Global Program of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities

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Global Program of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities

Global Program of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (GPA)

UNEP is the United Nations Environment Programme.

Overview

The GPA aims at preventing the degradation of the marine environment from land-based activities by facilitating the realization of the duty of States to preserve and protect the marine environment. For more information, see the Global Program of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities. More specifically, the GPA aims at:

Identification and assessment of problems

Identifying nature and severity of problems caused by marine pollution. What is the impact of marine pollution on (i) food security and poverty alleviation; (ii) public health; (iii) ecosystem health and biological diversity; and (iv) economic and social benefits and uses;
Assessing the severity and impacts of contaminants, (e.g. sewage, persistent organic pollutants, radio-active substances, heavy metals, oils, nutrients, sediment mobilization and litter);
Assessing the physical alteration, including habitat modification and destruction, in areas of concern;
Assessing the sources of degradation, including (i) point sources, (e.g. waste-water treatment facilities or dredging operations); (ii) non-point sources (e.g. urban or agricultural run-off); and (iii) atmospheric depositions caused by vehicle emissions, power plants and industrial facilities, incinerators and agricultural operations;
Identifying areas which are affected or particularly vulnerable (e.g. coastal watersheds, shorelines, estuaries and their drainage basins, and habitats of endangered species);

Establishment of priorities

Priorities for action should be established based on the identification and assessment of problems (see above);

Setting management objectives for priority problems

On the basis of priorities established, States should define specific management objectives, both with respect to source categories and areas affected.
Identification, evaluation and selection of strategic and measures.
Set criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of strategies and measures.

The need for action

1. The major threats to the health and productivity and biodiversity of the marine environment result from human activities on land -in coastal areas and further inland. Most of the pollution load of the oceans, including municipal, industrial and agricultural wastes and run-off, as well as atmospheric deposition, emanates from such land-based activities and affects the most productive areas of the marine environment, including estuaries and near-shore coastal waters. These areas are likewise threatened by physical alteration of the coastal environment, including destruction of habitats of vital importance for ecosystem health. Moreover, contaminants which pose risks to human health and living resources are transported long distances by watercourses, ocean currents and atmospheric processes.

2. The bulk of the world’s population lives in coastal areas, and there is a continuing trend towards its concentration in these regions. The health, well-being and, in some cases, the very survival of coastal populations depend upon the health and well-being of coastal systems -estuaries and wetlands -as well as their associated watersheds and drainage basins and near-shore coastal waters. Ultimately, sustainable patterns of human activity in coastal areas depend upon a healthy marine environment, and vice versa.

Aims of the Global Programme of Action

3. The Global Programme of Action aims at preventing the degradation of the marine environment from land-based activities by facilitating the realization of the duty of States to preserve and protect the marine environment. It is designed to assist States in taking actions individually or jointly within their respective policies, priorities and resources, which will lead to the prevention, reduction, control and/or elimination of the degradation of the marine environment, as well as to its recovery from the impacts of land-based activities. Achievement of the aims of the Programme of Action will contribute to maintaining and, where appropriate, restoring the productive capacity and biodiversity of the marine environment, ensuring the protection of human health, as well as promoting the conservation and sustainable use of marine living resources.

Legal and institutional framework

4. International law, as reflected in the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and elsewhere, sets forth rights and obligations of States and provides the international basis upon which to pursue the protection and sustainable development of the marine and coastal environment and its resources.

5. In accordance with general international law, while States have the sovereign right to exploit their natural resources pursuant to their environmental policies, the enjoyment of such right shall be in accordance with the duty to protect and preserve the marine environment. This fundamental duty is to protect and preserve the marine environment from all sources of pollution, including land-based activities. Of particular significance for the Global Programme of Action are the provisions contained in articles 207 and 213 of UNCLOS.

6. Also of particular importance for the Programme of Action is the emphasis, in parts XII, XIII and XIV of the Convention, dealing, respectively, with protection and preservation of the marine environment, marine scientific research and the development and transfer of marine technology, on the obligation of States to cooperate in the development of the marine scientific and technological capacity of developing States and to provide them with scientific and technical assistance.

7. The duty of States to preserve and protect the marine environment has been reflected and elaborated upon in numerous global conventions and regional instruments (e.g. the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter; Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal; Convention on Biological Diversity; United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; Regional Seas Conventions; International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL 73/78), etc.). Innovative new principles and approaches applicable to the prevention of the degradation of the marine environment from land-based activities have been included in a number of such agreements.

8. In 1982, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) took the initiative to develop advice to Governments on addressing impacts on the marine environment from land-based activities. This initiative resulted in the preparation of the Montreal Guidelines for the Protection of the Marine Environment Against Pollution from Land-based Sources in 1985.

