The Wider Caribbean showcases a myriad of cultures and environments.
The natural beauty of its 28 island and continental countries encompasses
both tropical and sub-tropical ecosystems, from coral reefs to mangrove
forests to seagrass beds, each with its unique wildlife.
Protecting these treasures demands that coastal economies be sustainable,
allowing growth while protecting the regions natural resources.
Caribbean creativity and a passion for nature have combined to
produce the Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP), an unparalleled
joint endeavour which embraces the regions diversity in its
efforts to advance economic prosperity and environmental health.
Laying the groundwork for the CEP, the governments identified a
number of pressing issues: land-based sources of municipal, industrial
and agricultural wastes and run-off (which account for as much as
90% of all marine pollution); over-exploitation of resources such
as fish, molluscs and crustaceans; increasing urbanization and coastal
development as populations and economies expand; unsustainable agricultural
and forestry practices (many say Central Americas forest are
disappearing faster than anywhere else in the world); and a profound
need to strengthen government and institutional capacity to address
Although a part of UNEP, the CEP is governed by the Caribbean nations
and territories under a programmatic framework the Caribbean
Action Plan established in 1981. The Plan outlines programmes
of assistance, institutional strengthening, and technical cooperation,
and in 1983 led to the adoption of a legal framework the Convention
for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of
the Wider Caribbean Region (Cartagena Convention) which entered
into force on 11 October 1986. The Convention is supplemented by
three protocols on oil spills, specially protected areas and wildlife,
and pollution from land-based sources and activities.
Today the activities of the CEP focus mainly on implementation
of the protocols, on information management and exchange, and on
environmental education and training.
Meanwhile, work is under way to reduce polluted run-off to
the Caribbean Sea through workshops, production of guidelines and integrated
management plans, control of sewage, and adoption of national contingency
plans for marine emergencies. The regions network of parks
and protected areas is continually being strengthened, and a small
grants fund is providing assistance to marine protected areas.
So far CEPs mission of promoting regional cooperation for
the protection and the development of the marine environment of
the Wider Caribbean Region has met with some success. But there
is a long way to go to achieve this vision, and we must continue
to strengthen the regions environmental laws, networks, scientific
and technological capacity and public outreach.
Our major constraint is financial, as the Caribbean countries are
not always able to match their expressed support for the CEP with
contributions to the Trust Fund. Perhaps our greatest challenge
is to rally their commitment and political will, even as their budgets
shrink and our all-too-frequent natural disasters interrupt their
cash flow. If we are to maintain a sound institutional and financial
base for the CEP, we have to convince our multilateral donors that
the enthusiasm and dedication of the Caribbean nations to their
environment, and to the programme that defends it, is unflagging.
Nelson Andrade Colmenares is Coordinator of the
Caribbean Environment Programme
Regional Coordinating Unit for the Caribbean Environment Programme
United Nations Environment Programme
14-20 Port Royal Street, Kingston, Jamaica
Tel: +1 876 922 9267; Fax: +1 876 922 9292
Website: http:// www.cep.unep.org