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Regional Seas:
joining hands around the seas

For three decades the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has fostered regional cooperation on behalf of the marine and coastal environment. It has accomplished this by stimulating the creation of 'Action Plans'– prescriptions for sound environmental management – for each region. These include a series of regional Conventions – unique legal instruments designed to protect shared environmental interests.

But perhaps UNEP's most long-lasting accomplishments in the Regional Seas is the creation of regional mechanisms for cooperation between governments and commitment to shared goals.

There are now more than 140 coastal States and Territories participating in 13 active regional programmes, with another in development. There are also three partner programmes (Arctic, OSPAR for the North-East Atlantic, and HELCOM for the Baltic).

Although all these regional programmes reflect a similar approach, each has been tailored by its own governments and institutions to suit their particular environmental challenges.

Today the 14 Regional Seas programmes remain the central UNEP initiative providing the legal, administrative, substantive and financial framework for the implementation of Agenda 21, and its chapter 17 on oceans in particular.

On 1 January 2000, there were 17 regional programmes, 14 of which were initiated by UNEP. Of these, 13 have formally adopted their own regional Action Plans.

In order of adoption, the Action Plans are:

Mediterranean Action Plan adopted in 1975
Red Sea and Gulf of Aden Action Plan adopted in 1976, revised in 1982
Kuwait Action Plan Action Plan adopted in 1978
West and Central African Action Plan adopted in 1981
Caribbean Action Plan adopted in 1981
East Asian Seas Action Plan adopted in 1981
South-East Pacific Action Plan adopted in 1981
South Pacific Action Plan adopted in 1982
Eastern Africa Action Plan adopted in 1985
Black Sea Action Plan (interim) adopted in 1993, Strategic Action Plan adopted in 1993
North-West Pacific Action Plan adopted in 1994
South Asian Seas Action Plan adopted in 1995
North-East Pacific Action Plan adopted in 2001

For a further introduction:

See 'A World of Neighbours: UNEP's Regional Seas Programme' by Ellik Adler (Tropical Coasts, July 2003) (844K)
Read about "A Regional Seas renaissance" in an article by Jorge Illueca, former Director, UNEP/Division of Environmental Conventions
Read "Joining hands around the seas", a 1990 interview with Stjepan Keckes from the Siren Archives.
See the 1991 overview of the Regional Seas, Regional Seas Reports and Studies No. 135.
Get a historial perspective from the 1983 booklet A Strategy for the Seas.
Read the Earthwatch summaries of the Regional Seas programmes.