9. The duty to protect the marine environment from land-based activities was placed squarely in the context of sustainable development by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. Therein, States agreed it is necessary:

(a) To apply preventive, precautionary, and anticipatory approaches so as to avoid degradation of the marine environment, as well as to reduce the risk of long-term or irreversible adverse effects upon it;

(b) To ensure prior assessment of activities that may have significant adverse impacts upon the marine environment;

(c) To integrate protection of the marine environment into relevant general environmental, social and economic development policies;

(d) To develop economic incentives, where appropriate, to apply clean technologies and other means consistent with the internalization of environmental costs, such as the “polluter pays” principle, so as to avoid degradation of the marine environment;

(e) To improve the living standards of coastal populations, particularly in developing countries, so as to contribute to reducing the degradation of the coastal and marine environment.

10. As set out in paragaph 17.23 of Agenda 21, States agree that provision of additional financial resources, through appropriate international mechanisms, as well as access to cleaner technologies and relevant research, would be necessary to support action by developing countries to implement this commitment.

11. Agenda 21 linked the implementation of those duties with action to implement commitments to integrated management and sustainable development of the marine environment, including coastal areas under national jurisdiction. In this regard, States agreed to implement the provisions of the programme of action adopted at the World Coast Conference in Noordwijk in 1993 and to further develop those provisions in order to make them more operational.

12. Agenda 21 also linked action to combat marine degradation caused by land-based activities to action to address the specific problems of small island developing States. In this regard, States agreed to implement the provisions of the priority areas of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, adopted in Barbados in 1994.

13. In order to promote, facilitate and finance implementation of Agenda 21 by developing countries, an objective of Agenda 21 is to provide additional financial resources that are both adequate and predictable. Another objective in this context is to promote, facilitate and finance, as appropriate, the access to and the transfer of environmentally sound technologies and corresponding know-how, in particular to developing countries, on favourable terms, including concessional and preferential terms, as mutually agreed, taking into account the need to protect intellectual property rights as well as the special needs of developing countries for the implementation of Agenda 21.

D. The Global Programme of Action
14. The Programme of Action, therefore, is designed to be a source of conceptual and practical guidance to be drawn upon by national and/or regional authorities in devising and implementing sustained action to prevent, reduce, control and/or eliminate marine degradation from land-based activities. Effective implementation of this Programme of Action is a crucial and essential step forward in the protection of the marine environment and will promote the objectives and goals of sustainable development.

15. The Global Programme of Action reflects the fact that States face a growing number of commitments flowing from Agenda 21 and related conventions. Its implementation will require new approaches by, and new forms of collaboration among, Governments, organizations and institutions with responsibilities and expertise relevant to marine and coastal areas,at all levels -national, regional and global. These include the promotion of innovative financial mechanisms to generate needed resources.

What will the GPA do?

  • National and regional action programmes include: Adapt existing regional and national action programmes, or promote and facilitate their development.
  • Assessments of impacts on the marine environment: Prepare regional assessments on the impact of land-based activities. And prepare a global assessment on the effects of land-based sources of pollution on the marine, coastal and associated freshwater environment.
  • Assistance to countries in need of assistance and clearing-house arrangements: Organization and operation of a clearing-house, prepared to respond to requests for assistance. A technical meeting on the GPA clearing-house was held in Geneva (26-27 September 1996) to prepare the initial specifications of the clearing-house, drawing on established systems.
  • Mobilization of financial resources: Assist countries in (i) identifying needs for assistance that requires new and additional financial resources; (ii) formulating requests for assistance suitable for consideration by potential donors; (iii) identifying potential donors able to respond to such requests; and (iv) establishing initial contacts and mediating, as appropriate, between recipients and potential donors.
  • Awareness building: Inform Governments about the problems related to land-based activities and the opportunities offered by the GPA. Assist Governments and non-governmental organizations in setting up public awareness campaigns.

How will the GPA be implemented?

