» Building international ocean governance through science and management in Europe
06.02.2017 - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

Building international ocean governance through science and management in Europe

© Elephotos / Shutterstock, Inc.: Harbor at Naples (Italy). The European Union is a among the world's leading actors in marine spatial planning.

Having played a central role in helping countries develop marine spatial plans since 2006, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) welcomes the European Union’s strong commitment and bold action toward integrating state-of-the-art scientific and marine planning frameworks in pursuit of effective international ocean governance.

Marine spatial planning (MSP) is the public process of analyzing and distributing ocean-related human activities across time and space to achieve ecological, social and, importantly, economic objectives. MSP has been at the forefront of IOC’s programme for over a decade, but in particular since the publication of the guide “Marine spatial planning: A step-by-step approach toward ecosystem-based management” (2009), which has now become the international standard for countries wishing to develop and implement plans for their marine regions.

IOC has found in the European Commission a strong ally in the pursuit of science-based management for marine areas. Well placed to shape international ocean governance based on the EU Maritime Spatial Planning Directive (2014), the European Commission more recently outlined its interest in promoting marine spatial planning at a global level as a means to achieving sustainable use of the oceans and their biodiversity.

The November 2016 policy paper entitled “International ocean governance: an agenda for the future of our oceans” recognized MSP as a means to effectively organize marine uses within a maritime area, including the management of marine protected areas.

For the European Commission, as for the IOC, the sustainable use of marine resources must underlie the pursuit of international ocean governance. As our societies develop increasingly complex and often conflicting needs for ocean space and marine resources, governments are all the more encouraged to apply the science- and ecosystem-based approach marine spatial planning offers.

This key idea is embodied into the second International Conference on Marine Spatial Planning, to be held at UNESCO on 15-17 March, organized jointly by UNESCO’s IOC and the European Commission’s Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE). The conference will explore how marine spatial planning can be used to address global challenges from climate change to providing food for a growing population, and reflect on how to accelerate the MSP processes worldwide.

From Canada to Vietnam and from Sweden to Seychelles, IOC will continue to shape MSP discussions and engage practitioners, technical staff and policymakers through workshops and technical guides. If today marine spatial plans today cover about 10% of the world’s Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), this combined work could ensure that by 2025 at leasy 35 countries have marine spatial plans, covering more than a third of the world’s EEZs.

For more information, please contact:

Julian Barbière (j.barbiere(at)unesco.org)

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