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Integrated Report on Stakeholder Involvement and Engagement in Maritime Spatial Planning


Within the framework of the project ‘Strengthening the Capacity of MSP Stakeholders and Decision Makers: Capacity4MSP’, a practical, interactive collaboration platform for maritime spatial planning (hereinafter – MSP) stakeholders, practitioners, decision makers and policy makers is being developed to support current MSP processes in the countries of the Baltic Sea Region (hereinafter - BSR), implementing the requirements defined in the policy documents at international level, including the European Union (hereinafter - EU) and the BSR level with regard to the development of maritime spatial plans until 2020/2021. The Capacity4MSP project platform will synthesise the results of the projects and processes implemented so far on MSP management issues and promote the transfer of knowledge and conclusions gained highlighting the main priorities for regional cooperation after 2020. One of the project's activities (No 3.3.) is dedicated to the analysis of key aspects of stakeholder involvement and engagement in MSP. This activity supports the implementation of the HELCOM-VASAB Guidelines on Transboundary Consultations, Public Participation and Cooperation. The results of the activity are presented in this Report. The Report contains research-based analysis, experiences and practical examples of stakeholder involvement approaches and methods.

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

Questions this practice may help answer

  • What can be done to support Stakeholders engagement through the MSP Process?

Implementation Context

MSP is the process by which the relevant competent authorities analyse and organise human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic, and social objectives (MSP Directive, 2014/89/EU). The broad scope of MSP calls for an integrative approach and inclusive planning process to achieve sustainable development of the maritime and coastal economies and the use of marine and coastal resources. A conceptual model of the study addresses the key questions regarding public participation: who, when and how they have been involved in MSP in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) countries, either as part of an official process or as a project-based initiative.

MSP is developed and implemented in determined spatial boundaries, either at the level of marine sub-basin (regional level) or within national administrative boundaries. Each marine country establishes its own spatial planning framework as well as corresponding procedures and mechanisms for stakeholder participation. Consequently, there are substantial differences in who is involved in the process, how and when. This study examines the multilevel aspects of stakeholder involvement in MSP in the countries of the BSR. The multi- level dimension (from local, regional, national, cross-border to transboundary) in MSP has been addressed by almost all EU-funded cooperation projects over the past decade, consequently transboundary and cross-border aspects have been prevailing in the implementation of these projects, while local and less common issues may have been neglected.

Another perspective of the analysis is sectoral integration, which ensures coherence and avoids fragmentation in MSP. However, there have been observations that not all sectors have the same power, and the projected outcomes and processes are shaped by strong interests involved in MSP. This study analyses the main stakeholders in the BSR, the coverage of key sectors in national processes, as well as engagement activities in various transboundary projects funded so far.

Aspects / Objectives

This study performs the following:

  • Collect and review lessons learnt, knowledge, conclusions and results from other MSP projects and national MSP processes affecting stakeholder involvement, awareness raising and engagement in MSP involvement at EU, BSR and national or regional level.
  • Identify and map stakeholders according to the defined criteria as well as integrate approaches and recommendations from previous and ongoing projects.
  • Summarise stakeholder involvement and engagement methods.
  • Describe the peculiarities and gaps in communication identified in the national MSP processes and the necessary improvements.
  • Propose key conclusions and recommendations for the target group of the Report in the context of stakeholder involvement and engagement within and outside the BSR.


One of the project activities is dedicated to analysing the key aspects of stakeholder involvement and engagement in MSP.

