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Law of the Sea Convention
The Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which entered into force in 1994, embodies and enshrines the notion that all problems of ocean space are closely interrelated and need to be addressed as a whole. Today it is the globally recognized regime dealing with all matters relating to the Law of the Sea.
The Oceans and Law of the Sea web site includes the full text of the Convention, as well as information on Marine Resources and Marine Environment. There is also information on Settlement of Disputes; links to Documents and Publications; Education and Training; and a search function to all Oceans and Law of the Sea documents.

Agenda 21 • Commission on Sustainable Development • Johannesburg 2002 Summit (WSSD)
Agenda 21: Agenda 21 is the comprehensive plan for global, national and local action by organizations of the United Nations system, governments, and major groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment. Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the Statement of principles for the Sustainable Management of Forests, were adopted by 178 Governments at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in 1992 at Rio de Janeiro.
Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 deals with the protection of the oceans, all kinds of seas (including enclosed and semi-enclosed seas, and coastal areas and the protection, rational use and development of their living resources). Chapter 18 deals with freshwater (including the management of rivers and lakes). Chapter 21 deals with solid waste ("all domestic refuse and non-hazardous wastes such as commercial and institutional wastes, street sweepings and construction debris. In some countries, the solid wastes management system also handles human wastes. Environmentally sound waste management is concerned not just with safe disposal or recovery but also with the root cause of the problem, such as unsustainable production and consumption patterns").
Commission on Sustainable Development: The UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was created in 1992 to ensure effective follow-up of the UNCED; to monitor and report on implementation of the Earth Summit agreements at the local, national, regional and international levels. See also more information on the Sustainable Development Web Site, including information on ocean and seas; freshwater and solid waste.
Johannesburg 2002 Summit (WSSD): Issues related to the protection of the marine environment are included in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation adopted by the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), held in 2002 at Johannesburg.
Paragraph 22 deals with prevention and minimization ofwaste and maximization of reuse, recycling and use of environmentally friendly alternative materials, in order to minimize adverse effects on the environment and improve resource efficiency. Paragraph 32 deals with land-based sources: that the implementation of the UNEP GPA should be advanced. Paragraph 33 deals with marine pollution from shipping: that relevant international conventions should be ratified and implemented.

MARPOL 73/78 Convention • International Maritime Organization (IMO)
MARPOL: The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL 73/78), adopted in 1973 and modified by the Protocol of 1978, is the main international convention aimed at controlling pollution from the shipping sector. It covers all the technical aspects of pollution from ships, except the disposal of waste into the sea by dumping, and applies to ships of all types, although it does not apply to pollution arising out of the exploration and exploitation of seabed mineral resources. The Convention regulates what kind and quantities of polluting substances that ships may discharge into the sea, taking into account the ecological sensitivity of different sea areas. Plastics are in no case allowed to be disposed of at sea.
Five Annexes cover regulations for specific kinds of pollution. Annex V deals with garbage/litter. It has been ratified by 108 states corresponding to 89 per cent of the world tonnage (July 2002). The North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Wider Caribbean regions have all been designated as so-called Special Areas with regard to Annex V. In accordance with the regulations for Special Areas, discharges of garbage (except food waste) into the sea are prohibited. However, food waste can be discharged into the sea no less than 12 nautical miles from the nearest land.

In Annex V it is further required that all ships of 400 gross tons and above, or ships certified to carry more than 15 persons, develop and follow a written garbage management plan. Such a plan should have been developed by 1 July 1997 and include the following:

  • Description of the collection, processing, storage and disposal of each type of waste generated by the ship (as listed in Annex V), and waste that may be further categorized by local requirements, e.g., hazardous and medical waste;
  • A list of waste management techniques/equipment available and to be employed by the ship;
  • Provisions for the discharge of garbage in compliance with Annex V; and
  • Designation of the person responsible for carrying out the plan.

IMO: The UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) is responsible for improving maritime safety and preventing pollution to water and air from ships. IMO serves as the Secretariat for the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, MARPOL 73/78, and for the 1972 Convention on the Prevention of Maritime Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (LDC).

In 1996, the UN General Assembly called upon "governing bodies of relevant international organizations and programmes so as to ensure that these organizations and programmes take the lead in coordinating the development of the GPA clearing-house mechanism with respect to the pollutant source categories". IMO took on the role as leader of the work related to oils (hydrocarbons) and marine litter.


