Most of the Regional Seas Programmes function through action plans, which are adopted by member governments in order to establish a comprehensive strategy and framework for protecting the environment and promote sustainable development. An action plan outlines the strategy and substance of the programme, based on the region's particular environmental challenges as well as its socio-economic and political situation.
Fourteen of the Regional Seas Programmes have also adopted legally-binding conventionsthat express the commitment and political will of governments to tackle their common environmental issues through joint coordinated activities. Most conventions have added protocols , legal agreements addressing specific issues such as protected areas or land-based pollution.
Regional Coordinating Units
In the regions, the Regional Seas programmes work through Secretariats or Regional Coordinating Units (RCUs) and Regional Activity Centers (RACs). The RCU is the nerve center and command post of the action plan's activities and has the overall and practical responsibility for the implementation of the decisions of member countries (or contracting parties) regarding the operation of the action plan. The RCU is responsible for the follow-up and implementation of legal documents, the programme of work and of strategies and policies adopted by the member countries. The RCU also carries out the diplomatic, political and public relations functions of the action plan. Finally, the RCU cooperates with governments, other UN and non-UN agencies and NGOs, and facilitates the capacity building of its own regional activity centers and of member governments.
Regional Activity Centers
The RACs serve all member states by carrying out activities related to the action plan as agreed and guided by the Conference of the Parties or intergovernmental decisions. The RACs play key roles in the implementation of various components and activities of the action plan at regional, sub-regional, national and sometimes local levels. The RACs are an integral part of the action plan and report directly to the RCU. They are usually financially supported by the contracting parties and by the host country through the financial mechanisms of the action plan.