UNEP's Regional Seas Programme: approach, experience and future plans
The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, UN Conference, 1972) outlined a 'masterplan' linking environmental assessment, environmental management and supporting measures as basic and inseparable elements of environmental actions plans. It also indicated the advantages of a regional approach in contributing to the solution of global problems. The Regional Seas Programme of UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) was subsequently initiated in 1974 (UN General Assembly, 1972). Development of UNEP's Regional Seas Programme demonstrated that the basic concepts formulated at Stockholm can effectively foster regional cooperation among interested States, and may benefit from the support of the United Nations system as a whole. The present Regional Seas Programme includes fourteen regions, comprising over 140 coastal States. It was conceived as an action-oriented programme encompassing a comprehensive, trans-sectoral approach to marine and coastal areas and to environmental problems, considering not only the consequences, but also the causes of environmental degradation. Each Regional Seas Programme is based on the needs of the region concerned. The Regional Seas Programmes promote the parallel development of regional legal agreements, and of action-oriented programme activities, as embodied in the action plans. The overall strategy to be followed, as defined by UNEP's Governing Council (UNEP, 1974) is: - Promotion of international and regional conventions, guidelines and actions for the control of marine pollution and the protection and management of aquatic resources. - Assessment of the state of marine pollution, pollution sources and trends, and of the impact of pollution on human health, marine ecosystems and amenities. - Coordination of efforts with regard to environmental aspects of the protection, development and management of marine and coastal resources. - Support for education and training efforts to facilitate the full participation of developing countries in the protection, development and management of marine and coastal resources. Because the goal of each Regional Seas Programme is to benefit the States of that region, governments are involved from the very beginning in the formulation of the action plan. After acceptance, the implementation of the programme is carried out, under the overall authority of the governments concerned, by national institutions nominated by their governments. Although the Regional Seas Programme is implemented primarily by government-nominated institutions, specialized United Nations bodies, as well as the relevant international and regional organizations, contribute to its formulation, and also provide assistance to these national institutions. UNEP acts as an overall coordinator for the development and implementation of regional action plans. In some cases, this role is limited to the initial phase of the activities.
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