nd International Conference on MSP, held on 15-17 March 2017 at UNESCO Headquarters. The joint roadmap was included by both institutions as a voluntary commitment to the UN Ocean Conference, aiming to further encourage the development of MSP in all seas and oceans of the globe with the objective to triple the area of territorial waters benefiting from MSP by 2030.

The Joint Roadmap will work along the following five priority areas:

  • Transboundary Marine Spatial Planning
  • Blue Economy
  • Ecosystem-Based Marine Spatial Planning
  • Capacity Building
  • Building Mutual Understanding

“We have all the tools we need to make Maritime Spatial Planning a success,” announced European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, in the closing remarks. “By 2021, all EU countries will need to have maritime plans. It is a key component of EU’s ocean governance initiative, and our maritime economies will be better off with the greater cooperation and synergies [delivered by MSP],” added the Commissioner.

All details about the initiative can be found on The Ocean Conference Registry of Voluntary Commitments alongside other commitments undertaken by Governments, international organizations, civil society organizations, the private sector, scientific institutions and other stakeholders towards the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 – to conserve and sustainable use our ocean.

Please visit our page “UNESCO @ UN Ocean Conference” for a comprehensive view of the programme, our side events and all our voluntary commitments.

For more information, please contact:

Alejandro Iglesias-Campos, for information about the side event and the Joint Roadmap on Marine Spatial Planning.

Julian Barbière, for information about the participation of UNESCO’s IOC at the Ocean Conference.

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