The international community has over the past decade become increasingly concerned about many issues involving oceans and coasts as evidenced in the Rio+20 Outcome Document "The Future We Want"

This document calls for immediate actions on issues such as the sustainable management of depleting fish stocks, destruction of natural marine and coastal habitats, alien invasive species, conserving marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, ocean acidification and the impacts of climate change.

In this sense, the 18 Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans fulfill an important role in implementing the international agenda on marine and coastal issues. In bringing together governments, the scientific community, intergovernmental organizations, and other stakeholders, the various Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans provide valuable regional frameworks for i) assessing the state of the marine environment; ii) addressing key developments (e.g. socio-economic activities, coastal settlements, land-based activities) that interact with the marine environment; and iii) agreeing on appropriate responses in terms of strategies, policies, management tools and protocols.

Also recognizing the need to strengthen collaboration on the development and application of ecosystem approaches for management of coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds, in order to protect and sustain their invaluable ecosystem services for food security and livelihoods, tourism revenue, shoreline protection as well as climate change adaptation and mitigation, and as a contribution to globally agreed targets including Aichi Targets 10, 6 and 11 as well as the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) Call to Action.

Valuing the importance of the United Nations Secretary General's Oceans Compact as a framework for coordinated efforts by UN Agencies, International Financial Institutions (IFIs), civil society and the private sector, to address the rapid degradation of the marine and coastal environment.

The global strategic directions, as listed below, are formulated to continue and further enhance the Strategic Directions for 2008-2012, aimed at strengthening the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans at the global level.

Regional Seas Strategic Directions (2013-2016)

The Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans will aim to increase their effectiveness and outreach in the period of 2013-2016, through increasing country ownership, promoting the incorporation of the Convention and/or Action Plan and their protocols into national legislation, promoting compliance and enforcement mechanisms, involving civil society and the private sector, building capacities, ensuring viable national and international financial arrangements, as well as developing assessment/evaluation procedures where appropriate.

The Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans will:

  • Endeavor to effectively apply an ecosystem approach in the management of the marine and coastal environment in order to protect and restore the health, productivity and resilience of oceans and marine ecosystems, and to maintain their biodiversity, enabling their conservation and sustainable use for present and future generations.
  • Contribute to the implementation of the Manila Declaration of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities, especially in the core partnership areas of wastewater management, nutrients and marine litter. Furthermore, the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans will act on provisions related to the development and implementation of protocols addressing land-based pollution sources and activities affecting the marine environment.
  • Strengthen capacities at the national level on marine and coastal governance, in order to enable coordination and coherence with systems such as the Large Marine Ecosystem approach, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations and River Basin Organizations, as appropriate.
  • Support the provision of tools to decouple economic growth from environmental pressures in the marine and coastal environment by promoting resource efficiency and productivity, including assessing the value of the services provided by these key ecosystems.
  • Strengthen coordination and build necessary capacities at the regional and national levels to improve global knowledge and trends on the status of the marine environment, contributing to the World Oceans Assessment (Regular Process).
  • Strengthen collaboration mechanisms to address common regional objectives, partnerships and co-ordinated regional implementation of relevant Multilateral Environmental Agreements, global and regional initiatives by United Nations Agencies, such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission(IOC) of UNESCO, UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS), United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO),Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Global Partnership for Oceans of the World Bank, the UN Secretary General's Oceans Compact, and ICRI.

The next Regional Seas Strategic Directions (2017-2020) were adopted at the 17th Global Meeting of the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans held in October 2015. The Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans identified four priority areas in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: pollution, climate change, extraction of living and non-living resources, and governance.