Governance of maritime space, conference organized by UNESCO and the European Commission

Paris, France

UNESCO and the European Commission are hosting an international conference on marine spatial planning, a process that seeks to regulate human activities in the waters bordering coastal areas so as to preserve marine ecosystems, avoid conflicts between sectors of commercial and industrial activity, and promote international cooperation. (UNESCO Headquarters, 15 to 17 March).

Organized by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC) and the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the European Commission, the conference will bring together more than 350 experts from all over the world. It will provide an opportunity to take stock of existing marine spatial planning (MSP) to date, exchange best practices, encourage cooperation among countries sharing coastal and marine waters, and establish priorities for the coming years.

On the sidelines of the conference, participants will be invited to take part in a role- game, the MSP Challenge. It is designed to improve the players’ understanding of the marine spatial planning process by getting them to take on the parts of environmental activist, industrialist and decision-maker.

Marine spatial planning has become increasingly important due to the intensification of activities beside traditional fishing and shipping. Recent decades have seen the development of marine aggregates extraction, offshore aquaculture, renewable marine energy generation and more. MSP aims to bring together all users to help them coordinate decision-making, avoid inter sectoral conflicts and resource overexploitation.

Marine spatial plans today cover almost 10% of the world's exclusive economic zones (marine areas stretching over 200 nautical miles from the coastline on which States exercise sovereign rights, notably with regard to the exploitation of resources)

Since 2006, IOC has been assisting countries in implementing this type of ecosystem-based management through its Marine Spatial Planning initiative. In 2009, IOC published Marine spatial planning: a step-by-step approach to ecosystem-based management a guide to support  countries implementing management plans for their marine regions [available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese].

In 2014, the European Union adopted legislation to create a common framework for maritime spatial planning in Europe. Since then, the European Commission has funded cross-border planning projects worth €18 million.

The conference is expected to pave the way for the adoption of a road map by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO and the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the European Commission to encourage marine spatial planning in all seas and oceans of the globe. The objective is to triple the surface of marine areas benefiting from spatial planning by 2025 to cover one third of total waters under national jurisdictions.


More information about the conference

More information on the European directive on MSP

More information on the MSP Challenge
(An event open to journalists accredited by UNESCO and invited experts only)

Media contact: Agnès Bardon, UNESCO Press Service. Tel: +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 64,