London Convention • IMO
The Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Dumping of Wastes — the London Convention (formerly referred to as the London Dumping Convention, LDC) — was signed in 1972. It is a global agreement concerned solely with the control of dumping of wastes at sea. Annex I of the Convention lists wastes and other matters which must not be dumped. In LDC it is recognized that plastic materials and other materials which may cause problems of entanglement and ingestion by marine organisms constitute an environmental hazard. As a consequence, dumping of such materials is prohibited. However, LDC does not address wastes that have been generated during the normal operation of ships. The Convention is only applicable to wastes which are loaded onto the ship from land-based sources for the deliberate purpose of dumping them at sea. UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) serves as the Secretariat of the Convention.

Jakarta Mandate
The Jakarta Mandate on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity is part of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Jakarta Mandate is a global consensus on the importance of marine and coastal biological diversity and part of the work to implement the CBD. The work programme is focused on five key elements: Marine and coastal biodiversity resource management; Sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity; Marine and coastal protected areas; Mariculture; and Alien species. The issue of marine litter is relevant for the thematic areas marine and coastal biodiversity (smothering of the seabed, and the effects of entanglement and ingestion of litter on fish, marine mammals and seabirds), and alien species (litter as a vector for transport of species).

Convention on Migratory Species: Agreement on Albatrosses and Petrels
In the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, an Agreement to the global Convention on Migratory Species, the problem of marine debris is specifically refereed to under Management of human activities: 3.3 Pollutants and marine debris. The Parties shall take appropriate measures, within environmental conventions and by other means, to minimise the discharge from land-based sources and from vessels, of pollutants which may have an adverse effect on albatrosses and petrels either on land or at sea.

Basel Convention the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal
Convention text: The Basel Convention is a global agreement for addressing the problems and challenges posed by the uncontrolled movement and dumping of hazardous wastes, including incidents of illegal dumping in developing nations by companies from developed countries. When it is dumped indiscriminately, spilled accidentally or managed improperly, hazardous waste can cause severe health problems, even death, and poison water and land for decades. The aims for the coming decade are active promotion and use of cleaner technologies and production methods; further reduction of the movement of hazardous and other wastes; the prevention and monitoring of illegal traffic; improvement of institutional and technical capabilities -through technology when appropriate - especially for developing countries and countries with economies in transition; and further development of regional and subregional centres for training and technology transfer. Solid plastic waste is included as a waste category in Annex IX, List B, of the Convention. (The Secretariat of the Basel Convention is administered by UNEP.)

UN Environment Programme (UNEP): GPA • Regional Seas Programme
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is built on a heritage of service to the environment. Established as a follow-up to the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment, UNEP is the environmental conscience of the United Nations system, and has been creating a basis for comprehensive consideration and co-ordinated action within the UN on the problems of the human environment. Its mission is to provide leadership and encourage partnerships in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and people to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
UNEP GPA: The Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (UNEP GPA) was adopted by 108 countries in 1995 (Washington Declaration). The Programme is a global recognition of the fact that the major threats to the health, productivity and biodiversity of the marine environment result from human activities on land — in coastal areas and further inland. Much of the pollution load in the oceans originates from land-based activities, including municipal, industrial and agricultural wastes and run-off, as well as atmospheric deposition. These contaminants affect the most productive areas of the marine environment, including estuaries and near-shore coastal waters. The marine environment is also threatened by physical alterations of the coastal zone, including destruction of habitats of vital importance to maintain ecosystem health. One of the major objectives of the GPA is to support and facilitate the implementation of land-based sources/activities components of the various UNEP Regional Seas Conventions and Action Programmes. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is responsible for co-ordinating and catalysing the implementation of the Programme. For this purpose UNEP has established a GPA Co-ordination Office located in the Netherlands. GPA has recently published a series of reports with regional overviews of land-based sources and activities. These are available on-line on the GPA document library.
UNEP Regional Seas Programme: The UNEP Regional Seas Programme was initiated in 1974 as a global programme implemented through regional components. It includes 14 regions and five partner seas with more than 140 coastal states and territories. It is an action-oriented programme and focuses not only on the mitigation and elimination of the consequences but also on the causes of environmental degradation. The focus of work has gradually shifted from protecting the marine environment from pollution to striving for sustainable development of the coastal and marine environment through integrated management. An important accomplishment is the creation of regional mechanisms (conventions and action plans) for cooperation between governments and commitment to shared goals.

