Multi-level governance towards more sustainable planning solutions

Sustainable and effective planning solutions require broad stakeholder involvement. The key is to identify all relevant stakeholders and involve them in the process in order to make the best possible contribution to the planning solution. This is at the heart of the Baltic Sea2Land pilot project in which the Regional Council of Kymenlaakso is participating.  

Multi-level governance describes the way in which power is distributed vertically between several levels of government and horizontally between several governmental and non-governmental organisations and actors.   

Implementing multi-level governance at the planning level means strong stakeholder involvement in the process from start to finish. In Finland, stakeholder participation in regional planning processes is a statutory task.   

Kymenlaakso Regional Plan 2040 became legally binding on 15.6.2020 and includes a blue-green infrastructure designation as part of the plan. Through the Baltic Sea2Land project, the Kymenlaakso Regional Council was given the opportunity to gather stakeholders’ views on the timeliness of the marking. The assessment of the timeliness of the blue-green infrastructure marking from the stakeholders’ perspective is an excellent example of multi-level working between different administrative sectors. Existing or targeted links to the county’s recreational area or ecological network are of course implemented in municipal planning, but there are also many associations and governmental actors in the region for whom the designation is of key importance. These include all the authorities and operators involved in tourism and recreation, the environment and sustainable development, forestry and the bio-economy, and health and physical activity. They also include municipal planners and transport planners. The aim of the designation is to preserve and develop existing green links in Kymenlaakso, but it requires that the relevant stakeholders are aware of the designation and its planning principles.   

In October 2023, the Finnish MSP coordinationgroup organised a joint workshop with the Kymenlaakso Regional Council. The stakeholders of the Kymenlaakso Regional Council who are affected by the blue-green infrastructure designation were invited to the workshop. Stakeholders were asked to answer the following questions:  

Blue-green infrastructure actions that have already been promoted in the region?  

What could be done to further promote blue-green infrastructure?  

Are there any parts of the marking that are problematic/challenging to implement?  

Are there any gaps/needs for improvement in the blue green network?   

Photo: Frank Hering from the Regional Council of Kymenlaakso is summing up the thoughts from the groupwork.

Prior to the assignment, participants were also asked whether they were familiar with the blue green infrastructure marking and the associated planning regulation. Just under a third were not familiar with the planning regulation or had contributed to its implementation. Stakeholder input on the timeliness of the designation was useful for planners.  Firstly, the planning designation and its background was made more accessible to stakeholders who were not already familiar with it. Secondly, stakeholders pointed out points in the designation that they found challenging to implement or interpret. The project will enable further engagement with stakeholders, including collaboration with Aalto University landscape architecture students. The students will take up the challenge of how to promote the blue-green infrastructure marking. The aim of the work is to visualise the marking in order to facilitate its promotion in the future. The work will take place in spring 2024.  

The Master’s level studio course at the Aalto University will be entirely built around the Kymenlaakso blue-green infrastructure marking. This kind of cooperation, which gives students an in-depth insight into the work of both the regional associations and maritime spatial planning, as well as the opportunity to work on valuable material for the Council, gives students a unique opportunity to get to know the working world through their studies. At the same time, the cooperation will provide the Council with imaginative and varied images of the future to support their development work”, says Elisa Lähde, teacher of the course participants.  

The preliminary results of the workshop provide food for thought not only at regional level but also for maritime spatial planning in many ways. The Kymenlaakso Regional Council identifies its stakeholders well, but all stakeholders, especially NGOs, may not recognise their importance as implementers of the plan. It can also be concluded that planners working at different levels know how to interpret the marking and its design principle, which may be challenging for other stakeholders who are not involved in the day-to-day work of the plan. This gives rise to the question of how to communicate the marking and its implementation so that everyone can make equal use of it, not only at the regional level but also at the marine spatial planning level. 


Cooperation with the Kymenlaakso Regional Council and Aalto University are part of the Interreg Baltic Sea2Land project, thru wich the Finnish Maritime Spatial Planning group will promote the Coastal Strategy.