Nested Governance Structures


The implementation of Ecosystem based management (EBM) requires the development of governance structures and coordination mechanisms at the level of the regional seas. The governance challenges to implement EBM are on the one hand to create platform(s) and hybrid governance models, which facilitate regional collaboration and coordination in relation to the implementation of EBM and on the other hand, to allow for coordination and to create synergies between the various sector policies.

The implementation of EBM takes place in a fragmented governance system and ODEMM developed a nested governance structure that would allow for the exploration of the relevant bodies that should/could be included on any particular issue (see figure 1). The nested governance structure connects the relevant institutional setting of the EU (as laid down in the Treaties) and the regional levels (top part of the figure) with existing sectoral governance arrangements (lower part of the figure).



Figure 1 Marine Governance System for Ecosystem-Based Management in European Seas


CFP Common Fisheries Policy, CIS Common Implementation Structure, COM Commission, CP Chemical Producers, eNGO environmental Non-Governmental Organisation, FI Fishing Industry, HBDs Habitats and Birds Directives, IMO International Maritime Organization, IMP Integrated Maritime Policy, MARPOL International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, MSFD Marine Strategy Framework Directive, MSs Member States, NA National Authorities, NGOs Non-Governmental Organisation, NL National Laws, OC Oil Companies, OSPAR dec OSPAR Decision, PA Port Authorities, RAC Regional Advisory Council, RSC Regional Sea Convention, SC Shipping Community, TC Tourism companies


Explore the nested governance structure developed by ODEMM by clicking through the Prezi, you can use your mouse to zoom and pan around, or continue reading below.

Characteristic of the fragmented governance system facilitating the implementation of EBM at the regional sea level, is that the maritime activities and sectors are regulated in different, independent governance arrangements. This process of regionalisation of governance arrangements requires the nesting of individual sectoral governance arrangements. This nested (polycentric) governance system has to deal with the existing multi-level governance arrangements that have emerged and evolved over the last decades to govern activities such as shipping and fisheries or that focus on marine environmental protection more generally. By developing institutional linkages with these governance arrangements it could be possible to ensure a common discourse, policy objectives and decision making and implementation of sectoral measures supporting EBM objectives at the regional sea level.

To create constitutional rules and principles within this nested governance system soft modes of governance are of vital importance. Soft modes of governance (such as the Open Method of Coordination (OMC), peer pressure voluntary agreements, etc.) in the nested governance system at the regional sea levels can prove to be a useful tool for steering policy implementation, because the non-binding nature leaves room for innovative practices, the capacity for policy learning, deliberation as well as policy coordination.


The outline nested governance structure for ecosystem-based management of regional seas developed by ODEMM, is described in the publication listed under Further Information below. This outline structure can then be used as a tool to explore who are the relevant bodies at each level of governance, and how do they connect to eachother, for any specific issue. Issues may range from exploring the nested governance structure that is relevant in relation to a particular policy objective (such as the achievement of Good Environmental Status for Biodiversity), to examining which higher level bodies should be considered when exploring new management measures on a specific activity or industry.

Using the Tool

We have trialled use of this approach at a number of regional workshops where participants used an outline nested governance structure to then select both the relevant bodies and the connections between them, related to a number of specific management actions directed at the achievement of specific policy objectives. The outline structure and approach can be applied to a wide range of questions/issues and the tool contacts can advise on this further.

Skills needed: The tool can be used by anyone who is knowledgeable of the governance bodies and interlinkages around the issue being explored. Ideally it should be used by a group of people familiar with the different bodies and interlinkages in the region being assessed. Using the existing structure does not require a high level of technical expertise, but it does require an understanding of relevant governance. The tool contacts should be contacted for further discussion on how to apply the structure to suitable applications.

Further Information: The Nested Governance Structure is described in Raakjaer et al. (2014) Marine Policy 50, 373–381

It is also described in Chapter 8 of ODEMM's final deliverable (Robinson et al. (2014) - ODEMM Report.pdf)

Developers: Jesper Raakjaer, Judith van Leeuwen, Jan van Tatenhove and Maria Hadjimichael

Tool contacts: Jesper Raakjaer ( and Judith van Leewen ( and Jan van Tatenhove (

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