As noted in the EU MSP Directive the management of marine areas is complex and involves different levels of authorities, sectors and other stakeholders. In order to promote sustainable development in an effective manner, it is essential that stakeholders, authorities and the public are engaged at an appropriate stage in the preparation of maritime spatial plans.
Member States should establish means of public participation by informing all interested parties and by consulting the relevant stakeholders and authorities as well as the public concerned at an early stage in the development of maritime spatial plans.
‘Stakeholder involvement’ and ‘public participation’ are often are often used interchangeably; even though at least to – our interpretation - ‘stakeholder involvement’ relates more to processes which take into account concerns and issues raised at stakeholder / industry level and are therefore highly related to practices described under the Topics ‘strategy’, ‘vision’ and ‘cross-sector integration’. On the other hand ‘public participation’ refers more specifically to processes, which involve the general public.
The degree of public engagement may vary substantially, from provision of information, standard consultation processes with opportunity to comment on plans, to direct involvement of parties in decision-making and action (partnerships). Stakeholder involvement may also take different forms depending on whether it concerns more general and strategic MSP issues or whether it is related to the preparation of concrete maritime spatial plans.
Stakeholder involvement is not a ‘one-off’ exercise within a MSP process, but serves one or more specific purposes depending on the stage of the MSP process - ranging from ‘issue identification’, evidence gathering, consensus building up to monitoring and evaluation. It is therefore a horizontal issue, which relates to all other topics covered under this paper.
Please note that this section of the EU MSP Platform website is not currently being updated with new information. However, the resources throughout our website remain relevant to our mission of sharing knowledge and experiences on MSP in the EU.
Frequently Asked Questions
As noted, the broadly used term ‘stakeholders’ in fact represents a complex mixture of different actors, with differing levels of interest, influence, capacity / willingness to engage, etc. The general public, i.e. citizens, represent an important group to be engaged, to address their needs and concerns, and ensure legitimacy of the process. A range of formal and informal practices exist in engaging the public; almost all MSP initiatives will be required to implement formal public engagement to fulfil various requirements, particularly those set out in the Aarhus Convention Formal processes have the advantage of being required by law (in cases such as the UK) hence practices such as development of a “Statement of Public Participation” provide a publically documented process of engagement throughout the MSP process, and to which planning authorities can be held account. Other public statements of engagement include the “Issues and Opportunities Report” produced by the Irish Sea Maritime Forum. More general recommendations and learning regarding the processes and mechanisms of engagement of the public in MSP are numerous, and include for example the development of the Municipal spatial structure plan-Strunjan (Shape) for the pilot plan in Slovenia, and guidelines produced by the HELCOM-VASAB MSP Working Group.
The ‘Handbook on How to Develop Visions in MSP’ provides suggestions on tools and practices that can be used for engagement of wide range of stakeholders, including general public. For example, tools such as micro-site, an interactive online platform with discussion pages, have been emphasized as helpful for reaching wider public and capturing input. For example, the Celtic Seas Partnership future trends used an interactive online platform to present their scenarios, while the MEDTRENDS project also uses an interactive online platform to show an in depth analysis of the current situation and future trends in four main marine economic sectors, their drivers and environmental impacts.
As the principal subjects of MSP and whose activities will likely be influenced by the developed plans, effectively involving the maritime industry and sector representatives in MSP processes is crucial. Early engagement is particularly important, and working with sectors to understand their future ambitions and development trends can ensure a MSP process that facilitates sustainable sector growth. Experience in this regard was drawn from the workshops undertaken through the PartiSEApate project, which developed an understanding of sector perspectives as a basis for contribution to a pan-Baltic MSP dialogue. Industry are involved in most marine planning efforts across the EU and lessons learned through these have been evaluated and translated into guidance and recommendations in some cases, for example the BaltSeaPlan and through the Coexist project.
‘Sectors’ are generally multi-faceted and complex in their composition, and it may be appropriate to engage at different levels, including via industry groups or designated officials who represent that sectors interest and are closely involved in the planning process. As part of strategic planning for offshore wind in the UK, fisheries representatives were nominated to engage directly with the development process, to voice their concerns, to negotiate areas of common ground and smooth planning processes.
Multi-Stakeholder Partnership Guide: How to Design and Facilitate Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships? was developed by the the Centre of Development Innovation (CDI), of Wageningen University & Research proposes a clear four phase process model, a set of seven core principles, key ideas for facilitation and 60 participatory tools for analysis, planning and decision making. The guide has been developed for any type of the Multi-Stakeholder partnership, for those directly involved in it - as a stakeholder, leader, facilitator or funder. It provides both the conceptual foundations and practical tools that underpin successful partnerships.
An MSP process usually considers participation of a wide range of stakeholders, including the general public with varying levels of familiarity with MSP. Practices are emerging which take a more creative approach to developing the capacity of individuals and groups to understand and engage with the MSP process. For example, “Become a Maritime Spatialist in 10 minutes”
cartoon developed by WWF Germany, uses a comic approach to depict the objectives and possible benefits of an MSP process. The fact that the movie is available in multiple languages facilitated its dissemination across Europe and across the globe. Moreover, its visuals are often used in numerous publications and presentations.
