Institutional integration in transboundary marine spatial planning: A theory-based evaluative framework for practice

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The governance of shared waters involves complex interactions between actors and institutions embedded in different legislative approaches, cultures and administrative procedures. Marine Spatial Planning can address the transboundary dimension of marine governance, based on its potential to foster integration between sectoral agencies, regulatory bodies and local stakeholders when making decisions about the distribution of coastal and maritime uses. Coordination between activities and practices of actors in planning transboundary areas is imperative in advancing sustainability. This paper seeks to make a contribution to the evolving field of MSP by expanding the dimensions of integration in MSP to consider institutional integration. In doing so, the paper reviews pivotal literature on MSP and makes an argument that existing studies on integration in MSP are structured in an inductive manner and focused on national and sea-basin cases. In response to addressing these gaps, we used the social systems theory and related theories, as an overarching and valuable lens to understand the institutional challenges of planning across maritime borders. Based on these lenses, we present an evaluation framework that uses the metaphor of a ‘wheel’ to indicate iterative stages (observation, initial impact, response, recovery and stabilisation) that are shaped by dimensions including structural alignment, self-oriented action, and collaborative capacity. This is followed by discussion about the potential application and next steps for enhancing the utility of the framework. In conclusion, the paper adds to the growing discourse on transboundary MSP by presenting a deductive framework that can be applied to different context and multi-governance levels to understand institutional integration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105430
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalOcean and Coastal Management
Issue number0
Early online date1 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable contributions to this paper. This research was carrried out with funding from Ulster University under the Vice Chancellor's Scholarship.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020


  • Marine Spatial Planning
  • Transboundary
  • Integration
  • Social Systems Theory
  • Evaluation Framework
  • Marine governance


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