Why does addressing land-based pollution matter?

The GPA is the only global intergovernmental mechanism directly addressing the connectivity between terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems.

It aims to be a source of conceptual and practical guidance to be drawn upon by national and/or regional authorities for devising and implementing sustained action to prevent, reduce, control and/or eliminate marine degradation from land-based activities.

UNEP hosts the GPA Coordinating Unit and coordinates some activities in support of the programme. Intergovernmental Review Meetings are organized every 5 years to review the progress made by countries in the implementation of the GPA through their respective National Action Plans.

It was created in 1995 when over 108 governments declared “their commitment to protect and preserve the marine environment from the impacts of land-based activities, through the Washington Declaration. Setting as their common goal sustained and effective action to deal with all land-based impacts upon the marine environment, specifically those resulting from sewage, persistent organic pollutants, radioactive substances, heavy metals, oils (hydrocarbons), nutrients, sediment mobilization, litter, and physical alteration and destruction of habitat.

Nutrients management, marine litter and wastewater have been highlighted as priority source categories to address, giving UNEP a strong mandate to continue its work on these issues up to 2016. As part of its strategy to tackle these issues, the GPA secretariat has establised and is strengthening three global multi-stakeholder partnerships: the Global Partnership on Nutrient Management (GPNM), the Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML) and the Global Wastewater Initiative (GWI).

Why was the GPA created?

Oceans and Coasts are the very basis of much of the world’s economy. 350 million jobs around the world are linked to the oceans. They flow over nearly three-quarters of our planet, and hold 97% of the planet's water.  

The marine environment supplies the planet with key services such as climate regulation, storm protection, food security, nutrients cycling ect. All these services are underpinning lives and livelihoods in different sectors from tourism to fisheries.

Yet regardless of this importance, oceans are suffering from advanced degradation mainly as a result of human activities. Over the past decades marine pollution has become an increasingly significant problem. 

Marine pollution occurs when harmful, or potentially harmful, effects result from the entry into the ocean of chemicals, particles, industrial, agricultural and residential waste, noise, plastic debris or the spread invasive organisms.

With a growing population, set to reach nine billion by 2050, marine pollution and impacts are likely to build up unless global action is taken to sustainably manage and protect oceans and coastal ecosystems.

The GPA was designed to address the accelerating degradation of the world’s oceans and coastal areas by encouraging governments and regional organizations to prepare and implement comprehensive, continuing and adaptive action plans to protect the marine environment, recognizing the effects on food security, poverty alleviation, and ecosystem health, as well as the resulting economic and social benefits.