UNESCO and European Commission launch new flagship guide on Marine/Maritime Spatial Planning

As of 2021, over forty-five countries worldwide are either implementing or approving marine spatial plans – and dozens more laying the foundation – moving away from isolated sectoral management to an integrated planning framework for their maritime jurisdiction.

Marine/Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) is a multi-sectoral participatory process and methodology for planning and management of ocean and coastal zones. Building on decades of leadership in setting up MSP guidelines, UNESCO and the European Commission are now launching a new MSP flagship guide on to support planners in shaping the future of international sustainable ocean governance.

Produced jointly by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE), the “MSPglobal International Guide on Marine/Maritime Spatial Planning” presents a diversity of topics, case studies and actions to assist governments, partners and practitioners in their MSP processes.

From setting the scene and designing the planning process to implementation and evaluation, the publication draws on the expertise and experience accumulated worldwide on technical, practical and conceptual aspects related to MSP since the first guide was published in 2009 by the IOC-UNESCO. It addresses new and emerging issues related to ecosystem-based management, such as the blue economy and climate change, and incorporates MSP within the more global context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“The ultimate goal of Marine Spatial Planning is to offer to all stakeholder groups and communities a platform to co-design how they can conserve the ocean while using its resources and space. In the starting year of the Ocean Decade, this new flagship guide takes us forward towards establishing MSP as a major tool for sustainable ocean management,” said Vladimir Ryabinin, IOC Executive Secretary.

The guide was officially launched during the final conference of the joint IOC-UNESCO/DG MARE MSPglobal Initiative, celebrated on Tuesday 5 October 2021 during a major virtual event.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, and Vladimir Ryabinin, IOC Executive Secretary, kicked off the festivities alongside representatives from governmental agencies, the scientific community, the private sector and civil society. Discussions focused on sharing good MSP practices from different regions, as well as the role of institutions such as the IOC-UNESCO and European Commission in promoting and strengthening successful MSP implementation.

Through its three years of activities, the MSPglobal Initiative – co-financed by the European Union – echoed the efforts of the international community to promote a multi-sectoral and participatory approach at national and regional scale to achieve long-term sustainable use of ocean resources. It also contributed to advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), coordinated by the IOC-UNESCO.

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