Global Environment Facility (GEF) International Waters Projects
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is an independent, multilateral financing mechanism created in 1991 to address global environmental issues that do not normally get funded through national, bilateral, and international finance. With GEF funds, developing countries and nations transitioning to market economies can carry the added costs of making planned projects environmentally friendly and finance regional approaches to multinational problems. GEF funds projects in four programme areas: Climate change; Biological diversity; The ozone layer: and International waters (go to Focal Area: International Waters). GEF is the leading multilateral entity working to reverse the degradation of aquifers, basins, lakes, oceans, rivers, and wetlands of international significance. In the GEF Operational Strategy, four major areas of concern related to international waters are identified: Degradation of the quality of transboundary water resources; Physical habitat destruction; Introduction of non-indigenous species; Excessive exploitation of living and non-living resources.

UNDP - one of the GEF implementing agencies:

Since the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has focused on assisting countries in realizing the goals of Agenda 21 by "helping countries adopt integrated approaches that focus on managing natural resources to improve the livelihoods of people living in poverty". UNDP is one of the GEF implementing agencies, primarily responsible for implementing technical assistance and capacity building programmes. UNDP also manages the Small Grants Programme which supports community-based NGO projects related to the GEF's global concerns. UNDP-GEF programmes under International Waters include a large number of regional and global projects.

See also the UNDP brochure on international waters.

The World Bank - one of the GEF implementing agencies:

The World Bank views the management of freshwater, coastal and marine resources as a continuum — from the upper reaches of a watershed, flowing into rivers and to the confluence with the coastal zone and the sea. The integration of the "environmental dimension" of these connected resources has been an important aspect of the Bank's work, which is realized through strategic studies, regional programs, projects and advisory services. At the regional level the World Bank, in cooperation with a range of partners, is undertaking activities to support management of a number of sea areas. At the national level, coastal zone management activities are being supported in a diversity of countries. The World Bank is also a founding member of the International Coral Reef Initiative, and other initiatives for coral reef and mangrove habitats, marine protected areas and integrated coastal management.

The Bank is a GEF implementing agency, with the primary responsibility of developing and implementing investment projects, including a number of projects under GEF International Waters (> go to Focal Area: International Waters).


GESAMP
The Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) is a multidisciplinary body of independent experts nominated by the Sponsoring Organizations (IMO, FAO, UNESCO-IOC, WMO, WHO, IAEA, UN, UNEP). Its mission is to provide advice to the Sponsoring Organizations, at their request, on pollution and other problems that face marine and coastal environments. GESAMP activities include the preparation of an assessment report "The State of the Marine Environment: Current Major Issues and Emerging Problems", which considers the degradation of coastal ecosystems and habitats, over-fishing and fishing of "under-utilised species", threats from alien species, aquaculture as a source of environmental problems, pressure from tourism and a reduction of marine biodiversity.

A report on land-based sources and activities affecting the quality and use of marine, coastal and related freshwater environments has recently been published, as well as a report on threats to the marine environment (A Sea of Troubles).


FAO: Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries
The mandate of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, to improve agricultural productivity, and to better the condition of rural populations. The FAO Fishery Department: FAO's Major Programme on Fisheries, is aimed at promoting sustainable development of responsible fisheries and contributing to food security.

The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries was adopted in 1995.

  • The Management Objectives include that appropriate measures should be taken to provide, inter alia, that "pollution, waste, discards, catch by lost or abandoned gear, catch of non-target species, both fish and non- fish species, and impacts on associated or dependent species are minimized, through measures including, to the extent practicable, the development and use of selective, environmentally safe and cost-effective fishing gear and techniques" (7.2.2. g).
  • Management measures include that states should take appropriate measures to "minimize waste, discards, catch by lost or abandoned gear, catch of non-target species, both fish and non-fish species, and negative impacts on associated or dependent species, in particular endangered species" (7.6.9).
  • Regarding fishing gear selectivity, states should require that "fishing gear, methods and practices, to the extent practicable, are sufficiently selective so as to minimize waste, discards, catch of non-target species, both fish and non-fish species, and impacts on associated or dependent species" (8.5.1).
  • States should take measures to protect the aquatic environment in accordance with the MARPOL 73/78 Convention, and owners, charterers and managers of fishing vessels "... should consider fitting a shipboard compactor or incinerator to relevant classes of vessels in order to treat garbage and other shipboard wastes generated during the vessel's normal service. [...] ...minimize the taking aboard of potential garbage through proper provisioning practices" (8.7).

