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  • Creating a “complete” set of Ocean Accounts would be complex. However, experience in SEEA implementation has proven that (a) accounts don’t need to be complete and (b) to be policy relevant, not all accounts need to be developed. For example, countries have started SEEA water accounts with available data on municipal supplied water. This already proves the relevance of the accounts and attracts support for adding further detail.

  • What has proven to be essential, though, is strategic planning in preparation for compiling accounts. The Diagnostic Tool for Environment Statistics is a means of guiding a structured conversation among stakeholders to determine which accounts and which parts of which accounts should and can be implemented first. In countries where there is no ongoing institutional mechanism for developing environment statistics, stakeholders consulted during the processes of applying the Diagnostic Tool could be considered the working group. This working group then contributes data, technical expertise and advice to the work as it progresses. Where there is an ongoing institutional mechanism, this could be the main means of engaging stakeholders.

  • If this working group benefits from the guidance of a senior steering group, it is more likely that resources are made available and that the pilot results will be used to inform policy. The main components of the Diagnostic Tool are as shown in Table 22.


  • The Diagnostic Tool has been designed for use in a workshop setting. However, iteration will be required to achieve consensus. For example, a small core group may draft initial responses and then present them to a larger group for discussion and revision.

  • The approach applied in the ESCAP Ocean Accounts pilot studies has been to use the Diagnostic Tool outline as the structure of a more detailed scoping report. The scoping report may be coordinated by an independent consultant, the NSO or by a government agency responsible for the ocean. Some countries have found that engaging an independent consultant in producing the scoping report is more likely to reveal opportunities for improvement.

  • The ESCAP pilots were all initiated by obtaining commitments from senior managers to proceed. Pilots have been initiated in other countries by government experts presenting initial results to policy experts as a demonstration of feasibility.

  • Most pilot studies have identified data availability and access as major constraints. Even when data are known to be available, they may be distributed across many sources, use different standards and be difficult to access for confidentiality reasons. The general advice is to know what data you have by conducting an inventory of available data.[2] This may be initiated through the scoping process as a request to relevant data holders. Relevant data may also be available from global data sources (see Data sources and platforms for Ocean Accounts). Pilot studies have addressed these constraints in different ways:

    • using public data: may limit the scope of the study, and data may be difficult to quality check;

    • establishing data sharing arrangements with relevant institutions: may take time; and

    • conducting original field work and socio-economic surveys: takes time and resources.


[2] See the ESCAP Environmental Data Inventory Template for guidance on possible metadata that could be collected.



[3]Training materials are available on http

  • When discussing priorities, it is important to understand the broad scope of the Ocean Accounts Framework. Pilots to date have been designed to address topics and policy concerns shown in Table 23 below.

  • At a national level, addressing any one of the above priorities would be sufficiently challenging to justify a pilot study. However, choosing a smaller, sub-national study area could allow for addressing more than one topic. For example, more information may be available for a specific bay or coastline. Focussing on this as a study area would support a more comprehensive analysis, such as assessing all land-based sources of pollutants in the related terrestrial drainage area, mapping coastal and marine ecosystems and estimating the value of the ocean economy for that area.

  • Stakeholders may be working with different definitions (e.g., coastal, ocean economy), concepts (values, condition, ecosystem services). Furthermore, some of the important concepts used by one stakeholder will be unknown to others. By presenting related work, stakeholders will better understand the concepts used.

  • Once participants agree on priority topics, study areas and concepts, they are in a better position to contribute to planning the next stage of work. A work plan should specify roles and timelines to produce the final product. If the final product is chosen to address unresolved policy priorities, it would demonstrate the effectiveness of the framework and attract support for further work.


  • "Governance” refers to the ways in which individuals and institutions manage their common affairs. The ocean is a common asset and managing the impacts people have on it requires an understanding of the norms, institutions and relationships involved.

  • The basic outline of ocean governance should already be included in a national Diagnostic or Scoping Report. Relevant components of the Diagnostic Tool (Prioritisation and account development planning) record information about:

    • Statement of Strategy and Policy Priorities: The “norms” as encoded in:

    • the national vision, as stated in the constitution or national sustainable development plans and strategies

    • relevant policies, including sector-specific (e.g., and ocean policy, strategy, MSP or ICZM) or related policies: sustainable development strategy, national biodiversity strategy and action plan (NBSAPs), multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), Nationally Determined Contributions on climate change (NDCs), Voluntary National Reviews on SDGs (VNRs), sustainability concerns, such as problems that need to be resolved or avoided in the future

    • Institutions and their mandates and data holdings related to the ocean: There may be one institution responsible for coordinating government activities on the ocean or the responsibility may be spread across many agencies. NSOs may see their stakeholders as “data providers”, but users and affected stakeholders and international agencies also need to be considered.

    • Relationships, including institutional mechanisms and data sharing arrangements: There may be senior committees or technical working groups with the mandate to coordinate information and actions on the ocean. Coordination mechanisms responsible for sustainable development or environment may also have responsibility for the ocean.

  • Ocean Governance Accounts suggests codifying this information spatially and by sector; that is, to what areas of national waters and which sectors do specific mandates, information holdings and coordination mechanisms apply. This would be an opportunity to assess whether all national waters are covered by relevant mandate.

  • Reviewing relevant policies will help understand (a) whether the policies are coherent with the national vision and development goals, (b) whether they address the stated concerns about the ocean (e.g., overfishing, pollution) and (c) what data are required to monitor and report on their targets.

  • Reviewing stakeholder data holdings, using the ESCAP Environmental Data Inventory Template will help understand the nature of the data available in terms of topic, coverage, quality and accessibility.

  • Combining these reviews of policies and data holdings will begin to identify gaps in both. Are the policies addressing the concerns? Are data available to monitor and report on the policy targets? ESCAP’s EPIC (Every Policy is Connected) tool suggests a collaborative process for identifying such gaps. ESCAP is also testing a tool for Accelerating Implementation of SDG14 by identifying and addressing gaps and bottlenecks in policies and institutional mechanisms.

  • Such analyses could help identify priorities for a pilot study. For example, in Samoa and Thailand policies were in place to increase the benefits from tourism. The pilot studies began to assess the resource requirements and impacts of tourism to develop analyses of possible future scenarios. For example, if tourists generate four times the waste of residents, what infrastructure would be required to manage waste from twice the number of tourists?

  • Assessing governance also means measuring the effort put into monitoring, managing and mitigating impacts on the ocean. A country could have many extensive plans in place, yet not have enough people and funds to implement and monitor them. The SEEA-CF provides guidance for measuring environmental protection expenditures (summarized in Table 16). The FDES (Appendix 6.4) suggests recording the number of employees engaged as well.


  • Many national and institutional constitutions, policies, plans, priorities, strategies are posted online, but ongoing processes, such as discussions on an ocean strategy, may not be readily available. Also, departmental mandates and data holdings may be online.

  • Information on ocean governance may already be summarized in an NBSP, State of the Environment Report (SOER), FDES compendium or VNR (Voluntary National Review). If the NSO is engaged in SDG reporting, they should have an overview of national data holdings related to the ocean.

  • ESCAP has produced an assessment of SDG14.2.1 (Proportion of national exclusive economic zones managed using ecosystem-based approaches) in terms of progress in MSP by coastal member States in Asia and the Pacific. It includes detailed information on national MSP and ICZM-related activities, policies, plans and strategies. IOC-UNESCO provides a more summary, global assessment[9].


3.8 Compiling summary indicators