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IOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC)

Advancing knowledge and cooperation for a healthy ocean and prosperous society

Charting the Course of Marine Spatial Planning in the Western Pacific

On 14-15 November 2023, the first WESTPAC Expert Workshop on Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) took place in Qingdao, China with the support of China Oceanic Development Foundation, First Institute of Oceanography and European Union. More than thirty marine spatial planners, experts and stakeholders from countries in the region and international organizations and partners were gathered, with a view to building a way forward to promote marine spatial planning in the region, in particular the implementation of the UN Ocean Decade Action 21.

Though marine spatial planning (MSP) has gained considerable importance all around the world, relatively less Asian countries have put it on national agenda with most of them still at an early development stage. In response to the strong demands of Member States in the region for advancing marine spatial planning, the Sub-Commission initiated the UN Ocean Decade Action 21 in 2022, and also established a Group of MSP Experts in April 2023 to provide guidance for MSP activities in the Western Pacific and its adjacent areas.

The two-day workshop featured the sharing of latest MSP knowledge and development status, presented by national and international experts from Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Pacific Island countries, COBSEA, IOC/UNESCO and the Sub-Commission. The joint IOC/UNESCO and European Commission MSPglobal 2.0 was also presented to showcase how the global initiative will provide support to the implementation of the UN Decade Action 21. To collectively formulate concrete steps forward, the workshop stood out for brainstorming sessions, structured around MSP technical guides and tools, capacity development, cooperative mechanism and framework, pilot and demonstration activities.

The candid and spirited discussions over the two days resulted in a list of concrete actions to be taken over the next two years and beyond, including the development of an Easy-to-use Toolkit for MSP exercise (tentative name); MSP demonstration at selected pilot sites in China, Fiji, Korea, Indonesia and Thailand; conduct of the MSPglobal Rapid Assessment Methodology in two countries and four local or national trainings; and development of a regional MSProadmap.

The workshop highlighted the importance of the MSP Group as a key driving force of the Sub-Commission to push forward the MSP development in the region. The Group of Experts will meet regularly either online or in person to review the action progress, and finalize the draft regional MSProadmap, which is supposed to be endorsed at the 15th Intergovernmental Session in early 2025.

All participants extended their sincere appreciation to the First Institute of Oceanography for offering a Support Office for the Decade Action 21, and witnessed the unveiling of the plaque to commemorate the kick of the Decade Action 21. Without its administrative, financial and operational support, the workshop wouldn’t be possible.

An ocean poem by Suharyanto, a senior MSP expert from Indonesia, perfectly reflected the common sentiment and strong willingness of all participants to work synergistically to build a future where MSP can really assist our countries in the region to achieve sustainable development and blue economy.

“Let’s think of our ocean with a vision for tomorrow […]

A deep sense of duty and a responsibility profound

A strong concern to keep ocean dreams safe and sound.

It is our generation’s task to work together.”