Marine Spatial Planning in Practice Technical Meeting

STAP Report

6-8 May 2014, Cambridge, UK

Informed by the results of a global online survey of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) in practice, 27 experts from 17 countries gathered at UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge to consider the added value of MSP to existing management approaches to marine and coastal systems.  The Meeting forms part of a wider initiative of UNEP’s Division for Environmental Policy Implementation in collaboration with GEF-STAP, CBD Sec, GIZ, TNC and other partners. STAP participated in the Meeting to deliver its own commitments to the GEF regarding advice on MSP and this report represents STAP’s viewpoint only.

STAP considers the results of the Meeting to be directly relevant to implementation of the programming directions for GEF-6 particularly within multi-focal investments by Biodiversity, International Waters and Land Degradation focal areas. STAP also understands that the results of the Meeting will inform work of UNEP, Regional Seas Programmes and partners to enhance national and regional capacities for ecosystem-based management. Results of the Meeting will also be presented to the forthcoming 18th session of the CBD’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA), and later as a major contribution to the CBD Expert Workshop to Provide Consolidated Practical Guidance and a Toolkit for Marine Spatial Planning, to be held 9-11 September 2014.  In turn that Workshop will report to the CBD Conference of the Parties, which will consider the application of MSP.

MSP in Practice Participants

The number and scope of MSP initiatives are proliferating. While many early applications were directed at the conservation and restoration of ecosystems and their services, MSP is increasingly seen as a vehicle for maintaining wider ecosystem services and achieving sustainable Blue Growth – in many instances in the form of for example renewable energy production. The discussion on MSP for Blue Growth highlighted the need for better understanding of how specific markets function, resource availability and use, and mechanisms to encourage investment to sustain long term outcomes vis a vis environmental sustainability. Blue Growth is to be supported in the EU area through the recent adoption by the EU Parliament of the new Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning, to be coordinated with and complement existing environmental legislation and targets and EU implementation of MSP has, for example, been demonstrated jointly by Finland and Sweden under the Plan Bothnia delivered through HELCOM.  This case study was discussed at the Meeting as one of the possible models for learning and experience transfer.

As the field matures the initial emphasis on principles for planning needs to be complemented by greater attention to methods for assessing impacts and outcomes. A survey distributed before the Meeting therefore emphasized experience on making the often difficult transition from planning to the implementation of an MSP.  This transition requires a number of enabling conditions and capacities. For example, formal MSP governmental approval and awarding the needed authority and long-term resources for its implementation is likely to lead to successful outcomes. Useful intermediate outputs can be gained in the planning and early implementation, for example better understanding of varied sector needs and aspirations, which can support underpinning policy development or management processes.

A second theme of the Meeting was to better understand how the setting within which an MSP initiative is undertaken influences the enabling conditions for effective implementation.  Some of the enabling conditions that were discussed regarding what worked included conservation, resource use and development scenarios projected up to 10 years ahead driven by transparent feedback on preferred outcomes and based on good baseline data. Some of the challenges reported in the meeting were too short a planning period coupled to poor communication with stakeholders and between governance sectors, inadequate data and spatial scope, which may lead to failure. MSP outcomes considered useful to sustain positive stakeholder engagement included incentives such as agreements on access rights with clear zoning, backed by valuation, payments for ecosystem services and market advantages gained through certification of marine and coastal products.

Comparing notes on what worked: Chantalle Clarke (Belize) and Jorge Jimenez (Costa Rica)

Comparing notes on what worked: Chantalle Clarke (Belize) and Jorge Jimenez (Costa Rica)

MSP covers a broad range of initiatives that all aim to sustain the use of resources and ecosystem services through careful planning of available coastal or ocean space, structured in scale and through time. It is therefore the counterpart to terrestrial land-use planning which, together with MSP, can inform “ridge to reef” or “source to sea” governance and management. However, a concern raised repeatedly during the Meeting is the proliferation of variants in the ecosystem approach to planning and management each with their distinct name and acronym.  Many participants noted that this confuses those working to apply integrated approaches that address both the environmental and the societal dimensions of ecosystem change. Steps should be taken to emphasize the similarities in these many variants and clarify what often minor differences in emphasis distinguish one from another.

Another topic of the Meeting discussions was how capacity building needs are shaped by the context and the scope and scale of an initiative. The survey revealed that the priority barriers to MSP implementation are governance issues, inadequate human capacity and accessing sustained funding that bridge from planning to implementation.  Discussions of barriers to implementation during the Meeting emphasized the criticality of engaging with stakeholders drawn from civil society, the relevant business interests and government in all phases of the planning process (planning, formalization, implementation, evaluation). It was noted repeatedly that stakeholder engagement in the planning phase leads to frustration and an erosion of trust if the conclusions reached are not reflected in the policies and actions subsequently adopted by government. This requires that those responsible for planning and negotiations among interested parties are clear as to the process by which final decisions on the content of an MSP will be made.

Blue Solutions' Ilona Porsche (GIZ) discussing knowledge transfer and capacity development

Blue Solutions’ Ilona Porsche (GIZ) discussing knowledge transfer and capacity development

Capacity needs are closely related to the setting in which an MSP initiative is undertaken and the scale and complexity of the issues to be addressed.  This suggests that further investments in capacity building should be directed at audiences selected with an eye to common issues and their related analytical and technical needs.  Adequately understanding the context within which an MSP initiative is undertaken and the associated capacity building needs reaffirmed the value of assembling a governance baseline as a feature of the initial design and planning process. Differences among contexts may also be highlighted by the development of a typology of contexts that highlights the differences between initiatives undertaken, for example, in settings where marine users are in poverty, the existing governance system is weak and ecosystem services are degraded in contrast to initiatives undertaken where human and environmental conditions are generally good and the governance system is more robust.

Governance discussion with Paul Gilliland (UK) and STAP's Stephen Olsen (USA)

Governance discussion with Paul Gilliland (UK) and STAP’s Stephen Olsen (USA)

Finally, there was an initial discussion of the need for simplifying frameworks that complement guidance on the processes of MSP with a sequence of outcomes that trace the evolution of effective MSP initiatives.  Such outcomes mark the completion of a successful planning process, proceed to document the changes in behavior associated with the implementation of an MSP that, when sustained, generates the societal and environmental conditions that signal the attainment of fundamental MSP goals. As the number of MSP initiatives increases it will be important to place a greater emphasis on methods and indicators for assessing the impacts and outcomes of MSP (social, economic, ecological) as the basis for assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of MSP practices.