The Wider Caribbean Region (WCR) comprises the insular and coastal States and Territories with coasts on the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico as well as waters of the Atlantic Ocean adjacent to these States and Territories and includes 28 island and continental countries.
In 1976 UNEP was urged to launch the Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP), an unparalleled joint endeavour, which embraces the region's 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;
- 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 and a profound need to strengthen government and institutional capacity to address environmental problems.
Caribbean Action Plan was adopted in 1981 by Twenty-two States
The action plan led to the adoption of a legal framework in 1983 – the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (Cartagena Convention). The Convention entered into force in 1986 and is facillitated by the Regional Coordinating Unit (CAR/RCU)
Associated protocols concern: Oil spills (adopted 1983, in force 1986), Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (adopted 1990, in force 2000), and pollution from Land-Based Sources and activities (adopted 1999, not yet in force).
Today the activities of the CEP focus mainly on implementation of the protocols, on information management and exchange, and on environmental education and training.
Work is also 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 region's network of parks and protected areas is continually being strengthened, and a small grants fund is providing assistance to marine protected areas.
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