Why does working with regional seas matter?

The Regional Seas Programme, launched in 1974, is one of UN Environment’s most significant achievements in the past four decades.

Since its inception, the Regional Seas Progamme has constituted a unique approach to the protection of the coastal and marine environment.

The Programme aims to address the accelerating degradation of the world’s oceans and coastal areas through a “shared seas” approach – namely, by engaging neighbouring countries in comprehensive and specific actions to protect their common marine environment. Today, more than 143 countries have joined 18 Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans for the sustainable management and use of the marine and coastal environment. In most cases, the Action Plan is underpinned by a strong legal framework in the form of a regional Convention and associated Protocols on specific problems.

All individual Conventions and Action Plans reflect a similar approach, yet each has been tailored by its own governments and institutions to suit their particular environmental challenges. UN Environment coordinates the Regional Seas Programme, based at the Nairobi headquarters.

Regional Seas Programmes

There are 18 Regional Seas programmes in the following regions:

UN Environment-administered Regional Seas Programmes

Non-UN Environment-administered Regional Seas Programmes

Independent Regional Seas Programmes

40 Years of Action

The Regional Seas Conventions and Actions Plans have emerged over the last 40 years as the world's only legal framework for protecting the oceans and seas at the regional level. It serves as a platform on which to construct regional sustainable development – as called for at the Rio+20 Summit – including the regional implementation of programmes and activities related to global conventions and Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs).

Regional coordinating units and activity centres

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.

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