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Good Practices in support of cross-border collaboration in MSP


These good practices were developed to support and encourage cross-border cooperation in MSP, particularly given that the practice of MSP is a social and political process, as well as a scientific and technical challenge. Practices were identified from each case study developed as part of the study, Cross-border cooperation in Maritime Spatial Planning, and compared with common practices identified through the Global MSP Inventory. 

Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
Key words:

Questions this practice may help answer

What are good practices that should be considered in a cross-border MSP process?

Implementation Context

These good practices were developed from an analysis of four in-depth case studies as part of the study, Cross-border cooperation in MSP, as well as a review of MSP processes captured in the Global MSP Inventory and presentations and discussions at the 2nd International MSP Conference held at UNESCO, Paris on 15-17 March 2017. The case studies include the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP); The Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR); The Coral Triangle Initiative for Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI- CFF); and Xiamen Marine Functional Zoning (MFZ).

As presented in the report, the good practices are contextualized by the finding that MSP initiatives are primarily political processes; and that the usual limiting factor to effective MSP is the capacity to practice the ecosystem approach.

Aspects / Objectives

The practices are aimed at assisting the development and implementation of MSP initiatives, particularly by EU Member States under the MSP Directive. They are intended to support and encourage cross-border cooperation in MSP.


Case study analysis followed a standardised analytical framework applicable to each of the four case studies. MSP attributes were organised into eight categories: 1) Context; (2) Overview of the MSP process; (3) Drivers, issues and goals; (4) Scope and design of the MSP; (5) Collaboration and consultation in the MSP planning phase; (6) Features of the MSP process implementation phase; (7) Implications of the application of MSP in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), and (8) Outcomes and lessons learned. Attributes were investigated using both descriptive and assessment questions, and data was collected through a literature search and targeted interviews.

The data and findings from each case study was then analysed according to the following steps:

  • Comparison of lessons learned across the Project four case studies, based on findings presented in the four Case Study Summary Reports (see Supporting Material to this report)
  • Identification of MSP practices that have been more critical to the success of each case study based on their contexts, i.e. lessons learned, compared with common practices identified through the Global MSP Inventory
  • Review of the MSP Directive scope, objectives, requirements and suggestions to Member States
  • Extraction of MSP good practices in support of cross-border cooperation relevant to the implementation for the MSP Directive based on the requirements introduced by the Directive

See Appendix 1 of the report for a detailed description of the project methodology, and Appendix 2 for the analytical framework.

Main Outputs / Results

The following list of good practices is presented in Chapter 5 of the study. Each practice is supported by descriptive evidence and relevant advice.

  • Invest in a deep understanding of the existing governance system – it is necessary to build on the strengths and respond to the weaknesses of that system. Governance systems shape human behaviour and interests, and therefore it is important to understand how power and influence is distributed. A clear understanding of barriers and enablers to cross-border collaborations will be the basis for priority setting, scale definition and identification of roles and responsibilities.
  • Invest time and resources during the MSP processes in building trust and a sense of common purpose among all parties involved – collaboration and commitment is built upon mutual respect and willingness to share power among those involved.
  • Adopt an issue-driven approach to MSP – clear objectives on matters of concern build constituencies and bolster political commitment, assisting in the delivery of effective MSP. This must be supported by a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities during implementation. Pilot projects or the ability to produce short-term solutions can build credibility.
  • Adopt a long-term perspective – consider past and future trends in the condition of a marine ecosystem and the goods and services it generates to understanding current status. Securing funding for the long-term implementation of a plan’s policies, procedures and rules to ensure these are effective can be supported by creating a “business case” for MSP relevant to sector investments.
  • Manage expectations for stakeholder involvement – the extent to which stakeholders participate and shape MSP is strongly influenced by the traditions and practices of the existing governance system. These need to be considered to ensure effective and fit-for- purpose engagement.
  • Design a monitoring and evaluation system that analyses performance, encourage learning and progress towards goals over the long-term – as the practice of MSP matures and more initiatives make the transition to implementation, it becomes important to identify and track the changes in human and institutional behaviour that mark implementation, and that contribute to the improvements in social and environmental conditions that MSP initiatives are designed to achieve. Monitoring should be directed not only at the end result, but also the forms of collaborative behaviours that have made achievements possible, and the changes in the conduct of resource users. At the same time, M&E must avoid overly complex and expensive methods and be mindful of the capacity of partners.


The good practices are aimed at assisting the development and implementation of MSP initiatives, particularly by EU Member States under the MSP Directive. Thus, they are intended to be applied in cross-border MSP processes.


The report was prepared for the European Commission DG Mare by the following entities:

Coordinator: NIRAS

Project Partners:
 QED, SAERI, TNC, UNEP-WCMC, URI CRC, WMU, Xiamen University




Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries; 
Directorate A — Maritime Policy and Blue Economy; 
Unit A.2 — Blue Economy Sectors, Aquaculture and Maritime Spatial Planning; Contact: Valentia Mabilia
, E-mail: (valentina[dot]mabilia[at]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu), 
European Commission 
B-1049 Brussels