Blue Planning in Practice

Blue Planning in Practice

Enabling ecosystem-based marine and coastal planning and management


Healthy and productive oceans and coasts provide vital services essential to human society. However, many of these services are declining due to increasing and often competing coastal activities and resource uses. The trend is amplified by uncoordinated sector policies and management. An integrated approach to policy implementation and ecosystem management across sectors is therefore essential to foster effective synergies across the three pillars of sustainable development.

Planners are often faced with challenges in applying integrated management principles, e.g. the allocation of space and ecosystem services among different sectors and stakeholders at appropriate spatial scales. Blue Planning, i.e. ecosystem-based marine and coastal planning and management is regarded as a particularly useful approach to support integration of environment and resource management and governance priorities at local and national scales.

Our Approach

During the development process of the Blue Planning in Practice training course, a broad range of experts and practitioners from development agencies, NGOs and research institutions from around the world contributed to the conceptualization of the training course, the design of the course structure, as well as the training materials, based on their own experiences and publications. Some provided successful stories and examples from their own countries.

MSP experts and practitioners during a conceptualization workshop

MSP experts and practitioners during a conceptualization workshop

Hence, informed by decades of practical experiences and learning in the field, this training course aims to strengthen planning and implementation in one’s own context while providing an introduction to the theory and practical starting points of Blue Planning. It is based on a large and diverse range of existing frameworks, tools, guidelines, articles and online resources aiming to enable national and local planners and practitioners develop and implement integrated coastal and marine policies and plans.

Elements of the Blue Planning in Practice trainings course

Elements of the Blue Planning in Practice trainings course

Training concept and content

The training is based on the Harvard Case Methodology, which conveys teaching messages mainly through interactive practical work by participants. Challenges, inspired by real-life conditions, take place in the fictitious country of Bakul, a case closely based on real-life conditions and challenges. The fictitious case allows participants to dive into a matter, free from their own work context and its biases.
A synthesis of enabling factors and key challenges to Marine Spatial Planning provided by a UNEP study which reviewed 73 Blue Planning processes supports reflection and provides evidence-based findings to this training course.
In addition, Blue Solutions – successful cases – complement the training by illustrating theoretical inputs and case work learning. They serve as real case examples for “what works” (key success factors) in different situations.
Content wise the training course offers participants the opportunity to approach the following Blue Planning aspects:

  • Identification of need and process design
  • Development of shared vision, objectives and goals
  • Organization of stakeholder participation
  • Inventory and analysis of current and future conditions
  • Drafting and approving the spatial management plan
  • Implementation and enforcement
  • Monitoring, revision and adjustment
Experts testing selected exercises of the training course

Experts testing selected exercises of the training course


After completing the course, participants will:

  • Understand the relevance of spatial planning as a topic for coastal and marine development and management;
  • Learn to think in systems and understand the role of coastal and marine ecosystems for human well-being;
  • Become aware of the unique characteristics of planning in coastal and marine areas;
  • Be able to balance interests of different stakeholder on the basis of clear and transparent criteria;
  • Be able to start applying Blue Planning in their own specific legal, governance and administrative contexts;
  • Become aware of barriers, challenges and enabling factors for the effective use and implementation of Blue Planning approaches; and
  • Be enabled to develop own strategies to overcome those barriers and challenges.
Introduction to the case work

Introduction to the case work


The training package is primarily intended for professionals responsible for the planning and management of coastal and marine areas and their natural resources, not only from the environment sector, but also from other sectors (e.g. fisheries, tourism, transportation, energy, and sea mining), or from cross-sectorial management bodies. It thus aims at decisions makers, planners, practitioners and technical staff from governments as well as civil society, academia and the private sector from developing and emerging countries. The Blue Planning training course also targets national and international staff in international or regional cooperation working in coastal and marine development projects.