On 16 December 2022, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC) and its Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC) brought together more than one hundred practitioners and stakeholders from national authorities, research/academia, business/private sectors, NGOs, and foundations to discuss a roadmap to accelerate marine spatial planning in the Western Pacific and adjacent areas.
The Western Pacific is highly populous, rapidly advancing, yet fragile. With escalating human activities, competitions between various sea uses (port and shipping, aquaculture and fishing, wind farms, extraction of mineral resources, recreation and tourism) are constantly increasing due to the limited marine area.
Over the past twenty years, Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) has been increasingly recognized as a practical tool or process to promote ecosystem-based approach to ocean management, address conflicting spatial demands among users, and eventually achieve ecological, economic, and social objectives. Though MSP has been in a rapid development, its developments in most of countries in the Western Pacific and adjacent areas are still at its early stage.
During the one-day forum, various representatives from diverse stakeholder groups, international partners and SIDS countries shared their experience and ideas how MSP could support marine protection, ecosystem restoration, and blue economy in the region, what knowledge and capacity development are critical for developing a rational spatial plan, and how we can address them?
This MSPforum was finally concluded with commitments and potential cooperation opportunities that were presented from the perspectives of research, government agency, foundation and Early Career Ocean Professionals in the region.
As reflected by the enthusiasm and the willingness of MSP practitioners and partners, the Regional MSPforum proved to be a useful platform in the region to bring all partners together to act in the regions, identify required technical support, exchange experience amongst different projects, and create synergies between MSP related programs within and beyond IOC to deliver the best support to Member States.
In view of the pressing need for capacity development including technical/professional support, local stakeholders’ engagement, the IOC/UNESCO, in particular its Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific, and other international partners in the region will assist in any way possible, including the UN Ocean Decade Action 21: Accelerating MSP in the Western Pacific and adjacent areas.