  • The implementation of the GPA will be addressed simultaneously at national, regional and global levels.
  • Formulation of national, sub-regional and regional action programmes will be the cornerstone for successful implementation of the GPA.
  • Financial sources and mechanisms are to be addressed both at the State level (e.g. charging the polluter, revolving funds, private sector participation) and at the international level (e.g. multilateral loans and dept-for-equity swaps).
  • A proposal entitled “Institutional Arrangements for Implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities” was prepared by UNEP and reviewed during three Consultations held in New York in 1996: (i) with agencies (30 January); (ii) with selected Governments (1-2 February); and (iii) with non-governmental organizations (6 February). The proposal was then reviewed by the Intersessional Ad Hoc Working Group on Sectoral Issues of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) (New York, 26 February-1 March 1996). It was also considered by the Fourth Session of the CSD (New York, 18 April-3 May 1996) in preparing a draft resolution on institutional arrangements for implementation of the GPA, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly at its fifty-first session on 16 December 1996 (Resolution 51/189). The final implementation plan is being presented at the 19th session of UNEP Governing Council (27 January -7 February 1997).
  • To discuss implementation of the GPA at the regional, sub-regional and national levels, an intersecretariat consultation among regional seas programmes (13-14 May 1996) and a joint intersecretariat/interagency consultation (15-16 May 1996) were held in Geneva.
  • Also, as proposed by UNEP, the 26 session of GESAMP (Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspect of Marine Environmental Protection, sponsored by IMO/FAO/UNESCO-IOC/WMO/WHO/IAEA/UN/UNEP) established a Working Group on Marine Environmental Assessments to review the state of the marine environment, including the impacts of land- based activities. UNEP is the leading agency of this Working Group. A report on Land-based Sources and Activities Affecting the Quality and Use of the Marine, Coastal and Associated Freshwater Environment will be a first step towards the next periodic assessment of the state of the marine environment, and it is expected to be ready by 1998. The first meeting of the GESAMP Working Group was held in Geneva (17-18 May 1996) and agreed on an outline and a timetable for preparation of the land-based activities review.
  • Two of a series of regional workshops on implementation of the GPA, planned to be held within the framework of UNEP’s Regional Seas Programme have taken place. The first in the Southeast Pacific region (Lima, Peru 18-21 November 1996) and the second for the ROPME and PERSGA [Kuwait Action Plan and Red Sea and Gulf of Aden] regions (Manama, Bahrain, 2-5 December 1996). Several more workshops are planned during 1997.
  • The UN General Assembly resolution on institutional arrangements for implementation of the GPA referred to above, called upon States on the need to take action for the formal endorsement by each competent international organization of those parts of the GPA relevant to their mandates and to accord appropriate priority to the implementation of the GPA in the work programme of each organization.

Washington Declaration on Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (1995)

United Nations, Report of the Economic and Social Council, Institutional arrangements for the implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (1996)

Global Programme of Action for the Protection of The Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (1997)

Elements of the information clearing-house

Data directory

An information base with components organized by source-category,
cross-referenced to economic sectors, containing information on
current sources of information, practical experience and technical
expertise.

The data directory is being developed as a ‘virtual’ information
base on the World Wide Web with a homepage for each source-
category.

Information-delivery mechanisms

The communications channels to allow decision makers to have ready
access to the data directory and obtain direct contact with the
sources of information, practical experience and technical
expertise identified therein (including the organizations,
institutions, firms and/or individuals most able to provide
relevant advice and assistance).

Principal information delivery mechanisms are:

– The Internet
– Organic information networks

. . General (INFOTERRA, SDN, SIDS-NET, etc)
. . Sectoral (BIN21, CIESIN, etc)

Infrastructure

The institutional process for developing, organizing and
maintaining the directory and delivery mechanisms. The
implementation of the clearing-house mechanism will involve
establishing partnerships at the global, regional and national
levels.

Global-level partners

The 51st session of the United Nations General Assembly adopted
Resolution 51/189 which called on States to take action in the
governing bodies of relevant intergovernmental organizations and
programmes so as to ensure that these organizations and programmes
take the lead in coordinating the development of the clearing-house
mechanism with respect to the following source categories:

Source category Responsibility

(a) Sewage WHO
(b) Persistent organic pollutants IPSMC, IPCS, IFCS
(c) Heavy metals UNEP, IPSMC
(d) Radioactive substances IAEA
(e) Nutrients FAO
(f) Sediment mobilization FAO
(g) Oils (hydrocarbons) IMO
(h) Litter IMO
(i) Physical alterations, incl.
habitat modification and UNEP
destruction of areas of concern

Consequently, the individual components of the data directory will
be developed by the lead organization (see acronym list below)
responsible for the respective source-categories working in
cooperation with other partners and experts in the fields of marine
degradation, environmental information networking, and information
technology.

Regional-level partners

Marine pollution problems and their solutions, by nature, cross
country boundaries, therefore much of the information for the data
directory is being gathered on a regional basis.

This exercise is being undertaken by the Secretariats of UNEP’s
Regional Seas Programme:

– CPPS (Permanent Commission for the South-East Pacific,
Lima, Peru.)

– ROPME (Regional Organization for the Protection of the
Marine Environment, Kuwait City, Kuwait)

– PERSGA (Regional Organization for the Conservation of the
the Environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden,
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)

Other Secretariats will commence work in due course.

National-level partners

Many sources of information, practical experience, and scientific
and technical expertise will include organizations, institutions,
firms and/or individuals working at the national level.

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