Another example of an innovative method for developing capacity is the Dutch-developed MSP Challenge Simulation Game 2050. The game comes as a board game or a computer-supported simulation-game that gives actors insight in the diverse challenges of sustainable planning of human activities in the marine and coastal ecosystem. Apart from informing about the MSP process, such experience can serve to ensure shared understanding of challenges to be addressed by an MSP process and allows for exchange of possible management solutions.
There is strong experience in the Baltic with stakeholder processes; through many cross-border processes as well as transnational MSP projects. The Baltic SCOPE project brought together national authorities with a planning mandate to collaborate in transboundary MSP, with the aim of identifying cross-border issues and solutions. In the Southwest Baltic case, stakeholder involvement took place at the national level through thematic meetings and workshops, followed by a transnational stakeholder conference that focused on transboundary issues. The participants were assigned to thematic working groups, divided according to their expertise and were asked to reflect on topic papers ahead of the conference. These topic papers also included key questions and draft recommendations, to be discussed during the working groups at the conference.
The report ‘Southwest Baltic Case Stakeholder Meeting’ provides a more in-depth description of the stakeholder meetings along with the presentations and photos of the group discussions’ inputs and outcomes, and also specifically includes the issues and questions that were discussed. In addition, the practice description ‘Matrix of Interests for Coherent Cross-border MSP for the Southwest Baltic Sea‘ describes the use of a ‘Matrix of Stakeholder Interests’, which was used as a tool to map present and future interests in case study focus areas, including priorities and potential conflicts.
The PartiSEApate project organised several stakeholder workshops in order to stimulate a dialogue on MSP at pan-Baltic level between sectors and planners. Through these workshops, stakeholders gained an understanding of what MSP means to them and why it is important to treat certain topics on a transnational level. The ‘Handbook on Multi-level Consultations in MSP’ provides an insightful checklist of tasks that MSP organizers should perform at different stages of the process together with stakeholders at multiple levels. In particular, the Transnational MSP Stakeholder Dialogue practice describes the setup of stakeholder workshops and how they explored questions regarding the issues stakeholders want considered in transnational MSP; what the relations are between sectors in terms of conflicts and synergies; and which other stakeholders they would like to consult with.
Outside of the Baltic, the project Celtic Seas Partnership also focused on the topic of stakeholder engagement, focusing specifically on stakeholders around the Celtic Seas. Their website now features a dedicated page with tips for involving people in regional marine policy. Topics include workshop design, creating a communications strategy, partnership design and project structure, among several others. The TPEA project also focused on stakeholder engagement and produced a 'Good Practice Guide', which discusses how effective communication between stakeholders in different jurisdictions can be established. In addition, the project also produced the TPEA Evaluation Report, which describes the lessons learned from a series of three workshops held in each pilot area as the primary means of stakeholder engagement. In the Mediterranean, the AdriPlan project aimed to deliver a commonly-agreed approach to cross-border MSP, and focused on how stakeholder engagement and consultation can be framed as cross-cutting activities for the MSP process.
Also in the Baltic, many examples exist of stakeholder analysis and mapping exercises that were undertaken in transboundary MSP processes. In the Baltic LINes project, a stakeholder mapping exercise was undertaken in Latvia, which included methods for characterising stakeholders who were ‘cross-checked’ through self-assessment. The practice ‘Stakeholder Involvement in Long-term MSP: Latvian Case’ describes the exercise, which used scenario analysis to develop spatial solutions for the energy and shipping sectors based on stakeholder consultation. In the Baltic SCOPE project, a report was also produced with regard to the national Latvian stakeholder process; described in the ‘Stakeholder consultation in the Latvian MSP process’ practice description.
The PartiSEApate project also included stakeholder analysis, with outputs and methods detailed in the reports from stakeholder workshops, here. In particular, the Transnational MSP Stakeholder Dialogue practice describes the setup of stakeholder workshops and how they explored questions regarding the issues stakeholders want considered in transnational MSP; what the relations are between sectors in terms of conflicts and synergies; and which other stakeholders they would like to consult with. The ‘MSP Governance Framework Report’ also describes the organised stakeholder workshops and specifically explains the use of a stakeholder questionnaire (Annex B.1-4 p.80-93). In the Baltic Sea basin, the HELCOM-VASAB Guidelines on transboundary consultations, public participation and co-operation describe principles for transboundary cooperation, and make reference to how transboundary stakeholder consultation may be organised. The practice ‘Stakeholders in Swedish Marine Planning’ describes how one of the project partners assessed stakeholders according to their source and strength of legitimacy, as well as according to their level of activity.
Lastly, the BaltSpace project delved deeper into the difficulties of integrating stakeholder input into MSP processes, as described here. The project developed recommendations on stakeholder integration in a Policy Brief, including the recommendation that MSP seek to engage a broad range of stakeholders on a continuous basis with clear aims. Other recommendations include informal consultations, using an open and inclusive approach, and ensuring that stakeholders have resources and capacity to participate effectively.