Ocean Conservancy: International Coastal Cleanup
The International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) is a global project co-ordinated by the Ocean Conservancy (formerly Center for Marine Conservation, CMC), a U.S. non-governmental organization. ICC is an international network of environmental and civic organizations, government agencies, industries, and individuals working with the objective to remove marine litter (marine debris) and collect valuable information on the amounts and types of litter. This information serves to educate the public on marine litter issues and to encourage positive changes that will reduce litter and enhance the quality of aquatic environments. The mission of the International Coastal Cleanup is to:
  • remove litter from the shorelines, waterways, and beaches of the world's lakes, rivers, and the ocean;
  • collect valuable information on the amount and types of litter;
  • educate people on the issue of marine litter; and
  • use the information collected from the cleanup to effect positive change — on all levels, from the individual to the international — to reduce marine litter and enhance marine conservation.

Among other things, the ICC web site provides information on the problem of marine debris, the problem of entanglement, the sources of marine litter (debris), results of the most recent international coastal cleanups (by items, sources and places of collection), and contacts in countries all over the world (look for your country!). There is also a Worldwide Top Ten Items Collected. See also more information on marine debris.

In the year 2002 International Coastal Cleanup, over 390,000 volunteers in 100 countries took part, removing litter from over 12,000 miles of coastline and waterways, collecting more than 6.2 million pieces of litter, weighing over 8.2 million pounds. Almost 58 per cent of the litter/debris found can be attributed to shoreline and recreational activities such as beach-picnickers and general littering.


Clean up the World
Clean Up the World (UNEP) is an initiative where cleanup activities are organized in areas such as beaches, waterways, parks, markets, roadsides and schools.
Clean Up the World (Australia) is the global outreach program of Clean Up Australia, in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). As pointed out by UNEP in 2003: "Clean Up the World is a true example of community spirit and international cooperation, and UNEP is very proud to have been associated with it since its inception 11 years ago. In the short period since this annual event was launched, it has succeeded in mobilizing more than 40 million people in 120 countries in a dynamic clean up effort. The results of the campaign have been wide-ranging, not just in terms of public participation, increased awareness and the removal and disposal of garbage, but in helping to bring about long-term improvement to waste management and in influencing national policies. " Clean up the World It "brings together businesses, community groups, schools and individuals in a range of activities and programs that positively improve local environments". Local organizer in participating countries can be found in a searchable database.
The objectives are to bring together citizens from every corner of the globe in a simple activity that will positively assist their local environments, and to share with all nations and cultures the information and practical experience. An idea born through the development of Clean Up Australia Day, which began in 1989. The cleanup of designated sites is undertaken by volunteers who join forces to safely remove garbage for more responsible and healthier disposal and, where possible, arrange for the recycling or reuse of the material retrieved. Local cleanups are now complemented by initiatives aimed at producing longer-term environmental solutions. With the annual event now attracting a diverse range of countries and cultures, clean up activities vary between communities from rubbish collections to education campaigns, environmental concerts to photographic displays, tree planting projects to the establishment of recycling centers and waste minimization programs.

Clean Up the World coordinators include community and environmental groups, schools, scouts and guides, government departments and officials, consumer and industry organizations, sponsors and many dedicated individuals. The responsibility for carrying out local cleanups lies with individual organizing committees, that are encouraged to involve all sectors of their local community and to address issues beyond the removal of discarded rubbish.

Clean Up the World emphasizes the importance of establishing long-term sustainability and implementing strategies to recycle and reuse waste materials, as well as to reduce waste at its source.


Small Island Developing States Network
TheSmall Island Developing States Network (SIDSnet) was initiated as a follow up to the Barbados Programme of Action from 1994. It was recognised that all islands share common issues and SIDSnet was initiated with UNDP Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP) and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). SIDSnet provides tools for virtual discussion forums chat conferences, focused searching, document submission and storage, mailing lists, events calendar, and links to relevant BPoA web sites. Six particular themes have been identified - sustainable tourism, coastal and marine resources, biodiversity, climate change, energy and trade. SIDSnet also mirrors several web sites. The Water Resources Management and Small Island Developing States Branch of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) currently administer the project.

At present, 41 small island developing States and territories are included in the monitoring of the progress in the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action. These states and territories often work together through the AOSIS, which also includes some small low-lying coastal States. The General Assembly convened a Special Session on SIDS in 1999.


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