Main Outputs / Results

Consultations and integration with sectorial stakeholders

  • Carry out appropriate stakeholder mapping and analysis to identify stakeholders, their needs, interests, and relationships.
  • If stakeholders participate in the planning process, they are more likely to assume that decisions will be made on a sustainable basis in the long term. The stakeholder integration process should therefore be facilitated at an early stage of planning.
  • Stakeholder integration can foster synergies and coexistence with other uses.
  • It is important to continue and expand efforts to involve a wider range of stakeholders.
  • Organise several informal meetings with coffee and cake, as informal meetings are crucial for building understanding, trust, and solutions.
  • Develop processes that support the meaningful engagement of a broad range of stakeholders, eliminating unequal power relations while constructively integrating conflicting views.
  • Authorities designing and moderating MSP processes need to have the capacity, time, and resources to ensure access, legitimacy and transparency for different groups and remain attentive to the complexity and changing environment of stakeholders.
  • Create local and regional networks to foster interaction between key stakeholders and increase cooperation and multi-use of the resources.

Knowledge exchange

  • Stakeholder discussions are vital to outlining the scale and complexity of the issues involved in decision making.
  • Building consensus among stakeholders will both accelerate the process through knowledge sharing and render any solution identified more acceptable.
  • Engaging sectorial representatives and interest groups (e.g., divers, fishermen, coastal tourism experts) in data collection and exchange provides evidence and a knowledge base for MSP.
  • The data generated throughout the process should be shared with stakeholders to promote possible opportunities for multi-use development.
  • Transparency of the planning process
  • Transparent planning can reduce conflicts with different stakeholders, therefore it is important to provide continuous access to, and build a base for comprehensive and reliable data and information, knowledge, and expertise.
  • A transparent process, communicated in advance, also means that stakeholders are aware of what is expected from them and will be able to plan their participation and contribution.
  • Authorities should also explore non-statutory forums and methods beyond formal MSP procedures. In developing such informal participation, it is important to take steps to maintain sufficient transparency.

Awareness raising and capacity building

  • Raising awareness of the benefits of new sea uses facilitates its acceptance by other sectors and the public at large.
  • Use available visualisation methods to make certain information (e.g., underwater cultural heritage) more tangible, accessible, and attractive.
  • MSP must support different capacity building needs, such as know-how, training, finance, logistics, to be addressed to ensure the success of the process.
  • There is a need to promote good practices and disseminate information about the multiple benefits through existing regional and sea basin forums and networks to facilitate their replication and encourage investment in sea uses, particularly the new blue economies.

Cooperation at transboundary level

  • Countries should utilise the existing platforms for collaboration and create new ones.
  • Establish the HELCOM-VASAB MSP Working Group as a regular and continuing forum for networking and sharing knowledge and experience to ensure a close cooperation between planning authorities.
  • Recommendations to establish a technical pan-Baltic offshore energy and grid stakeholder group.
  • Find appropriate forms to contact and mobilise commercial stakeholders and NGOs in transboundary MSP.
  • Take advantage of links and cooperation with regional and global initiatives, such as the UN Decade of Ocean Science.
  • Countries should create a mechanism or process to share what they have learnt during the implementation and review phases of the plans with their neighbours.
  • Countries can also jointly explore the possibility of being involved in the implementation of the plans, especially regarding sectors that operate across borders.
  • It is important to use both formal and informal forms of cooperation. Informal meetings between planners and, importantly, stakeholders from different sectors allow for an exchange of ideas and detailed discussions on planning practices and topics. Informal collaboration provides an environment for mutual learning


The study recommends performing the following tasks to support stakeholder engagement through the MSP process:

  • Build on stakeholder knowledge about sea uses
  • Build on perceptions and attitudes
  • Use decision support tools and participatory modelling
  • Use multi-criteria analysis based on stakeholder involvement
  • Use a Bayesian approach in the decision making
  • Foster cross border cooperation
  • Foster a transboundary cooperation
  • Perform a Stakeholder analysis
  • Communicate efficiently with stakeholders
  • Foster Stakeholder involvement and engagement


The approach used and conclusions drawn from this study provide useful insights for MSP processes.

Responsible Entity

VASAB Secretariat

Costs / Funding Source

VASAB Secretariat

Contact person

Kristina Veidemane, Baltic Environmental Forum - Latvia - (kristina[dot]veidemane[at]bef[dot]lv)