A Marine Spatial Planning Framework for Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction.


This work has been undertaken as part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Programme jointly implemented Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded project entitled ‘Sustainable fisheries management and biodiversity conservation of deep-sea living resources and ecosystems in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction’, known as the ABNJ Deep Seas Project. A key objective of the ABNJ Deep Seas Project is the recognition of the importance of healthy, fully functioning marine ecosystems for the sustainability of marine resources. One way of supporting sustainability in the marine environment is through effective marine spatial planning. This document explores options for undertaking cross-sectoral marine spatial planning in areas beyond national jurisdiction in support of the ABNJ Deep Seas Project objective. The intended audiences of this document are national and regional-level decision-makers (including those participating in highlevel global negotiations), area-based planning practitioners and stakeholders in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Sea Basin(s): 
Application in MSP: 
Applied in an MSP process
Not sector specific
Type of Issue: 
Cross-border cooperation
Ecosystem-based approach
Social aspects
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Vision and aims
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 
Coherence with other processes: 
Integrated Coastal Zone Management
Marine Strategy Framework Directive


  • What is the structure of the MSP process?
  • What are the key elements of the MSP process?
  • How is the MSP framework applied under different governance scenarios?


This publication has been prepared within the framework of the Global Environment Facility project entitled “Sustainable fisheries management and biodiversity conservation of deep-sea living marine resources and ecosystems in the Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ)” (referred to as the ‘ABNJ Deep Seas Project’) jointly implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations (FAO) and United Nations Environment Programme.


An MSP framework for ABNJ, which considers the entire ecosystem, has been developed to promote the sustainable use of the marine environment and its resources, including biodiversity. The framework is presented in this report and is aimed at national and regional-level decision-makers (including those participating in international, high-level negotiations), area-based planning practitioners and stakeholders of ABNJ.


The MSP framework is made up of various elements, each with associated activities that could potentially be undertaken.


A key finding highlighted that although it is possible for MSP to be undertaken in ABNJ in the absence of an ILBI, it can only go so far in achieving its objective. The presence of an ILBI not only eases application of the MSP framework, but allows more to be achieved via MSP. This is possible because an ILBI provides an incentive and legal mandate to engage ABNJ stakeholders in cross-sectoral area-based planning. An ILBI allows for a management plan to be developed in collaboration with participating stakeholders and provides the means for implementation and enforcement for such a plan. An ILBI can also encourage or require enhanced levels of interaction (for example, cooperation and coordination) between sectors, helping to support effective cross-sectoral area-based planning, such as MSP.

The use of MSP in ABNJ currently, whilst ongoing human activities are limited in their scope and intensity, provides an opportunity to test, adapt and improve MSP approaches to support more effective management and sustainable use of resources in ABNJ, particularly, in light of projected increases in human activities and associated impacts in ABNJ. This proactive, rather than reactive, approach may help to ensure that marine biological diversity in ABNJ can be conserved more effectively and sustainably managed for future generations.


The framework presented here is a guide and is not prescriptive; its application will depend on the context and as such it is designed to be flexible and adaptable to meet differing needs.

Responsible Entity: 

The UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC).

Costs / Funding Source: 

The work was financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Contact person: 

Neville Ash, UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge, United Kingdom.