A proposal for evaluating Marine Spatial Planning in the Baltic Sea


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This practices demonstrates how the sustainability of the MSP governance process can be evaluated. With the concept of the sustainability of governance, it can be assessed in how far different aspects of integration in MSP are taken into account in the MSP process.

Sea Basin(s): 
Application in MSP: 
Unknown effect
Not sector specific
Type of Issue: 
Social aspects
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Vision and aims
Analyse spatial aspects
Develop and implement plan
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 

Questions this practice may help answer

  • How can the sustainability of the MSP governance process can be assessed?

Implementation Context

This evaluation approach has been developed and in the scope of the BONUS BALTSPACE. BONUS BALTSPACE is a research project. The project aims to identify enablers and barriers for integration in maritime spatial planning (MSP) in the Baltic Sea Region. Integration is a key concept in this project, which is studied from four angles: i) policy and sector integration, ii) multi-scale and transboundary integration, iii) stakeholder integration as well as iv) integration of knowledge from different sources and of different types.

Aspects / Objectives

“Sustainability of governance” is the key concept of this evaluation approach .It aims to assess the sustainability of MSP as a process (e.g. as opposed to evaluating the sustainability of MSP outcomes and outputs). The rationale for evaluating the sustainability of the MSP process is to ensure that MSP meets the expectations of its integrating impact across policy and sector boundaries, governance levels, stakeholder groups and knowledge types.


The “sustainability of governance” evaluation has been developed based on sustainability of governance literature, an analytical framework as well as the following case studies from the BONUS BALTSPACE project. In addition to document analysis, interviews were carried through on how integration problems were being tackeled.

Main Outputs / Results

 The main output are a set of criteria to evaluate the sustainability of governance. These criteria have been substantiated through a catalogue of questions.

  • Cooperative action (in a transboundary context)

    • How present are Baltic-wide MSP principles in the conduct and practice of (sub-)national MSP?

    • Has there been outreach/practical support from extra-national and national authorities?

    • Has the organisation of MSP decision-making constrained sectoral/stakeholder involvement, particularly at sub-national and local levels?

    • Have national MSP regulatory and administrative systems been described and cross-border collaborative processes agreed?

  • Functional coherence
    • Have responsibilities and accountabilities for cross-boundary coordination and action been clearly elaborated?

    • Has the purpose and scope of the cross-border collaboration been agreed (e.g., to achieve functional coherence – to avoid incoherence)

    • Has there been agreement on how results of cross-border collaboration will be utilised?

    • Are there cross-border mechanisms (either sectorally or inter-sectorally) in place to pre-emptively deal with potential conflicts?

  • Inter-sectoral cooperation
    • Have platforms been created to allow for a meaningful dialogue between different sectors?

    • Are mechanisms/forums in place that allow for conflicts to be aired and trade-offs made in an open and transparent way?

    • Are synergies between and within sectors actively being pursued with support from the MSP planning authority?

    • Does the MSPlan actively encourage co-use of sea areas?

  • Organisational coordination
    • Does the overall organisation of MSP support transparency, legitimacy and accountability?

    • Has there been sufficient consideration to the responsibility, capacities and roles for coordinating MSP, given its inherent multi-levelness and its multi-sectoral ambitions?

    • Are there platforms that connect economic, social and environmental issues across multiple levels and sectors in MSP?

    • Does the organisation of MSP allow consideration of strategic goals, while supporting engagement with, and adaptation to regional or local context?

  • Representativeness
    • Have all the actors with a legitimate interest (affected or interested) been clearly identified and included?

    • Are stakeholder roles clearly elaborated and communicated?

    • Have stakeholders been involved early and often/continuously in MSP?

    • Do all stakeholders have fair and reasonable opportunities to affect MSP decision-making?

  • Deliberation
    • Has consideration been given to ‘evening up’ power relations between stakeholders where there are clear disparities among their capacities to engage in and influence MSP?

    • Have all stakeholders had opportunities to express argumentation and interact with others (even if outside the conventional parameters of MSP) in the process of MSP?

    • Have conflicting views/interests between stakeholders beenpossible to be expressed through interactive/dialogical processes and then linked to decision-making?

    • Have the results of stakeholder engagement had a genuine impact on the MSP process and on MSP policy decisions? In an open and transparent way?

  • Knowledge comprehensiveness
    • Are there mechanisms to share data and knowledge among relevant authorities, sectors and levels (sub-nationally and internationally)?

    • Has a broad range of knowledge types been included and considered in MSP decision-making?

    • Do MSP and related authorities actively seek to include and assess the value of different types of knowledge, including local and socio-cultural knowledge?

    • Have different types of scientific and expert knowledge, covering the various dimensions and ambitions of sustainable development, been included in MSP?

  • Acknowledging uncertainly
    • Are knowledge gaps (across the dimensions of sustainable development) acknowledged and efforts made to address shortfalls?

    • Have clear rules, responsibilities and processes to interpret and apply the precautionary principle (at different stages of MSP) been developed (and applied)?

    • Do interpretations of the precautionary principle in MSP practice consider concerns of environmental degradation as well as social disruption?

    • How is MSP anticipatory, in terms of having regard for the future implications of current planning decisions and how adaptation strategies will be adopted to cope with changing conditions?


The approach has been developed in the regional context of the Baltic Sea. However, the developed criteria may also inspire the work in other regional contexts. The criteria themselves serve as basis for evaluating the sustainability of governance, but they can be adapted to a specific empirical context, if need be.

Responsible Entity

Södertörn University

Contact Person

Fred Saunders

Södertörn University

Alfred Nobels allé 7

SE-14189 Huddinge